Daring Greatly by Brene Brown   Gotham Books 2012 ISBN 978-1-592-40733-3

Moving Past Fear and Shame: How to Find Courage    by Sydney Scott

Fear stops us from being courageous. Our culture operates and spreads the fear of scarcity. With scarcity mindset we have a lot to lose if we fail. This drives fear of being vulnerable, of failing, of looking stupid, of not being perfect. We all protect ourselves from being vulnerable.

A recent book called Daring Greatly is seminal in how to transform oneself from despair to hopefulness- through choosing to live with courage- courage to be wrong, courage to tell your gremlin that it is okay if everything you do is not successful because you are engaged and trying and living life in a new manner that honors your right to be yourself.

The author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown, describes the ever challenging and ongoing challenge of giving oneself compassion and letting go of perfectionism . It seems to me that the journey she articulates is the journey in adult development into personal wisdom and post-conventional levels of being. What she asks is that we open ourselves to developed self-aware adults, and questers for self growth. The person who is open to other ways of knowing has created a mindset that values the learning more than the test score. Brene articulates the need to cultivate intuition, faith, mindfulness, meaning and purpose in work; “cultivating laughter, song, and dance” These are descriptions that fit the wise leaders.

To have courage is to have hope. Brene defines hope as a combination of engaged actions: set realistic goals; figure out ways to achieve them ; remain flexi bile and have alternative paths if the first ones you try do not work; and live in the belief that yes ,you will succeed, and yes, you will do this. As she points out ,the bravest ,most important thing you can do is to show up.

The focus of the book is expressed in this questions: “what drives our fear of being vulnerable? How are we protecting ourselves from vulnerability? What price are we paying when we shut down and disengage? How do we own and engage with vulnerability so we can start transforming the way we live, love, parent, and lead?” (p. 2 -3).

Brene writes eloquently about the accepted world view of scarcity which comes accompanied with shame, comparison, and disengagement. One protection Brene mentioned is shutting down and disengaging, not trying and not doing. Do any of you have a secret dream you have not pursued? Have any of you had the calling to speak up and stopped yourself and just nodded. Brene speaks about what stops us from having those “Fierce Conversations” (S. Scott, 2004)

How can we reengage? How can we change how we show up in the world? Brene writes about how we transform the way we live – love – lead and parent and it is by asking ourselves that we show up, that we take risks, that we consciously engage and become authentic, no longer motivated by protecting ourselves. We need to adopt the value of being courageous. This will change how we are hard wired, at least hard wired in that the things that drive the vulnerability and coping actions.

We need to first become conscious of the drive, and then change the thoughts and emotions around the triggers to fear. Vulnerability is often viewed as a weakness, but the best leaders admit to their vulnerability as it creates room for others to shine (Collins, 1999; Cook-Greuter, 1994, 2004; Kegan, 2009; Torbet, 1987, 1994). Brene defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” (p. 34).

There is good vulnerability- vulnerability exposed to create empathy and or to create space and context for others to shine. In these, the masks are removed and the sharing is within the goals, values, and context of the relationship. Sometimes we use vulnerability to push others always- or we flog vulnerability as we over expose to others our wounds and repel them. Instead, we all need to find a way to do vulnerability to expose our humanness to connect but not to overload. We need to do vulnerability because we cannot go it alone. We need to do vulnerability wisely.

Ask your self-Why are you sharing? What is the desired outcome? What emotions are you experiencing? What are your intentions? Are your intentions value aligned? Are you sharing to connect or disconnect? Do you know what you need and are you asking for that? This model is very close to S. Scott’s Fierce Conversations (2004).

The path Brene recommends is to move towards our own authenticity-to know and honor yourself and your values on a consistent basis. The path to courageous authenticity is letting go of what others think!!!

Ouch ,are you still breathing? To be courageous you need to get to know yourself and act through that knowing and consciously taking control of what you do and how so that it honors your values of which courageous is one. We need to love ourselves and our flaws ; yes, we need to say goodbye to being perfect..

We also need to let go of numbness and powerlessness. Numbness is withdrawing from being present. Numbness is hiding in isolation. How do we do this? By cultivating resiliency- the ability to come back to get back up, to restart we are cultivating courageous vulnerability.   How do we gain the ability to be vulnerable to live our values to be internally value driven? We need to develop resiliency which is nurtured by letting go of fears- fear of scarcity, fear of failure.

To let go, you need to replace, so replace the fear of scarcity by gratitude and joy for what is. In each day there are things to be joyful about the blue sky, the parking spot, and the smile from your child. Look for it and be sure to say thank you often during your day and before you go to sleep to cultivate within you the energy of gratitude.

For those of us who like applause, success, approval – most of us–we need to let go of being right, letting go of the certainty that we are right. There are always multiple ways to do things and when you do not have to be right, you are open to learn, to develop resiliency, to not cling to a thought past the time it serves you.   When you are open to new approaches to creativity, to stop comparing, to stop shaming or naming others as wrong, then you open up your world to much more positive creative energy.

Brene writes that “the secret killer of innovations is shame” (p. 65). When your self-worth is tied up with performing, it becomes too risky to fully engage.   If you do share and do not get applause, you shut down, disengage, do not recreate, do not learn from feedback, and you feel shamed. You do not stretch; you do not improve and create again.

Leaders, if you want innovation, if you want creative, you have to make risk acceptable. This means that failure becomes something you and others can live through when make vulnerability a part of your culture. “When we dare greatly we will err and we will come up short again and again. There will be failure, and mistakes, and criticism” (p. 62).

This book reached me because it speaks of the path I want to be on and it makes me believe in myself and my ability to engage and be courageous. The shame that we carry with us stops us from living courageously.

Brene’s steps to reduce shame are:

  • Become mindful of what are your triggers, your internal reactions. “Anxiety with shame rising, Disconnection with shame rising. Anxiety and disconnection with shame rising? (p. 139). Stay mindful of the numbing behaviours- you are hiding. Numbing out, to crazy busy without time to think and no time to feel.
  • Disconnect is isolation which can does lead to depression and feeling powerlessness leading to desperation and addiction. These are shame related.
  • Do reality check on the situation
  • Believe you are enough
  • Do not fear the feeling- rather learn from it give thanks for the vulnerability and choose to step out of its control. “Lean into the joy and give in to those moments” (p. 126).
  • Reach out connect and share with trusted others open to hearing it. Connect mindfully. Be aware of why are you sharing; what is the desired outcome is of the sharing; what emotions you experiencing; what are your intentions for sharing and are they value aligned? Ask yourself, what will the impact of my sharing be with this person? Am I sharing to connect or disconnect.
  • Ask for what you need when you feel shame – a hug, a positive reminder to be courageous, a chat?

Remember, shame drives us to be or act in ways we do not want to be so when it comes up, reposition your perspective. We are raised and trained to be perfectionist doers and we have this tendency until we reach post conventional levels of development. Perfectionism is a shield to the joy. Perfectionism is about the external judgement and evaluation. It is not about the internal value driven you. It is about approval and applause. Perfectionist is self-destructive and addictive and sets the perfectionist up for shame. What do the wise ones do? They develop humility and acceptance of self and others. They create the space for themselves and others to live courageously.

Let the Alchemist Professors Sydney@thealchemistprofessor.com support you on this journey.