Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brene Brown

This quote by Theodore Roosevelt forms the basis for most of Brown’s book:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly” -Theodore Roosevelt


She states that “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”


Brene Brown focuses on the concept of “scarcity.” This section from Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money describes how this affects a lot of us:


“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worry about what we don’t have enough of…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…”


Make the journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.”


However there are often “shame tapes” — those tapes of self-doubt and self-criticism that play in our heads, inhibiting us from greatness, from everything.


Here are some moves she recommends to be more resilient to shame:


  1. “Practice courage and reach out! Yes, I want to hide, but the way to fight shame and to honor who we are is by sharing our experience with someone who has earned the right to hear it – someone who loves us, not despite our vulnerabilities, but because of them.”
  2. “Talk to myself the way I would talk to someone I really love and whom I’m trying to comfort in the midst of a meltdown: You’re okay. You’re human – we all make mistakes. I’ve got your back. Normally during a shame attack we talk to ourselves in ways we would NEVER talk to people we love and respect.”
  3. “Own the story! Don’t bury it and let it fester or define me. I often say this aloud: ‘If you own this story you get to write the ending.’ When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, ‘I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.'”


She mentions research shows we tend to judge people in the same areas where we’re most vulnerable. For example, if she feels good about her parenting, she has no interest in judging other people’s choices.  Or, if she feels good about her body, she doesn’t make fun of other people’s weight.  This can be considered a survival mechanism, making ourselves feel better about our sensitive areas.


She talks about how damaging shame can be when perpetrated in an organization. “Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring.”


In parenting, or any sort of leadership role, she explains how we shouldn’t expect to have it all “figured out”, that we are learning and exploring together as we go.


“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron

I rated this book two stars. While it was therapeutic to read about William Styron’s (author of “Sophie’s Choice”) experience with depression, I would have wished for more on his recovery. Instead, the focus was on his illness and suicidal thoughts. Depression is dark enough. I think the reader could benefit from a more positive outlook with more description on overcoming it.

Turtles all the Way Down, by John Green

In Aza, the protagonist, I found a character I could relate to. She shed light on the struggles of living with a mental illness and gave me hope I am not alone and will persevere, maybe even stronger.

Aza is a teenager that deals with OCD and anxiety. I can appreciate her initial lack of respect, for lack of a better word, for her illness, and the need of her doctor to remind her “medication only works if you take it.” She cautions her that she’s giving her thoughts too much power, something I think so many of us can relate to. “Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.” That is something I have to remind myself of, because similar to Aza, I try to “find something solid to hold on to in this rolling sea of thought.”

It’s helpful to remember “an unwanted thought was like a car driving past you when you’re standing on the side of the road.” Aza tells herself she doesn’t have to “get into that car, that my moment of choice was not whether to have the thought, but whether to be carried away by it.”

It’s clear to me John Green, the author, has dealt with this on a personal level by the way he has Aza describe her condition to her friend: “It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do anything about it. It’s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can’t figure a way through to fixing it.”

Green has her friend express so much insight in her description of life: “The point of the story is they built the city anyway. You work with what you have. They had this shit river, and they managed to build an okay city around it. Not a great city, maybe. But not bad.” Aza is doing the best she can with what she’s got, and that should be everyone’s focus.

I appreciate Green’s last acknowledgement, as yet another way to let the reader know they are not alone:
“Lastly, Dr. Joellen Hosler and Dr. Sunil Patel have made my life immeasurably better by providing the kind of high-quality mental health care that unfortunately remains out of reach for too many. My family and I are grateful. If you need mental health services in the United States, please call the SAMHSA treatment referral helpline: 1-877-SAMHSA7. It can be a long and difficult road, but mental illness is treatable. There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”