Daring Greatly: Summary & Review

daring greatly book cover

Daring Greatly is a book in which author Brene Brown shares her research into the topic of vulnerability.
Brown says that vulnerability is about being genuine and having the courage to show up even if it might hurt.
Because that’s the only way to live life to the fullest and develop real, honest, and loving relationships.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the man in the arena”.

Don’t stand in the stands of life, but read on and join us in the arena.

Daring Greatly by brene brown quote

Bullet Summary

  • Vulnerability makes you authentic and allows you to feel love, belonging, and joy
  • To be vulnerable you have to:
    • Internalize that you are worthy (of being loved) and enough the way you are
    • Have the courage of showing up and engaging even if could hurt
  • “Your willingness to own and engage your vulnerability determines the depth of your courage”

Full Summary

For your benefit of understanding, Brene Brown uses “arena” as in “life”, and “being in the arena” as “living life fully with an open heart”.

What’s Vulnerability

Brene Brown says that the more we protect ourselves from vulnerability, the more we grow fearful and disconnected.

Being vulnerable then means the opposite: engaging fully and openly with the world around us.

Vulnerability is the courage of putting ourselves out there.
It’s the courage of being open despite knowing it might hurt us.
And once we are able to do that, we will also be able to fully experience all the joyful moments of our lives.

To help you define vulnerability in practical terms, here’s how Brene’s research subjects described it:

  • Sharing an unpopular opinionwhat's vulnerability like
  • Standing up for myself
  • Asking for help
  • Saying no
  • Starting my own business
  • Helping my wife with cancer prepares her will
  • Initiating sex with wife or husband
  • First date after divorce
  • Saying “I love you” first
  • Getting fired
  • Falling in love
  • Trying something new
  • Getting pregnant after three miscarriages
  • Waiting for the biopsy to come back
  • Exercising in public when I’m out of shape
  • Admitting I’m afraid
  • Laying off employees
  • Presenting my product to the world and getting no response
  • Standing up for myself and for friends under criticism
  • Asking for forgiveness

As you can see and as Brene points out herself, these are all ordinary and common events that are part of our daily life.

Indeed, she says, emotional exposure is not an option, it will happen anyway.

The only question is: will you engage?

When you do, you are daring greatly and you are being vulnerable.

How Does Vulnerability Feel

And these were some of the answers to the question of “how does it feel being vulnerable”:

  • It’s taking off the mask and hoping the real me isn’t too disappointing.
  • Not sucking it in anymore.
  • It’s where courage and fear meet.
  • Halfway a tightrope, and moving forward and going back are just as scary.
  • Sweaty palms and a racing heart.
  • Scary and exciting; terrifying and hopeful.
  • Taking off a straitjacket.
  • Going out on a limb—a very, very high limb.
  • Taking the first step toward what you fear the most.
  • Being all in.
  • So awkward and scary, but it makes me human and alive.
  • Freedom and liberation.
  • It feels like fear, every single time.
  • I know it’s happening when I feel the need to strike first before I’m struck.
  • It feels like free-falling.
  • Letting go of control.
  • Naked.

What Vulnerability Gives You

Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the source of hope and authenticity.

It gives us and allows us to feel the emotions and experiences that we really crave: love, belonging and joy.

Vulnerability and Love

The biggest example of vulnerability is possibly love.

Brene Brown says that we need to be vulnerable to fully appreciate love because while love can make us feel incredible, it has also the power to destroy us emotionally.

Loving someone knowing they might betray us, or that things might not work out… That takes courage. And that’s vulnerability: opening our hearts and soul despite the risks.

Brene Brown recounts the time she’s looking at her daughter dancing and being goofy.
She turns to her husband, commenting how funny it is she loves her daughter even more for being so vulnerable and inhibited, and how great it would be to be loved like that.

It was a key moment for Brene when her husband replied he loves her exactly like that.
Brene understood at that moment that adults can be loved for their vulnerabilities and not despite them.

Narcissism is Shame and Lack of Vulnerability

I found Brene Brown’s analysis of looking at today’s narcissism very deep and on point.

She sees narcissism as the fear of being ordinary.
The fear of not being good or extraordinary enough to be loved, to belong, or to build a sense of purpose.

And she says she can see it happening in our society all around.
It’s incredibly easy for today’s children of reality TV and celebrity culture to feel they’re only as good as the number of “likes” they get.

How Brene Realized Shame Inhibits Vulnerability

Brene Brown tells she stumbled upon shame and empathy research rather randomly.

She knew connection is why we are here in this world because human connection is our biggest driver.

So she started studying human connection.
But people in her interviews spoke about their fear of not being worthy of connection more than they spoke about the connection itself.
That fear of not being worthy of connection is based on shame.

She deep-dived into shame, vulnerability, belonging, and worthiness.

And she came to discover that vulnerability was the epicenter of them all.

At that point, she set out to find out what people resilient to shame do, so that we could all learn to do the same and finally live life to the fullest.

Brene calls a life not impaired by shame “Wholehearted Living”.

Wholehearted Living

Living Wholeheartedly means engaging our lives from a place of worthiness.

It means that at the end of the day, no matter what you manage to do and what you don’t, you are enough.
It means that even though you know you are imperfect and sometimes afraid, you are also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Daring Greatly takes a leaf from Brene’s previous book “The Gifts of Imperfection” to tell us what we must cultivate to embrace wholeheartedness and vulnerability:

  • Authenticity and let go of what people think
  • Self-compassion and let go of perfectionism
  • Resiliency and let go of numbing and powerlessness
  • Gratitude and Joy and let go of scarcity
  • Trust and Faith and let go of the need for certainty
  • Creativity and let go of comparison
  • Play and Rest and let go of “busy” and “stress” as self-worth and status symbol
  • Calmness and let go of anxiety
  • Meaningful work and let go of what you are “supposed” to do
  • Laughter, Song, and Dance and let go of “cool” and “always in control”

From Brene’s research those who love, feel lovable, and experience belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.
And, most importantly, she says that a strong belief in our worthiness is cultivated, such as: we can learn to feel worthy.

Today’s society doesn’t exactly help us be vulnerable, though. So Brene says we should start by understanding what we’re up against.

Chapter 1: Scarcity, Our Culture of “Never Enough”

We live in a major “never enough” culture, Brene says: never successful enough, never thin enough, never good enough.

Scarcity is dangerous because it makes it harder for us to own our vulnerability and imperfections and to live our life knowing that we are worthy of it.

I found it hilarious and at the same time it rang so true when Brene said that for many of us the very first thought when waking up is “I didn’t get enough sleep”.
And that’s only the opening salvo of our day, she adds. We then proceed to tell ourselves how we don’t have enough freedom, money, and of course, never enough time.

It’s something you want to focus on because, Brene says, this “scarcity mindset” is what breeds jealousy, greed, and many of our issues with life.

And of course, as previously stated in the narcissism part, if comparing weren’t already bad enough, we often compare our lives to fake, media-driven “ideals” that are completely out of touch with reality.

The Three Components of Scarcity

There are three components of scarcity and Brene Brown invites us to use them to assess the social groups we’re part of:

  • Shame: Fear of ridicule, finger-pointing, put-downs
  • Comparison: Comparing and ranking, held to a narrow standard rather than acknowledged for uniqueness
  • Disengagement: People keep to themselves, nobody shares, and nobody pays attention

The Opposite of Scarcity is Enough

The opposite of scarcity is not abundance because, Brene says, they’re two sides of the same coin. The opposite of scarcity instead is enough.
The main tenets of wholeheartedness are indeed vulnerability and worthiness. And worthiness means that you are enough.

Chapter 2: Debunking the Vulnerability Myths

Daring Greatly proceeds by discussing the main -wrong- myths about vulnerability that are often held in our society:

Myth 1: Vulnerability is a Weakness

Brene asked a room of people if they struggle to be vulnerable because they think of it as a weakness.

Most raised their hands.

Then she asked how many thought it was brave of people to go in front of the audience and be vulnerable. Again most raised their hands.

The point Brene makes is that we love and admire people being fully open, but we are afraid of doing the same. We are afraid of letting people see us as being vulnerable.

The author says being all in and stepping into the arena is not weakness, but courage beyond measure.
And no need for anything bombastic: I loved when Brene says that “often the result of daring greatly isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue“.

Myth 2: “I don’t do Vulnerability”

Vulnerability is the base upon which all emotions and feelings are built, says Brene Brown.
Vulnerability is a daily encounter.
Closing the door to vulnerability is closing the door to all that makes life meaningful and beautiful.

Not only “not doing vulnerability” would be silly of us, but when we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be.

Daring Greatly is clear: we will experience vulnerability no matter what, the only choice is how we will respond.

Myth 3: Vulnerability is Putting it All Out There

No, vulnerability is not oversharing.
It’s not pestering strangers about your feelings and not plastering your Facebook wall about your love or your broken heart.

The author says vulnerability is sharing our feelings and experiences with a few inner circle people who have earned the right to enter our inner circle.

Being vulnerable is an integral part of the trust-building process that brings us closer to the ones in our inner circle.

Marbles Trust Jar

How do you know if you can trust someone to be vulnerable is a frequently asked question.

And Brene answers it saying that you build trust step by step. In her family, she uses the “marble jar” reference.

The jar represents the trust you have for someone.

When someone does something that erodes that trust, you take some marbles away. When they do something to gain your trust you put the marbles back.

It’s a great metaphor because, Brene says, trust is not a big gesture but it’s a product of vulnerability that grows over time.

Disengagement is the Worst Betrayal

Talking about betrayals of trust I found it interesting that Brene says there is a more insidious betrayal that usually precedes the “big gestures”. And that betrayal is the disengagement from a relationship, to stop caring.

Myth 4: We Go at It Alone

For all the lone wolves out there, among whom I count myself, Daring Greatly says that no, we can’t go at it alone.
We need support.
We need the support of people who truly care about us and will be there no matter what the outcome is.

It was incredibly interesting for me and it rang so true when she said that many of us are good at giving help but terrible at asking for help.

And vulnerability and going at it together is also about asking for help.

Indeed Brene says we can never really give with an open heart until we learn to receive with an open heart.

Brene’s greatest personal and professional transformations, she says, happened when she did just that. When she asked herself how her fear of vulnerability was holding her back and when she found the courage to overcome it and ask for help.

People in The Stands

Brene says that the people who matter to us are the ones who are with us in the arena, supporting us and fighting with us.

And the people who are criticizing in the stands, those, well… Those don’t matter.

I do trust Brene when she says that nothing improved her life as much as letting go of what people in the stands say.
I trust her because it’s huge for me as well.

Vulnerability is Freedom

Chapter 3: Understanding and Combating Shame

Brene Brown says the only people who don’t have a feeling of shame are sociopaths.
All the rest experience shame, so don’t think you can ever completely extirpate shame.

But you need to keep it under control and be able to act in spite of it. Because to be vulnerable is to develop shame resilience.

Daring Greatly teaches us that shame draws its power from being unspeakable. So if we build awareness about shame and speak to it and about it, we can defeat it.

And that’s where having a strong inner circle becomes important: if we can share our stories with someone who will respond with empathy and understanding, then we’ll beat shame.

Similarly, we should cultivate empathy and self-compassion with ourselves.

The Categories of Shame

Brene Brown says there are twelve categories of shame:

  1. Appearance and body image
  2. Money and work
  3. Motherhood/fatherhood
  4. Family
  5. Parenting
  6. Mental and physical health
  7. Addiction
  8. Sex
  9. Aging
  10. Religion
  11. Surviving trauma
  12. Being stereotyped or labeled

How Shame Feels:

And here are some examples of people describing shame:

  • Getting laid off and having to tell my pregnant wife
  • Being asked “when are you due?” when I’m not pregnant
  • Raging at my children
  • Bankruptcy
  • My boss called me an idiot in front of the client
  • Infertility
  • My husband left me for my next-door neighbor
  • Telling my fiancé that my dad lives in France when he’s in prison
  • My wife divorced and telling she wants children but not with me
  • Flunking out of school
  • Hearing my parents fight through the walls and wondering if I’m the only one who feels this afraid

Vulnerability, Sharing Art, Ego, and Shame

Brene Brown tells us that sharing something you created is a key vulnerability moment in our lives.

Some of us link our self-worth to how our work is received –often because of a Fixed Mindset-. And if people love it, you’re amazing, and if not you’re worthless.
Shame will often prevent us from releasing our art or lead us to remove the most innovative parts to avoid risks (Albert Einstein fell for it when he curtailed his theory of relativity).
And when we do release our work and receive criticism it’s a shame telling us that we shouldn’t have tried in the first place.

And I loved, loved, loved what Brene Brown tells us after.

If you attach your self-esteem to what people think AND the people love it, you’re worst off.
You’ll feel great in the short term and will not realize you willingly and happily opened the doors to shame to hijack your life.

When you master strong shame resilience skills the scenario is totally different.
You still want people to like what you’ve created, but your self-worth is not on the line.
You know that you are far more than your products. The poor reviews are about your specific effort and not about who you are.

My Note:
The Shame and sharing concept in Daring Greatly is the same as Seth Godin’s concept of the Lizard Brain in Linchpin: the irrational part of our brain wants to avoid anything risky to keep us safe.

You are more than your work

What People Think: a Tight Rope

Brene says that people’s judgment is like a tightrope.

We need to care about what people think or else we lose our capacity for connection.

And at the same time, we can’t be defined by what people think or we won’t be able to be vulnerable.
Thus learning to discern useful feedback to implement and smearing attacks to discard is an important skill to develop.

We need to care about what people think but we can’t be defined by it.

Shame VS Guilt & Self Talk

This part is key.

Brene Brown says that how we experience different emotions comes down to self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves determines how we feel and how vulnerable we can be.

  • Guilt is “I did something bad
  • Shame is “I am bad

When we experience guilt instead of shame we own up to our mistakes and we are more likely to change for the better. When we experience shame instead we shift blame. And it makes us feel like we aren’t able to change.

My Note:
this is very similar to a Growth Mindset VS Fixed Mindset.
When we believe we can change, we own up to mistakes, accept feedback and improve.
When we believe “this is who we are” and our traits are fixed, then we protect our ego. Learn to develop a growth mindset here.

How to Combat Shame

Brene Brown defines shame resilience as the ability to stay authentic and stick to our values when experiencing shame.
And coming out of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had before.

The final step is then to move from shame to empathy, which is the real antidote to shame.

Brene Brown says indeed that shame is a social emotion, and it needs social healing. To overcome it we need to share the shame story with someone who can listen with empathy.

Self-compassion also plays a major role because it allows us to seek out a connection in the first place.

Here are the four steps to combating shame:

  • Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Learn to recognize when you’re experiencing shame and what triggered it.
  • Critical Awareness. Check what’s driving shame against who you choose to be
  • Reaching Out. Talk to people who will give you empathy
  • Speaking Shame. Talk about how you feel and ask for what you need
  • Own Your Story. Brene doesn’t list it, but she stresses you can’t “try to forget” shame. Owning it is key to a feeling of worthiness

It’s also key to understand that we need to work on our shame resilience because while shame is innate in the limbic system, resilience is a conscious process.

How Brene Brown Does It

Here’s an example Brene gave us:

When the shame attack started she repeats aloud “pain, pain, pain”.

She then took a deep breath, told herself it’s a shame attack and that she can handle it (never bury the story, don’t try to hide it)

She repeats to herself loudly “if you own this story you get to write the ending“.

And it’s key that while we normally are extremely mean when we talk to ourselves, we must do so in a compassionate way. For example: not “you’re such an idiot” but “you made a mistake”.

And she then called her husband first and a best friend later to share the story.
The husband and her friend listened and empathized. And then they also shared similar stories.

And shame disappeared as Brene realized what she had just experienced was human and normal and that she wasn’t alone.

Shame & Sharing Trauma

Importantly, Brene Brown says that sharing deeply shaming and traumatic experiences is even more important.

Studies show that keeping rape or incest a secret can be more damaging than the actual event. Sharing the stories instead helped improved the victims’ health.

Connection, Love and Belonging

Love and belonging are the two most powerful connectors we have.

And people with a strong sense of love and belonging have one thing only in common: the feeling of worthiness. If you want to experience love and belonging, you have to feel like you are worthy of love and belonging.

  • Connection: We feel connected when we feel heard and valued and when we can give and receive without judgment
  • Belonging: When we feel part of something bigger than ourselves. Brene says we often try to belong by fitting in and seeking approval, but true belonging only happens when we present our real selves. Thus, our sense of belonging can only be equal to our self-acceptance.
  • Love: self-love is a prerequisite for loving others. She says you can only love others as much as you love yourself.

Shame in Men and Women

Brene Brown says the primary shame trigger for women is how they look.
But also being nice, modest, caring for children, taking care of her looks, staying sexually faithful, and investing in their relationships.

Basically, says Brene, women should stay small, sweet, and quiet and use their time to look pretty.

For men, shame is about failure and being weak.
It’s being “defective”, being seen as soft, showing fear, and being criticized or ridiculed. In the end, says Brene, all boils down to “don’t be weak”.

There’s an incredible paragraph in which Brene Brown realizes that women themselves are, in her words, the “patriarchy”.
It means that women don’t actually want to see men weak and vulnerable, and men know it.

And that’s what puts pressure on men to be “masculine”.
Masculinity is identified, I quote, with winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, the primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status.

I loved the example in Daring Greatly of a man practicing shame resilience in the face of having to lay off staff.
He says “while shame would want me to feel bad about being emotional, I don’t buy into it. I have worked with these people for years, know them well and I am allowed to care about them“.


If you want to experience love and belonging, you have to feel like you are worthy of love and belonging.

Chapter 4: The Vulnerability Armors

In Chapter 4 of Daring Greatly Brene talks about how we try to avoid and protect ourselves from vulnerability.

Most of us use the same techniques, which are:

Foreboding Joy

It feels safer to wallow in a sad or grey state rather than be happy and risk sadness.

While it’s true disappointment might be more disappointing if you were happy (see Cialdini), it’s not a good strategy because you give up all the joy in your life just to make your downs a little less down.

Antidote: Gratitude for our joyful events and our daily happy moments.


We use perfectionism as a shield when we -mistakenly- believe that if we can just be perfect we will avoid the painful feeling of shame because we’ll only get love and compliments.

But we’ll never be perfect, and if we wait we might sacrifice relationships and opportunities that might never come back.

Antidote: Self Compassion and a sense of worthiness no matter what.


We numb ourselves in many ways and not just with drug addiction.

A wine before going to sleep, being too busy to think, with prescription pills and with fantasy football too. Numbing tends to be driven by anxiety, disconnection, and shame.

Brene says she took up smoking and drinking in her teens to look busy, and today many do so with their phones.

Antidote: learn to get in touch with your feelings, stay mindful about your numbing behavior, and learn to deal with the discomfort of hard emotions. And to reduce anxiety learn to say no: we have to believe we are enough to say “no”.

Please see:

5 Techniques to Say No (Polite, But Effective)

Viking or Victim (or Win or Lose):

Viking or Victim means to divide humanity into winners and losers.

It’s a combative way of engaging with the world.
Brene says it might be a useful mentality when in a battle for life or death, but it’s not a mentality leading to a successful life by most people’s standards (check an example of a combative relationship here).


Sharing too much too soon in a desperate attempt to connect.

This behavior never leads to connection.
Brene says that most people using a floodlighting deal with the subsequent disconnection by telling themselves they’ll never find true connection and they’re not good enough for a relationship.

Antidote: Brene suggests only sharing stories you already worked through and not sharing “intimate” stories or fresh wounds.

Smash and grab

Similar to floodlighting but more underpinned by attention-seeking.


Brene Brown uses the term “serpentining” to describe the huge amount of effort we expend to dodge vulnerability when it would take much less to just face it.

You serpentine when you have to make a call but postpone for made-up reasons.
Or when you need to send an email but leave your draft sitting for days. Serpentining is draining and not a healthy way of living life.

Antidote: When Brene finds herself serpentining she laughs, breaths, and reality-checks her behavior to start engaging with vulnerability. Seth Godin recommends using the fear response as the trigger to run towards the fear.

Cynicism, Criticism, Cool, Cruelty

Brene Brown says that people daring greatly make us sometimes feel bad for not being vulnerable ourselves.

We then use cynicism, criticism, cool, and cruelty to put them down.
Being cool is the attitude of “whatever”, “who gives a s***” and labeling people as losers or lame.

The same is also attacking people for their “conformity” and dismissing people for example for selling out or for a “life in a cubicle”.

Criticizing is born out of a fear of not counting, and it’s an attempt to be heard (also read: alpha male posturing).

Antidote: I absolutely loved Brene’s tip on resisting the urge of using shaming criticism. You simply take responsibility for what you say. Dare Greatly and sign all your comments. If you don’t feel comfortable owning a comment, then don’t say it and deal with your issues (similar to not doing any job you wouldn’t sign on at the of the day).

Read more on how to turn cynicism into something positive:

Positive Cynicism: Turning Poison, Into Gold

Chapter 5: Closing the Disengagement Divide

Brene Brown believes that disengagement underpins most of the problems she sees in families, communities, and businesses.

We disengage for two reasons: to protect ourselves and because we feel the people who are supposed to be leading us are not living up to the social contract.
Such as they don’t live up to the preach.

And I can personally testify to this.

Brene Brown calls the “disengagement divide” the space between our practiced values -what we actually do- and our aspirational values -what we want to do-.

The social contract for Brene Brown means aligning our values with our actions (Tony Robbins explains how to change our values and Brian Tracey says when our values don’t align with our actions we are unhappy with ourselves).

Chapter 6: Disruptive Engagement

Daring Greatly then analyzes the way shame permeates our culture in schools and organizations.

She says people in leadership roles bully, criticize and set up rewards systems that belittle, shame, and humiliate employees.

Recognizing a Culture

Brene Brown says that we can tell a lot about how vulnerable a culture is by looking at how often people say things like:

  • “I don’t know”
  • “I disagree, can we talk about it?”
  • “here’s how I feel”
  • “can I get your take on this?”
  • “I accept responsibility for that”
  • “I’m here for you”
  • “I want to help”
  • “I’m sorry”
  • “that means a lot to me”
  • “thank you”

Giving Feedback

Brene Brown gives a strikingly beautiful example of feedback she received on a paper of hers.

Brene’s professor got up from her chair and went around the desk to sit next to her.

She put her paper down and said how happy she was that Brene had come in to talk about it.

Brene had done a great job, the professor said, and she loved the conclusion.
She patted her on the back.

Brene said she had worked reallly hard on it, and the professor confirmed that she could tell.

Then she said where she took some points off, adding that she could submit her paper for publication and she didn’t want the formatting to hold her back.

The professor asked her if she needed help with the formatting because it’s tricky and it had taken her years to learn.
And she agreed to review her paper again after the fixes and gave Brene a few tips.

Brene left grateful for her grade and for the teacher.

Also, read “Thanks For The Feedback“.

sitting side by side: how to give good feedback in daring greatly
Good feedback starts from a seating position

My Note:
This part made me realize what a typical academic Brene Brown is: going back to the professor so she could get the top grade is typical of an academic.

Chapter 7: Wholehearted Parenting

Our sense of love, belonging, and worthiness are shaped by the family we grew up in, but as a tear-jerking letter in Daring Greatly shows, it’s never too late to learn.

Brene says that the best way to teach our children is to be and to show: how we behave and how we engage with the world are much better predictors of how our children will do than all the books we’ve read about parenting could teach us.

It’s not what you know. It’s who you are.

daring greatly book cover

Real-Life Applications

  • The marble jar

Most of us have a tendency of being all or nothing at all.

Use the marble jar instead.
A mistake from a friend of yours doesn’t mean he’s not a friend anymore. It’s just one point you take away.
The marble jar concept helped me in many instances.

  • Wake Up “Enough”

Daringly Great didn’t mean to use it as a suggestion, but reading of waking up with the scarcity thought of “I didn’t get enough sleep” and “I don’t have enough freedom”.
It really changed my life for the better. You live in a free world, you’re free to do whatever you want.

  • Ignore People in the Stands

People in the stands are the ones who are not your friends and who don’t matter to you.
The moment you stop caring about their judgment and hurtful comments is the moment your life will improve exponentially and you’ll become a freer (wo)man.


Albeit “Daring Greatly” can be an important read for many and it’s a fantastic read to understand people and psychology, there are a few things that I didn’t enjoy about it.


Naive Self-Help

A book that tells you to be more honest and show your weaknesses without talking about the risks and drawbacks of that is textbook naive self-help.

I highly recommend these cures:

Naive Self-Help: 10 Most Dangerous BS to Avoid

Opinions more than studies

Everyone now introduces Brene Brown as a “vulnerability researcher”.

But I’ve seen few references to this supposed research and it seems to me like she’s talking a lot about her own opinions more than research.

Misguided Attacks on “Society”

I find it misguided when Brene Brown attacks society for “shaming” men and women into acting “mannish” and “feminine”.

It’s not all on society, there are innate drives at play there (read more in the review).

And maybe it’s not “fair” that society reinforces the idea of men and women being like this or like that, that’s a moot point.

Brene herself says that men know women don’t wanna see them acting vulnerable and weak.
It’s funny she reaches that conclusion for men and yet still can’t see that it’s the same for women and that people are not just socialized that way, they are born that way (also read: The Blank Slate).

Very Self-Absorbed

Daring Greatly feels a lot like a diary at times with lots of personal stories, inside references, and even Brene’s conversations with her therapist.

Was this book supposed to help the readers or is it supposed to help the author?
Because at times it feels like the latter.

The author talks a lot about narcissism, but at times it’s as if you’d like to tell her: “relax, it’s not all about you”.

Haughty pontification

Brene self-appoints herself as the world expert on vulnerability -and it worked!-.

So now she tells people what vulnerability is and what is not as if she had a checklist to go through.
And she tells everyone how to do “proper” vulnerability which, again, is Brene’s own way.

But I didn’t see any study or number to back her own, well… Opinions.

Do you really need external support?

Brene Brown tells us that we need caring and support.

She says that “no, you can’t go it alone” and that you “need” support from people that “will love you no matter what”.

I don’t think it’s helpful for you to internalize you need external support.

External support is great and very welcome.
You should make friends.
You should build an inner circle who cares for you and whom you care for. But because you can and because you want. Because you both add value to each other.
NOT because you need it.

Disorganized and Repetitive 

Daring Greatly often repeats the same concept in a thousand different ways in different chapters.

It helps to flesh out the concept, but I’d have appreciated a more structured approach.


Many of the concepts in Daring Greatly can make you a better human being.

And especially so to those who are trapped into “trying to be and appear” own-made shackles.

Here are a few key concepts:

Daring Greatly was a great read for me.
Like most everyone else I have a tendency to keep fears and pain for myself and “trying” to appear better than I am.

Engaging in the arena is courage in itself
What an amazing concept.
Go for it, go for whatever you love. And love yourself for going for it because showing up is courage in itself.

It’s not the critics in the stands who count
I can’t count the times I repeat this sentence or a variation thereof to myself. Make it yours and it will improve your life.

Be the person you want your children to be
It’s not what you say, not your results, and not what you know. It’s who you are (and who you’re becoming). What a beautiful concept.

Don’t tie your ego to the results
Rene tells us not to tie our ego to results. I’d add: become enamored of the process, not so much of the results, and the results will come.

Ego and Validation
I love Daring Greatly for saying you shouldn’t tie your self-esteem to people’s feedback especially when that feedback is positive.
Don’t be one of those people whose happiness is proportional to their number of likes, but get an anti-fragile ego.


Daring Greatly is a great book on honest living, accepting and owning our shame and fear, and owning up to our real self with ourselves, and with the world.
Unluckily, it feels like it promotes vulnerable living to its self-harming extreme, and does not deal with the downsides of that approach.

Another important issue with Daring Greatly is that Brene Brown tries to pass for science what are often just her opinions and her own views on life.

Finally, another possible issue is that some might use “vulnerability” as an excuse to accept mediocrity.

Other than that, “Daring Greatly” is a wonderful resource for self-development and learning about ourselves and about people’s psychology.

If you’re a man, the Mask of Masculinity makes a good companion to Daring Greatly.

What I Warn You About

  • People Loving You Matter What

I’m worried people could read in Daring Greatly you should be who you are and people will love you no matter what.

But you shouldn’t think that way.
That’s an entitlement mentality and the truth is that only your mother will love you no matter what.

Everyone else will love you as long as you love them and care about them. And they’ll love you even more if you’re an amazing person.

So love first and be amazing, don’t expect people will cheer you up “no matter what”, that’s entitlement BS (read more in The Social Exchange Theory).

Social Exchange Theory: 5 Laws of Social Success

  • Don’t use it as an excuse to be a slave of your feelings

Daring Greatly talks a lot about the courage of abandoning yourself to feel.

True, but don’t use that as an excuse to stay sad or angry when that doesn’t benefit you.
It’s not brave being hurt or sad all the time. It’s not brave to lash out.

So be open to feelings, but remember you control them.

  • The vulnerability of big goals

I believe many of us are afraid of setting goals because of the fear of missing those goals.

Thus, albeit Brene Brown does not mention so in Daring Greatly, I’d like to add that the courage of setting high standards for yourself is also part of vulnerability.

  • Don’t use vulnerability to lower your standards!

Brene says that embodying all the masculine traits makes you lonely.

I say that’s preposterous.

Sure there is such a thing as toxic masculinity, but only if you take all of them to the extremes.

While you should discard for example “disdain for homosexuality” as a masculine trait you do want emotional control and self-reliance.

I believe it’s possible to be vulnerable and strong for men. And women can be highly accomplished, and strong, and still be feminine.

I invite you to read a different perspective:

And get the book on Amazon.

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