The best book I read in 2012 was Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. But 2013 is the year I’m going to put Brown’s discoveries into action. The phrase “daring greatly” refers to a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910. For full effect, like Brene Brown, I will quote the whole section since it is so lovely:
“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. [MEDIA, TAKE NOTE!]
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 worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
I think some people would say (including myself) that I’ve done my share of daring greatly—with both success and failure. I’ve certainly had my share of critics. But what is truly wonderful about Brene Brown’s book is that, as a PhD researcher, she has been able to help me understand how and why I do what I do, and why it’s good to do even more of it. And how to help me communicate to the people around me in a way that enables them to be both more courageous and more vulnerable, which is what it truly takes to grow.
The idea of “discomfort” is something I’ve always struggled with. At work, there is a constant plea to help employees feel “comfortable.” At home, I face annoyance from family members when I bring up uncomfortable topics (let’s talk about sex!). Socially and in my community I have a little reputation, perhaps, of being the one who asks the stupid, uncomfortable question that everyone else wants to ask but is afraid to, which then often leads to transformative and very uncomfortable change. And even with you, dear readers, and my blog, I have a vetting process that each blog goes through to make sure that I am not crossing any major discomfort lines.
But it turns out that discomfort is actually essential to personal growth and happiness. Brown talks about the importance of “normalizing discomfort.” It turns out discomfort is not about instability, it’s about learning. You’ve all felt it at some point, a fear of trying something new that turns out to be awesomely fun. Or a fear of saying something honest that, when you finally say it, unburdens your heart and leads to deeper intimacy.
So here’s to discomfort! And the courage to be vulnerable! This year you can expect to see me take it to the next level. I’m not sure what that looks like or where that level is, but I feel in my bones that I’m going to go for it.
It wouldn’t be as much fun, though, without you all joining me. Let’s do it together! Let’s all have a year of daring greatly! The point, I might add, is that it leads to what Brene Brown calls Wholehearted Living, the kind of living in which health, healing, happiness, and true love can all be ours.
(PS: The picture at the top is a piece of a painting I did as part of a portrait painting class with Max Ginsburg. Sharing my art work is just one way I plan to dare greatly this year! I was very happy with how I captured the luminosity of skin, since that was my main goal in taking the class.)