The Red Couch: Daring Greatly Discussion


A_BOOK-CLUBFull Disclosure: I feel like one of the last women in America to read Daring Greatly.

Unfortunately, this is probably because my pride got the best of me.  To be honest, I thought I didn’t need to read this book.

“Daring Greatly?  Didn’t I do that for years as a professional actor?,” I thought to myself. “Isn’t the epitome of vulnerability giving of our talents out into the world for producers, directors and the like who then decide if we’re ‘worthy’?  Doesn’t ‘literally’ singing for your supper ‘count’ as daring greatly?”

Clearly, I had have issues–with pride and approval seeking, for starters. Thanks to Brené’s words–and a series of events in my life as of late–I’ve realized I struggle mightily with shame, and could use a lesson or two {or twelve} on vulnerability and courage.

Revered Researcher and Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston, Brené Brown is known worldwide for her bestselling books, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, which sprang from her years of research and a self-proclaimed spiritual breakdown awakening she experienced after the viral success of her TED talks on vulnerability and shame.

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” (p.12)

Truth be told, the amount of  wisdom in this book is mind boggling–it’s packed into the pages like a dense and fertile soil. Many readers consider this book a life changing read.

So many parts of this book struck a chord deep in my bones, and for someone who considers themselves to have done a good bit of ‘soul work’,  it was amazing how many revelations came as a surprise.

Chapter One immediately began chiseling away at my armor and defenses, as I read about scarcity.  As Brown says, “scarcity is the ‘never enough’ problem.” (p.26)  For years, I struggled as an insecure artist, believing if I didn’t look over my shoulder constantly, hold myself to unrealistic standards, and strive for perfection in every creative endeavor, I would fall into obscurity.  No matter your vocation or station in life, women in our culture are constantly battered with feelings of “not enough.”

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” (p. 22)

Cara shared about a heartfelt moment between her and a friend, as they openly shared and confronted their feelings of shame. I’ve realized through reading this book that shame is a state I’ve lived in for quite some time, without realizing it was my home address. 

Another game-changing lesson that connected deep with me was Brown’s concept of “foreboding joy.”

“In a culture of deep scarcity –of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough–joy can feel like a setup …We’re always ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop.'” {p.118}

As anyone who has experienced a good bit of loss, I’ve realized first hand the unexpected terror joy can bring.  My story has included losing multiple immediate family members to early death, failed relationships and fertility struggles. I’m living in a season of my life with a soul-mate husband I never expected to marry, and stability and security  that was missing for most of my “starving artist” days.  Those closest to me have gently reminded me that I am blessed to no longer live in a state of “constant crisis.” I am beyond grateful for my circumstances, but I have to fight the tendency to live in a “foreboding joy” mindset. As Brown says, “we’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard.” (p.121)

Thankfully, Brown’s research showed the answer to foreboding joy is not just an “attitude of gratitude,” but the practice of gratitude. Fully embracing the beauty of the ordinary moments, being grateful for what we have in the present, and wholly experiencing each tangible joy-filled event are all things we can do to to push back foreboding fears. (pgs. 125-126)

One chapter that I know resonated with many readers was one I have to confess that I didn’t read.  As someone who struggles with infertility {and the vulnerability it takes to talk about that in an online space}, I found myself turning past the “Wholehearted Parenting” chapter without missing a beat. I know there are many takeaways and gems to be mined there, which I’ll read one day if I am able to receive the gift of a child.

I found it especially poignant, and maybe just a little bit ironic, that the whole time I was writing this post, I was plagued with fear, perfectionism, and unworthiness.  Not in just my normal I’m-writing-words-for-the-whole-internet-to-see kind of way, but in a deeply personal, who-do-you-think-you-are kind of way.

Perfectionism is a demon I seem to have battled my whole life.  I’ve learned you can make headway and healing in an area of your life, but those inner “gremlin thoughts”–as Brené so aptly calls them–will rear their ugly messages internally any chance they get.

I am in the midst of taking an online e-course with Brené Brown on The Gifts of Imperfection. I’m filling an art journal with words, paint strokes, collages and “all the feelings.” I’m learning and re-learning things about my creativity and heart that I can implement into my present life. This action is just one of many I can take to step into a place of vulnerability that leads to courage and daring greatly.

To learn more about Daring Greatly and peruse The Nightstand, read the introductory post.

Questions to Consider:

  • What does the world truly gain when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, and “dare greatly”?
  • How has your understanding of vulnerability changed or grown through this book’s message?
  • What would happen if you allowed yourself to be fully open to healthy vulnerability and courage?  How would that change your circumstances?
  • What helps you overcome fear?
  • What are your “gremlins,” and what do they say to you to prevent you from true connection and growth?
  • Do you use perfectionism as a shield? If so, what’s the threat? What scares you the most about putting down the shield?


Our May book is Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament by Ellen Davis. Come back Wednesday, May 7 for the introduction to the book. We’ll be mixing things up a bit with 3 discussion posts, each centering on a particular chapter. Cara Meredith will be our creative guide on Wednesday, April 16. Kelley Nikondeha will close out the discussion on Wednesday, May 28.

For on-going discussion each month, join The Red Couch Facebook group.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.


Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell is the Chief Creative Curator at All Manner of Inspiration, where she gathers everyday inspiration and encourages artists of all makes and models. A musical theatre performer and book lover, Sarah aspires to shed a bright light on the Creative Process that draws others to see their dreams more clearly. When she’s not auditioning, performing, or blogging, Sarah is seeking out ‘the perfect pen’, reading an ever-growing stack of books, and spending time with her friends and family. She’s currently chasing the next inspirational spark and her sweet pup Daphne in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas with her husband Frank.
Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell

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