Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly summary

Daring greatly is about being vulnerable, living wholeheartedly, and showing up as our authentic selves in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and not knowing. It’s courageously loving and being loved and putting ourselves and our creations out there despite the risk of rejection.

Daring Greatly notes & quotes

Here are my notes and quotes on Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. My notes are casual and include what I believe are the essential concepts, ideas, and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.

  • Vulnerability is not weakness, and it’s not optional.
  • To be alive is to face risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure.
  • Courage and clarity of purpose are reflected in our willingness to own and engage with vulnerability.
  • Fear and disconnection reflect how much we are protecting ourselves from vulnerability.
  • Wholehearted living is defined by courage, compassion, and connection. Vulnerability is the catalyst.
  • Wholehearted living mantra: “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. Yes, I am imperfect, vulnerable, and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.
  • “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”
  • Being a mapmaker and traveler is the most challenging aspect of my work.
  • Letting ourselves be seen is about being without knowing. 


  • Narcissism is driven by shame. 
  • Narcissism is the “shame-based fear of being ordinary.”
  • Being ordinary is promoted in our culture as “less than.”
  • Scarcity thrives in shame-based cultures like the U.S.
  • Three components of scarcity: shame, comparison, and disengagement.
  • “The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness.”
  • Wholeheartedness is, at its core, vulnerability, and worthiness — facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks and knowing that I am enough.

Vulnerability Myths

  • “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.”
  • “I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
  • Vulnerability is the first quality we want to see in others and the last one we want to see in ourselves.
  • Somehow we think our truth and what we have to offer isn’t enough without embellishment.
  • Love is a powerful form of vulnerability.
  • “To be alive is to be vulnerable.” - Madeleine L’Engle
  • When people we love stop caring, trust is replaced by hurt. Disengagement triggers shame-based fear of abandonment, worthiness, and loveability.
  • Stopping evaluating our worthiness by weighing the reaction of others is a powerful source of freedom.

Understanding and Combatting Shame

  • Most of us attach great worth to how our product or art is received. Sharing what we’ve created is being vulnerable and living wholeheartedly. 
  • “Hustling for love” is pleasing, performing, and perfecting. 
  • “Shame is the fear of disconnection…the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
  • Meaningful change starts with psychological discomfort.
  • Shame is destructive, the feeling that I am flawed. 
  • Guilt is productive, the catalyst for positive change.
  • Shame causes us to feel disconnected and unworthy.
  • Shame heals best between people: Having our story received with empathy heals shame.
  • “The [brain’s] rational system is the one that cares about analysis of things in the outside world, while the emotional system monitors the internal state and worries whether things are good or bad.” - David Eagleman
  • “Empathy is connection; it’s a ladder out of the shame hole.”
  • Empathy is non-judgmental listening, emotionally connecting, and communicating “You’re not alone,” which is healing. 
  • The most common shaming categories: are appearance and body image, money and work, motherhood/fatherhood, family, parenting, mental and physical health, addiction, sex, aging, religion, surviving trauma, and being stereotyped or labeled.
  • Women feel shame most strongly around not being thin, young, and beautiful enough. Motherhood is a close second.
  • Women are also expected to be perfect without effort.
  • For men, shame is failure. Men’s worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed.
  • The most unrelenting pressure for men: Don’t appear weak.
  • Women complain that men don’t show vulnerability, but when men do, women become fearful, which manifests as disappointment and disgust.
  • Shame tends to elicit two responses in men: anger or shutting down.
  • “We are hard on others because we are hard on ourselves.”
  • We judge others where we’re vulnerable to shame.
  • Critical to Brené Brown’s marriage: vulnerability, love, humor, respect, shame-free fighting, and blame-free living.
  • Men's common traits: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, the primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status.
  • Around mid-life, for many, our lifetime habit of roleplaying becomes nearly unbearable. Men become increasingly disconnected and paralyzed by the fear of failure. Women realize that the perfection of motherhood was never possible. 

Vulnerability Armory

  • Three standard shields against vulnerability: foreboding joy, perfectionism, and numbing.
  • Joy is likely the most difficult emotion to feel because it leaves us most vulnerable. 
  • Gratitude is the antidote to foreboding joy.
  • Research participants said that happiness is connected to circumstances while joy is a spiritual way of connecting with the world related to practicing gratitude.
  • Practicing gratitude helps us see there’s enough and we’re enough.
  • Chasing the extraordinary blinds us to the ordinary.
  • Perfectionism is not about excellence or healthy achievement, or growth. 
  • Perfectionism believes perfection will protect us from the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. 
  • “Perfection is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities.”
  • Protection is addictive and does not keep us from experiencing shame.
  • Self-compassion has three components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
  • Perfection is a never-ending performance for approval, and it’s exhausting. 
  • Our nature is to be imperfect.
  • We numb our feelings in two ways: being “crazy-busy” and consuming substances.
  • Numbing not only dulls painful feelings but also dulls the pleasant ones — love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. Emotions can’t be selectively numbed.

Cultivating Change and Connection

  • The most painful feelings — shame, anxiety, and disconnection — are also the biggest drivers of numbing behavior.
  • Some believe psychological isolation is the most terrifying and destructive feeling. 
  • Love and belonging are the two most potent forms of connection.
  • Belief in one’s worthiness distinguishes those who feel love and belonging and those who don’t.
  • “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.”
  • “Belonging is the innate human desire to be a part of something larger than us.”
  • “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
  • We attempt to avoid vulnerability in three primary ways: Foreboding joy, perfectionism, and numbing.
  • The suicide rate among lawyers is nearly four times higher than the general population — perfectionism is seen as one of the leading causes.
  • The most common trait of those living wholeheartedly: Having a spiritual practice.
  • Facing vulnerability by being present and paying attention is straightforward, whereas trying to dodge exposure by zigzagging is exhausting. 
  • Dodging vulnerability looks like this: Hiding out, pretending, avoiding, procrastinating, rationalizing, blaming, and lying.
  • Additional vulnerability shields: cynicism, criticism, looking cool, and cruelty.
  • “When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable.”
  • “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” — Almost Famous
  • The most painful areas of our lives: Disconnection, disengagement, and struggle for worthiness.
  • Spiritual connection and engagement come from love, belonging, and vulnerability, not compliance.“We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

Rehumanizing Education and Work

  • Definition of leader: Holding oneself “accountable for finding potential in people and processes.”
  • If people in any group or organization feel shame, they are inevitably passing it on to others.
  • Where there’s blame, there’s shame.
  • Blame discharges the pain and discomfort of vulnerability, anger, hurt, shame, and grieving onto others.

Wholehearted Parenting

  • Uncertainty and self-doubt make parenting a shaming minefield.
  • Perfect parenting does not exist. 
  • “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”
  • “What we are teaches the child more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.”
  • Teaching our children to love and accept themselves for who they are starts with accepting and loving who we are.
  • Parenting isn’t about having it all figured out and going forth. It’s about having the courage not to know and learn and explore with our children.
  • Perfectionism teaches kids to value what others think rather than what they think and feel.
  • Positive correlates of shame: depression, addiction, eating disorders, aggression, violence, and suicide.
  • Interestingly, guilt is negatively correlated with the above traits.
  • Normalizing shame is one of the most effective ways of teaching our children shame resilience.
  • Parents can do the bravest, most vulnerable thing: letting children struggle with adversity. Struggle helps us cultivate hopefulness.
  • Hope is three things: setting goals, pursuing them with tenacity, and believing in our abilities.
  • “…nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

Related Resources

Here is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts, and concepts mentioned in Daring Greatly, which might be helpful for further learning.


  • Peter Fuda and Richard Badham
  • Peter Sheahan, ChangeLabs
  • Donald Klein
  • Dr. Linda Hartling
  • Marilyn Frye, writer
  • Jean Baker Miller and Irene Stiver, relational theorists
  • Sir Ken Robinson
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Craig Bryan, psychologist
  • Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy
  • bell hooks, writer
  • Paulo Freire, writer
  • Dennis Saleebey, educator
  • C. R. Snyder, psychologist

Books & Publications

  • The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell
  • The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
  • The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples by John Gottman
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • Incognito by David Eagleman
  • Writing to Heal by James Pennebaker
  • Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristin Neff
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Life Organizer by Jennifer Louden
  • UnMarketing by Scott Stratten
  • Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson
  • I thought it was just me by Brené Brown
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison