Daring Greatly Book review – Carmen Timmermans

Carmen Timmermans is our Learning Services Administrator.  Here is her book review on the book Daring Greatly  soon to be found in our E Library in audiobook format.

I have been reading and appreciating a new-to-me author this spring, Dr. Brene Brown, who writes very powerfully about shame, vulnerability, intimacy and how to live a wholehearted life. Earlier in the year, I sent a link to her TED talk and I’ve just finished her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. You may be wondering how vulnerability, shame and learning services all fit together but there are huge, huge connections.

In Learning Services the discussion often circles back not to our belief that we will eventually find something that works for our students, nor to the belief that the students will grow into the strengths and abilities they need to be successful in their lives. No, the biggest challenge we face as an LS team – and I include teachers and parents as well as consultants in that team – is how to keep the child’s sense of worthiness intact while everything comes together, or while we sort out adaptations that allow them to work around their area of challenge and lean into their areas of strength.

When a person know s/he is struggling, different – and these kids know – it is so easy to feel worth-less, or “othered,” lesser-than, unacceptable, isolated and ashamed. Even the gifted students we work with, who everyone tends to think live in the (spot)light, struggle. They feel like impostors, or focus on where they fall short, in areas such as OCD, anxiety, addiction or depression.

The parents and teacher of kids with challenges also struggle with shame around what they think they did wrong or didn’t do right. I have talked to parents who wonder if the should they have gone pesticide or plastic-free, or screen-free, or dairy- and wheat-free. They can feel ashamed that they get angry or lose patience with their children or that they some days just don’t like their kids very much. They can feel badly that they can’t find the time or motivation to follow through with whatever lovely program has been suggested, or feel like they are done by the end of the day and would rather spend the one half-hour of free time in their day unwinding with a book or TV show rather than prepping for working with their children the next day. Likewise, teachers and consultants can have shame around not wanting the extra work of writing IEPs, or yet another meeting, or because they feel pulled away from being there for their own family; either choice feels like the wrong one.
Shame’s message is that we are unacceptable, not enough. We hear that the core of our self – not our actions, what we did or have left undone – is the problem. We don’t talk about our shame and it festers. We pretend that who we are on Facebook is who we really are – witty and exciting and photo-ready, all the time – and as a result feel unknown and unloved in our deepest selves. This becomes a pain that eats at us, until we lash out or end up numbing the pain with food or video games, or exercise or busyness, mindless TV or _______ (name your poison) to “take the edge off.” Brown points out that in her studies she has found that numbing the pain also numbs joy and gratitude – the good things. Our lives become flat. The internal message that we are not good enough creates walls as we hide from ourselves and from others. Brown talks about us rejecting and “orphaning” that part of ourselves, and losing our vulnerability, the ability for others to see us as we really are, and that steals community and intimacy and wholeness. So how do we find the courage to be seen, to speak our inner thoughts and feelings around shame? How do we find wholeheartedness?

The secret to wholeheartedness, Brown says, is restore the beliefs that shame steals. We need to believe that we are worthy of love and acceptance.

As followers of Christ, this message of worthiness is also the message we want to send to our Learning Services students, to all students, really, and to ourselves. We can say, “You may make poor choices and do things that are embarrassing, or you may do things or make things that are not as good as you would like them to be. I will forgive you and help you learn and I will not shame you. You may struggle and may be different from other people. We all struggle. We are all different. But in one way, we are all the same. You are enough. I am enough. We have nothing to prove. We are each worthy of love and acceptance. We can each love and accept each other.” This belief, these words, are the gift that we can give to our students and to ourselves because they are a gift that God has given us (Romans 5). We can forgive because we are forgiven, love because we are loved, accept because we are accepted.
I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy Daring Greatly; it is a great tool for shedding light, for digging deep and for finding courage.

Other books by Brene Brown:
I Thought it Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)
The Gifts of Imperfection

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