That’s because Brené Brown researches shame.
Shame is the most basic feeling that we have. While reading her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, it seemed like all emotions stem from either feeling shame, or not feeling shame. But while it’s an inseparable part of us, it’s also the emotion that makes us most uncomfortable. Even just the mention of shame makes us withdraw into ourselves.
I’ll admit it. At times, it was really hard to listen to her book.
In one chapter, she illustrates what we think shame is by revealing some of the answers research participants give to her question, “Shame is…”
I couldn’t help but nod my head at some of the answers. Most of the answers that applied to my life, actually.
Shame is failing.
Shame is losing your job.
Shame is not making the team.
And then she asks you to fill in the blank.
Before I post chapters on FictionPress, I write a short author’s note. More and more often, they’re about my research into confidence and failure. We have great discussions over it. So, to illustrate, I wrote:
Shame is not being able to beat the first boss in Zelda even after six tries.
My husband read this, and said:
But Daring Greatly is trying for a seventh time.
I had tried one last time before I wrote that. And on that seventh try, I had beaten the boss within a few minutes. The boss didn’t even have time to spawn.
My immediate reaction? “That’s it? I only have to do that once? But… but in the other Zelda games, bosses had three stages!”
Weird that I couldn’t even stop to feel joy that I tried again and succeeded when I had previously failed. Until I remarked to myself that exact statement. I should feel good about myself. I’m building character.
This is the reason why I’m on my learning journey about failure, or rather, overcoming failure. To keep me from giving up when I shouldn’t, so that I can Dare Greatly and try that second time, or third time, or fourth time. The first book didn’t work? That’s okay, I’ll get it with the next one.
(Of course, Wallow Constructively has taught me that there needs to be a moment to feel the frustration, to mourn my lost book, or whatever I need to feel. Then move on.)
But Daring Greatly made me realize that my research didn’t just benefit my only personal life. If shame is the most fundamental feeling we have, then shame and shame resilience affects all of my characters, especially Daniel Travere, the protagonist of Blood Cursed. Very little about him doesn’t scream shame.
For him, his answers would look like…
Shame is… spending every night researching a thesis problem and not being able to come up with the answer.
Shame is… never living up to his father’s standards.
Shame is… never being able to help the man he loves, no matter what lengths he goes.
Shame is… being useless.
It would be easy for Daniel to give up, to hide under the covers until graduation. God knows it would be easy for me to have given up on playing Zelda, and that’s relatively trivial.
But Daniel’s not like me. He doesn’t even consider giving up. He feels shame over and over again, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. It doesn’t stop him from Daring Greatly. Even when he looks stupid in front of Valere. Even when his breasts are lactating.
And trying is the first step to succeeding.
This must be why Daring Greatly is so popular that it has dozens of holds on it at the library. Why Brown’s TedTalk went viral. We all feel shame. But we all want to be like Daniel, overcoming our shame to Dare Greatly.
Brown’s book will make you feel uncomfortable. It may even push you to tears. But if you read one non-fiction book, whether for yourself or to understand human psychology, Daring Greatly is a must read.