One of the best books I’ve read in quite some time is Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. The book far surpassed my expectations and engaged me wholeheartedly. It challenged me to rethink my behavior and perspective. Three discussions in the book are particularly applicable to education: the scarcity mindset, gender roles, and wholehearted parenting.
The scarcity mindset examines how in our culture there is a feeling of “never enough.” We never seem to be good enough as teachers, parents, children, consumers, etc. Comparison dominates and we all share of fear of being ordinary and average.
“From 9/11, multiple wars, and the recession, to catastrophic natural disasters and the increase in random violence and school shootings, we’ve survived and are surviving events that have torn at our sense of safety with such force that we’ve experienced them as tauma…Worry about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too mcuah, and rather than coming together to heal…we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats. “(27)
Nostalgia also functions to feed the scarcity mindset because the present is never as good as the present. This scarcity mindset breeds perfectionism as we try to gather resources (or “likes” on Facebook and Instagram) in any way we can. We can’t let perfectionism become the enemy of good, however. We must not allow the scarcity mindset, nostalgia, and perfectionism infect our students, our teachers, and our schools. Can we find ways to breed contentment?
Brown discussed gender roles and how shame—which she defines as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”—manifests itself in women and men. Women are taught to be perfect in everything they do. Men are taught to be strong and never to show weakness. Not exactly groundbreaking, right? But when put into the context of the scarcity mindset, Brown’s analysis gains insight. For proof, read this article on Urban Meyer’s struggle with health issues while trying to be a successful coach and father.
Brown’s writing soared during the “Wholehearted Parenting” section. Substitute “teacher” for “parent” in this section and you’ll be reading one of the most insightful discussions on successful teaching. This section is eminently quotable. No need for analysis here, I will present Brown’s writing:
• “The question isn’t so much ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is: ‘Are you the adult you want your child to be?’” (217)
• “If we want our children to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are.” (219)
• “If we struggle with being, living, and looking absolutely perfect, we might as well line our children up and slip those little perfection straightjackets right over their heads…Perfectionism is teaching them to value what other people think over what they think or how they feel.” (222)
• “We need to separate our children from their behaviors. As it turns out, there’s a significant difference between ‘you are bad’ and ‘you did something bad.’” (224)
• “Shame is so painful for children because it is inextricably linked to the fear of being unlovable. For young children who are still dependent on their parents for survival—for food, shelter, and safety—feeling unlovable is a threat to survival. It’s trauma.” (225)
Notice how her challenge to parents (and teachers) isn’t placed on the mantle of the child. It’s up to parents! The challenge to me isn’t how to shape and manipulate my children’s behavior to promote compliance. It’s how to become the adult I want them to become.
We need to challenge the scarcity mindset, the emphasis on perfectionism, the traditional gender behavior patterns, and we need better parents and teachers. Daring Greatly will help you reexamine those paradigms in your life.