Brene Brown TED talk on vulnerability

…..if you have not come across the TED talks you are missing out on a treat, they are free talks broadcast via the TED website from speakers across many disciplines….Brene Brown talks openly and passionately about her experience of exploring vulnerability, leading her to reclaim her own vulnerability after having a nervous breakdown.

After I watched the talk I had a strong desire to inflict it on as many people as I can, and being a bit of a nerd I sat with pen and pencil and took notes on the lecture which I would like to share with you. Her talk moved me profoundly and restored my confidence in myself and the way I have chosen to live my life. So back to Brene Brown…..her research started with exploring human connections. Brene asserts that connection is why we are here, that it gives purpose and meaning to our lives and that neuro-biologically it is how we are wired.

When she asked people to talk to her about love

………..they told her about heart break

When she asked people to talk to her about belonging

………..they told her about being excluded

When she asked people to talk to her about connection

……….they told her about disconnection

She posed the question: What unravels our ability to connect?

Her research led her to this answer- Shame

which she interpreted as “the fear of disconnection.”

“is there something about me that if other people know it or see it ,  I won’t be worthy of connection?”
The experience of shame  is universal (other than those rare people who have no capacity for empathy)

This led Brene to pose the question “What underpins shame?”

And the answer she found from her extensive interviews was-  excruciating vulnerability…..
In order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen by someone else, and that requires that we are vulnerable.

Brene discovered that some people have a sense of worthiness, a strong sense of love and belonging, and some do not.
She then asked “What separates them?”

The people that had the strong sense of love and belonging believed they were worthy of it.

Brene describes these people as “whole hearted, living from a deep sense of worthiness.”

What she found they had in common was…

  • a sense of courage. The original meaning of courage was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart” These people had the courage to be imperfect and the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.
  • connection as a result of authenticity:  to let go of who they thought they should be for who they were.
  • They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful, they did not talk about vulnerability being comfortable nor excruciating, just necessary eg  the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something when they are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call with test result, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may not work out, they thought this was fundamental.

As a consequence of her research Brene had to examine her own intimacy and vulnerability issues, and this led to her breakdown.
Brene says in the interview: “I call it a breakdown my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening!”

Brene reminds us that vulnerability is the birth place of joy, creativity, belonging,  love, so if we will not allow ourselves to be vulnerable…..we cut ourselves off from joy, creativity, belonging, love………

Why do we struggle with vulnerability so much?

Brene noted that we are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated cohort in history. WHY???

Because…you cannot selectively numb emotion… shame, vulnerability, grief, fear, disappointment…we do not want these so we have a beer, we eat, we smoke….but when we numb these we numb joy, gratitude, happiness, then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable so we have a few beers etc etc…

Brene asked “Why do we numb ourselves?” Because we want to make everything uncertain certain. She asserts that religion “…has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty:-  ‘I am right, you are wrong, shut up,’ and that  in politics,  there is no discourse anymore , just blame, which is a way to discharge pain and discomfort…”

She reminds us that our children are hard wired to struggle. Our job is not to make them perfect. They are imperfect and hard wired to struggle and worthy of love and belonging.

Brene calls for us to take responsibility: to be authentic and real and  say sorry when we do wrong and then go fix it.

..Let ourselves be seen deeply seen, in our vulnerability…

…love with our whole heart even though there is no guarantee…

…practice gratitude and joy even in moments of terror….

…To know that to feel this vulnerable we must be alive…

…believe that we are enough…

have a look



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