Brene Brown: ‘The Power of Being Vulnerable’ (Updated)

Brene Brown: ‘The Power of Being Vulnerable’ (Updated)

Apr 13


Brene Brown: ‘The Power of Being Vulnerable’

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame — and a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the questions: How do we engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy? Brené is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBSNPRCNN, and has appeared in The Washington PostPsychology Today, and many other national media outlets. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk on the power of vulnerability (watch below) is one of the most watched talks on, with over 6 million views. Brené is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead“. Brené lives in Houston with her husband, Steve, and their two children.



Brene Brown Website
Wikipedia on Brene Brown
Amazon on Brene Brown



Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012)

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” (2007)

Women & Shame: Reaching Out, Speaking Truths and Building Connection (2004)


Guideposts For Wholehearted Living

1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think

2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism

3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness

4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark

5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty

6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison

7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle

9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”

10. Cultivating laughter, song and dance: Letting go of being cool and “always in control.”

All 10 are described in-depth in Brene’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.


Click the image above for larger view.



“The most powerful teaching moments are the ones where you screw up.”

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”

“We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.”

“There’s nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen.”

“Nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that 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 me seen.”

“What would you be glad that you did…. EVEN if you failed?”

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

“Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.”

“Talk about your failures without apologizing.”

“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.”

“Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect.”



More Posters

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto (pdf, dark)
• The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto (pdf, light)
Daring Greatly Engaged Feedback Checklist (pdf)
Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto (pdf)
Daring Greatly Theodore Roosevelt Arena (pdf)





Excerpts from Brene Brown’s 2010 TED talk in Houston

Original Link

• What unravels connection? Shame.

• Shame: the fear of disconnection. It’s universal; we all have it. ‘I’m not “blank” enough.’

• In order to let connection happen, we have to let ourselves be seen. Really seen.

• A sense of worthiness; that’s what this comes down to… a strong sense of love and belonging: There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who struggled for it. And that was: that people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part about the one thing that keeps us out of love and connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of love and connection, was something that personally and professionally I felt I needed to understand better.

• What do I call these people living from a strong sense of love and connection? Whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people.

• Here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language, it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart, and the original definition was to tell the story of who are with your whole heart.

• And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect.

• They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others. Because as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.

• And the last is, they had connection — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which is — you have to — to absolutely do that for connection.

• The other thing they had in common was this: they fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating, as I heard it earlier in the shame interviewing, they just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say I love you first. The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. The willingness to breathe through the doctor waiting to call with a mammogram. The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

• Research: to control and predict. To study phenomenon for the explicit reason to control and predict.

• I said, here’s the thing. I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, and creativity, of belong, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I just — I need some help… It’s bad, isn’t it? And she said, ‘It’s neither good nor bad. It just is what it is.’ And I said, ‘Oh my god, this is going to suck!’ And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that like when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they kind of surrender and walk into it? A) That’s not me, and B) I don’t even hang out with people like that. For me, it was a year-long street-fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight but probably won my life back… What are we doing with vulnerability? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. And so this is what I learned: We numb vulnerability… ‘Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick and we’re newly married.’ ‘Having to initiate sex with my husband.’ ‘Initiating sex with my wife.’ ‘Being turned down.’ ‘Asking someone out.’ ‘Waiting for the doctor to call back.’ ‘Getting laid off.’ ‘Laying off people.’ This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it: we numb vulnerability. And I think there’s evidence. And it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause. We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.

• The problem is, and I learned this from the research, that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You cannot say, ‘Here’s the bad stuff. Here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana-nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these.’ … You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects or emotions. So when we numb those, we numb joy. We numb gratitude. We numb happiness. And then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning. And then we feel vulnerable so we have a couple of beers and a banana-nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

• One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t have to be addiction. The other thing we do is, we make everything that is uncertain, certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery, to certainty. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up.’ That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are.

• Do you know how blame is described in the research? ‘A way to discharge pain and discomfort.’

• You are imperfect and you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of comfort and belonging.

• We pretend that what we do doesn’t have a huge effect on people… We just need you to be authentic and real and say, ‘We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.’

• But there’s another way.

• To let ourselves be seen. Deeply seen. Vulnerably seen.

• To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee. And that’s really hard. I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult.

• To practice gratitude and joy, in those moments of kind of terror, when we’re wondering, ‘Can I love you that much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, ‘I’m just so grateful. Because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.’

• And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place that says, ‘I’m enough,’ then we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.


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