Posted by: gcarkner | September 25, 2017

Shame, Vulnerability and Courage

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Brené Brown, Sociologist

Casandra Brené Brown (born November 18, 1965) is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social WorkOver the last fifteen years she has been involved in research on a range of topics, including vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. She is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), Daring Greatly (2012), and Rising Strong (2015). She and her work have been featured on PBS, NPR, TED, and CNN. Brown’s new book is called Braving the Wilderness(2017).

Popular TED Talk

See also the field of Positive Psychology which includes therapy about the search for meaning.

Some Quotes to Spark Your Imagination

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.

If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.

What we know matters but who we are matters more.

The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.

Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.

The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.

There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.

Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability) we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

Spirituality emerged as a fundamental guidepost in Wholeheartedness. Not religiosity but the deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by a force greater than ourselves–a force grounded in love and compassion. For some of us that’s God, for others it’s nature, art, or even human soulfulness. I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.

I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.

We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.

Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I often say that Wholeheartedness is like the North Star: We never really arrive, but we certainly know if we’re headed in the right direction.

BRAVING: wisdom for the good life from Rising Strong by Brené Brown (199-200)

Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.

Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize and make amends.

Vault: You don’t share informations or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.

Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. And you chose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.


Sunset in Mexico

Ten Life Skills with Big Benefits
  • Speak Up in Public, in Class. Take Lots of Opportunities to Speak to Groups
  • Be Honest with Yourself; Be Your True Self; Practice Integrity
  • Have Confidence, Cultivate Confidence
  • Listening to Others–Be the Last to Speak (Nelson Mandela)
  • Value and Manage Your Time; Set Boundaries to Increase your Discipline
  • Stop Whining, Complaining; Instead Practice Gratitude, Optimism, Hope (Ann Voskamp)
  • Be Present in the Moment; Focus on What is right in Front of You
  • Be Consistent, Keep Building Your Passion Over Years; Pursue Excellence
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Have and Show Empahty–it is the Engine that Powers all the Best in Us,  Powers all Our Significant Relationships (Meryl Streep). Be Generous towards the Faults of Others

See also Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: how to build a well-lived and joyful life (Knopf). They run the most popular course at Stanford University.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Toronto

Ten Ways to Improve Your Life, Dramatically

  1. Stop doing the wrong things. You know what I mean. Walk away from evil.
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it—one that works for you. It’s not a prison.
  3. Clarify your thoughts. Get the cobwebs out of your brain. Journal them to clarify.
  4. Take the meaningful path involving courage versus the pathological way of anger, resentment, nihilism.
  5. Specify your goals. Be industrious. Step up to life.
  6. Stop saying things that make you weak—that represent your false self. Say things that align with the core of your being. (Parker Palmer)
  7. Adopt the mode of authentic being. Orient yourself to the truth, to your best self. Stop lying to yourself and others. Just stop it.
  8. Learn from your errors or mistakes. Don’t let them freeze your moral will. Reset accordingly.
  9. Have a heart to heart conversation with yourself. Take time to reflect on your life. This can be very enlightening.
  10. Aim high at the good. Shoot for the stars. Don’t let your life slide into mediocrity and chaos.

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