Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brene Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work and is the author of the #1 New York bestselling book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love Parent, and Lead. 

Brown spent years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. When she was asked to speak at the first TEDx in Houston. She decided to live big and for the first time, she spoke on The Power of Vulnerability.  Brown’s 2010 TEDx talk is one of the ten most viewed TED talks in the world. She describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is a place where shame comes into play, where you show up and allow yourself to be seen.  It’s about owning your vulnerability and a place of true courage.

Brene Brown refers often to a speech by Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic” or “The Man in the Arena”.  She talks about how one passage made an impact on her vision of vulnerability, “It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  Vulnerability is not knowing the victory or defeat, it is understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging, it is being all in”.

She suggests that to be vulnerable, you must first identify what is keeping you out of the “arena”.  Acknowledging what the fear is that makes you resist the arena.  Brown, further recommends questioning the method you currently use for protecting yourself from the vulnerability?  Is it perfectionism, Intellectualizing, cynicism, numbing, or control?  Brene says, “it is not easy to walk into the arena, but it is where we come alive.”

In Brown’s Netflix documentary, “The Call to Courage” she talks about the practice of being vulnerable and managing the discomfort.  She says, “Hard things are born from vulnerability, whether it be heartbreak or grief of disappointment.  But love, joy, belonging, intimacy, trust, creating innovation is also born. So, when we armor up to block the hard stuff, that armor keeps all the experiences that bring meaning to our lives away as well.”

To feel alive and live your life in a big way, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable, to take risks, to open yourself up to both failure and accomplishment.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”-Brene Brown

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