20 Nov 2013

Brené Brown on Shame and Being Vulnerable

20 Nov 2013

self-improvement personal-growthHere is a pair of really great TED talks from Brené Brown who’s spent many years looking deeply into the subjects of shame and vulnerability. They are uncomfortable topics, the sort of thing we tend to shove under the carpet. Her light hearted story telling style of presenting makes it easier to explore without getting squeamish and leaves you with plenty to think about.

I’ve listed the latest video first. Here she starts with her own experience of becoming completely embarrassed that she admitted to having a breakdown in her earlier TED talk. Showing herself as vulnerable to an audience gave her unbearable shame.

Yet, she does a poll with the audience:
How many of you consider vulnerability to be weak? Hands up? (Most hands go up)
Now, how many of you consider someone who stands on a stage and is vulnerable to be courageous? (Most hands go up again.)

Having all the answers and being perfect before you present yourself to the world feels like the ideal, yet you never get to be perfect and your audience doesn’t want to see you perfect anyway. It’s a farce. An act. You are inauthentic if you even think it’s possible. You’re only human just like them. Accepting yourself as “enough” is the key. 

She had a very simple explanation of the differences between shame in men and women. For men it was the shame of possibly being perceived as weak particularly by the women in their lives. The knee jerk reaction can lean towards behaviour which is over-dominating, cold-hearted and even violent.

For a woman it was trying to be all things to all people and never letting them see you sweat. Conflicting expectations about who we, as women, are supposed to be can build a daily dose of shame into our lives.

Another comment that caught my attention was her idea that she had engineered her life to make sure she remained small. Fighting her inner critics saying “I’m not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?” had a crippling effect.

How many of us do THAT? Even those of us in Show Business out there plying our wares but never quite succeeding can be because deep inside we are just terrified that if we got big, the criticism and humiliation of a million critics would kill us.

It’s a common obstacle which keeps many – not just in show business but in any area of life – small and consistently “failing” to be as big as our potential allows. It’s also a common conversation I have with coaching clients and often comes down to those same inner criticisms.

Definitely worth thinking about and digging into with your Coach.

Here below is Brené’s original TED video talk from 2010 discusses the power of vulnerability.

Shame = the fear of disconnection. “I will be excluded if people find this out about me.”
= excruciating vulnerability.

What is the opposite behaviour and thinking pattern that will lessen the strength of our shame?

Brené discovered from her research when people have a strong sense of love and belonging, they then believe they are WORTHY of love and belonging.

When we are disconnected from our partners, our jobs and the world at large, it’s usually because we have lost that sense of love and belonging that would make us “whole hearted”.

Wholehearted people have courage (the word courage means able to be who you are with “heart” – ie. accept your imperfections), compassion, connection and vulnerability.

When we don’t practice those qualities we feel the negative emotions. How do we get out of that? Rather than addressing the fear and the shame, we tend to reach for something that makes us feel good temporarily such as drugs, alcohol and food.

Do that on a regular basis and we have a sound pathway into addiction.

The problem is when you numb all the bad emotions using addiction, you also numb all the good emotions. So your chances of feeling invigorated, energised, joyful and fully in love decreases to almost nil.

Is it any wonder that we struggle to feel anything or to be deeply connected to that special someone?

Is it any wonder that the numbness stretches to cover our ethics and morals to the point where we are numb and no longer care that what we do or say hurts other people?

These are deep and broad connotations but, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s all very well looking at the rest of the world as morally corrupt, addicted, disconnected, shameful and basically an abortion.

If you want to change the world, start with yourself.

When we see ourselves as ENOUGH and perfectly imperfect, we are more forgiving of ourselves which makes us kinder and gentler to those around us.

Not just that. Man, losing the shame is such a relief and life starts to get easier on all levels.

Sound like it’s worth a try?

Let us know your thoughts below…

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