Brené Brown is a Texan with a message about courage and vulnerability. Her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, has been viewed more than 30 million times. She considers herself a researcher and a storyteller as she leads us to understand the power of connection, courage, and being vulnerable.
With the release of Braving the Wilderness, many are just discovering her work and wisdom. Going back to her early books provide a great foundation for understanding her point of view. Here we revisit her second book, Daring Greatly, and the fundamentals of her work, reprinted from her site CourageWorks.
Back to Basics: Five Truths About Living A Brave Life
"I looked right at her and said, 'I frickin' hate vulnerability.' I figured she's a therapist—I'm sure she's had tougher cases. Plus, the sooner she knows what she's dealing with, the faster we can get this whole therapy thing wrapped up. 'I hate uncertainty. I hate not knowing. I can't stand opening myself up to getting hurt or being disappointed. It's excruciating. Vulnerability is complicated. And it's excruciating. Do you know what I mean?'
"Diana nods. 'Yes, I know vulnerability. I know it well. It's an exquisite emotion.' Then she looks up and kind of smiles, as if she's picturing something really beautiful. I'm sure I look confused because I can't imagine what she's picturing. I'm suddenly concerned for her well-being and my own."
- Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
These are the first words in the introduction of the book Daring Greatly—words that probably feel really familiar to all of us the first time we open its pages. Heaven knows that vulnerability rarely feels like fun. But thanks to Brené's book (and her amazing follow-up, Rising Strong), we know some solid truths about what it means to be vulnerable and live a brave life:
1) To live a brave life, you must believe you are worthy of love and belonging.
And a strong belief in our worthiness doesn't just happen -- it's cultivated and practiced, with the intent of living a life defined by courage, compassion and connection.
2) People who live brave lives identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion and connection.
3) If you want to be brave with your life, you're signing up to get your ass kicked.
We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can't have both. Not at the same time.
4) Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.
Vulnerability isn't weakness, it's our greatest measure of courage.
5) Courage is contagious.
Living a brave life changes not just you, but also the people around you. To bear witness to the human potential for transformation through vulnerability, courage and tenacity can profoundly affect the people around you, whether you're aware of it or not.
Much of Brené’s work talks about owning your own story. (You can read more on her blog.)
Her “bottom line” as she describes it: I believe that vulnerability—the willingness to be “all in” even when you know it can mean failing and hurting—is brave. I do NOT believe that cussing and praying are mutually exclusive. And, I absolutely believe that the passing lane is for passing only.
Brown is a scholar, author, speaker, and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work. She has spent 16 years in qualitative research on the topics of courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame, and has written four books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and her newest title, Braving the Wilderness.