Women to Know: Dr. Brené Brown

I admit it.  I hadn’t heard of Dr. Brené Brown until 2011.

I’m a wannabe intellectual and was on a TED bender when I came upon her TEDx Houston talk filmed in 2010. It was at a time in my life where I was miserable, numb and unmotivated.  The candor with which she spoke had me enraptured. Her words left me anxious and crying.

You see… Brené is a lot like me.

She’s a Social Worker and a researcher from Texas. Although I’m none of those things, her (former) approach to life and her understanding of success echoed mine. Well, that was before her/my breakdown spiritual awakening.

To be fair, she figured it out before me.

Dr. Brown’s research revolves around human connection, namely shame and vulnerability. Her data is qualitative, meaning she interviews people and/or reads their stories as data. Labs and multiple choice tests don’t measure it. She states that “stories are…data with a soul”. Through her research, Brené has been able to categorize two types of people: the group that she labels “wholehearted” and those who believe vulnerability is weakness.

In her TEDx Houston talk, she candidly tells her story. She initially approached the research (people’s stories) hoping to “beat vulnerability to the punch”. She was going to compartmentalize it, find the pattern, label it and then “outsmart it”. She admits that she’s struggled with vulnerability.  She defines vulnerability as the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. “But,” she says, “it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging [and] of love.” In other words, those who attempt to live outside of vulnerability are also denying those experiences that offer life’s greatest riches.

Like Brené, I was not one of those people that would belong in the ‘wholehearted’ group.  I was intent on doing it all and making it look easy. I gave all of my self-worth over to an impossible paragon: the ideal wife, mother, teacher, and woman.  When I slipped up or failed in some way, I was devastated and incredibly disappointed in myself. This perfection was at the expense of playfulness.  I was unemotional and put my dreams on the back burner. I was a workaholic.

And it was exhausting.

My story, my “data”, is very similar to her own. I’m convinced there are many others like me.

I couldn’t have found Dr. Brown’s work at a more significant time.  Learning from her research helped me restore my sense of self, I mean my real self, and as such, has encouraged me to rediscover and cultivate my dreams, again.

Brené Brown’s message has resounded with millions of people. Since the TEDx talk explosion, she has written a New York Times Bestselling book, “Daring Greatly” and has been on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

If people took her research to heart, there could be a cultural revolution.

by Teri Hartman


Are you daring greatly in your life?