Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • I'm going to tell you a little bit

  • about my TEDxHouston Talk.

  • I woke up the morning after I gave that Talk

  • with the worst vulnerability hangover

  • of my life.

  • And I actually didn't leave my house

  • for about three days.

  • The first time I left was to meet a friend for lunch.

  • And when I walked in, she was already at the table.

  • And I sat down, and she said,

  • "God, you look like hell."

  • I said, "Thanks. I feel really --

  • I'm not functioning."

  • And she said, "What's going on?"

  • And I said, "I just told

  • 500 people

  • that I became a researcher

  • to avoid vulnerability.

  • And that when being vulnerable

  • emerged from my data,

  • as absolutely essential

  • to whole-hearted living,

  • I told these 500 people

  • that I had a breakdown.

  • I had a slide that said Breakdown.

  • At what point did I think that was a good idea?"

  • (Laughter)

  • And she said, "I saw your Talk live-streamed.

  • It was not really you.

  • It was a little different than what you usually do.

  • But it was great."

  • And I said,

  • "This can't happen.

  • YouTube, they're putting this thing on YouTube.

  • And we're going to be talking about 600, 700 people."

  • (Laughter)

  • And she said, "Well, I think it's too late."

  • And I said, "Let me ask you something."

  • And she said, "Yeah."

  • And I said, "Do you remember when we were in college

  • and really wild and kind of dumb?"

  • And she said, "Yeah."

  • And I said, "Remember when we'd leave a really bad message

  • on our ex-boyfriend's answering machine?

  • Then we'd have to break into his dorm room

  • and then erase the tape?"

  • (Laughter)

  • And she goes, "Uh ... no."

  • (Laughter)

  • So of course, the only thing I could think of to say at that point was,

  • "Yeah, me neither.

  • That ... me neither."

  • And I'm thinking to myself,

  • "Brene, what are you doing? What are you doing?

  • Why did you bring this up? Have you lost your mind?

  • Your sisters would be perfect for this."

  • So I looked back up and she said,

  • "Are you really going to try to break in

  • and steal the video

  • before they put it on YouTube?"

  • And I said, "I'm just thinking about it a little bit."

  • (Laughter)

  • She said, "You're like the worst vulnerability role model ever."

  • (Laughter)

  • And then I looked at her and I said something

  • that at the time felt a little dramatic,

  • but ended up being more prophetic than dramatic.

  • I said,

  • "If 500 turns into 1,000

  • or 2,000,

  • my life is over."

  • (Laughter)

  • I had no contingency plan for four million.

  • (Laughter)

  • And my life did end when that happened.

  • And maybe the hardest part about my life ending

  • is that I learned something hard about myself,

  • and that was that,

  • as much as I would frustrated

  • about not being able to get my work out to the world,

  • there was a part of me that was working very hard

  • to engineer staying small,

  • staying right under the radar.

  • But I want to talk about what I've learned.

  • There's two things that I've learned in the last year.

  • The first is

  • vulnerability is not weakness.

  • And that myth

  • is profoundly dangerous.

  • Let me ask you honestly --

  • and I'll give you this warning,

  • I'm trained as a therapist,

  • so I can out-wait you uncomfortably --

  • so if you could just raise your hand that would be awesome --

  • how many of you honestly,

  • when you're thinking about doing something vulnerable

  • or saying something vulnerable,

  • think, "God, vulnerability's weakness. This is weakness?"

  • How many of you think of vulnerability and weakness synonymously?

  • The majority of people.

  • Now let me ask you this question:

  • This past week at TED,

  • how many of you, when you saw vulnerability up here,

  • thought it was pure courage?

  • Vulnerability is not weakness.

  • I define vulnerability

  • as emotional risk,

  • exposure, uncertainty.

  • It fuels our daily lives.

  • And I've come to the belief --

  • this is my 12th year doing this research --

  • that vulnerability

  • is our most accurate measurement

  • of courage --

  • to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen,

  • to be honest.

  • One of the weird things that's happened

  • is, after the TED explosion,

  • I got a lot of offers to speak all over the country --

  • everyone from schools and parent meetings

  • to Fortune 500 companies.

  • And so many of the calls went like this,

  • "Hey, Dr. Brown. We loved your TEDTalk.

  • We'd like you to come in and speak.

  • We'd appreciate it

  • if you wouldn't mention vulnerability or shame."

  • (Laughter)

  • What would you like for me to talk about?

  • There's three big answers.

  • This is mostly, to be honest with you, from the business sector:

  • innovation, creativity

  • and change.

  • So let me go on the record

  • and say,

  • vulnerability is the birthplace

  • of innovation, creativity and change.

  • (Applause)

  • To create is to make something

  • that has never existed before.

  • There's nothing more vulnerable than that.

  • Adaptability to change

  • is all about vulnerability.

  • The second thing,

  • in addition to really finally understanding

  • the relationship between vulnerability and courage,

  • the second thing I learned is this:

  • We have to talk about shame.

  • And I'm going to be really honest with you.

  • When I became a "vulnerability researcher"

  • and that became the focus because of the TEDTalk --

  • and I'm not kidding.

  • I'll give you an example.

  • About three months ago, I was in a sporting goods store

  • buying goggles and shin guards

  • and all the things that parents buy at the sporting goods store.

  • About from a hundred feet away, this is what I hear:

  • "Vulnerability TED! Vulnerability TED!"

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm a fifth generation Texan.

  • Our family motto is "Lock and load."

  • I am not a natural vulnerability researcher.

  • So I'm like,

  • just keep walking, she's on my six.

  • (Laughter)

  • And then I hear, "Vulnerability TED!"

  • I turn around, I go, "Hi."

  • She's right here and she said,

  • "You're the shame researcher who had the breakdown."

  • (Laughter)

  • At this point

  • parents are, like, pulling their children close.

  • "Look away."

  • And I'm so worn out at this point in my life,

  • I look at her and I actually say,

  • "It was a frickin' spiritual awakening."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • And she looks back and does this,

  • "I know."

  • And she said,

  • "We watched your TEDTalk in my book club.

  • Then we read your book

  • and we renamed ourselves

  • 'The Breakdown Babes.'"

  • And she said, "Our tagline is:

  • 'We're falling apart and it feels fantastic.'"

  • (Laughter)

  • You can only imagine

  • what it's like for me in a faculty meeting.

  • So when I became Vulnerability TED,

  • like an action figure --

  • like Ninja Barbie, but I'm Vulnerability TED --

  • I thought, I'm going to leave that shame stuff behind,

  • because I spent six years studying shame

  • before I really started writing and talking about vulnerability.

  • And I thought, thank God, because shame is this horrible topic,

  • no one wants to talk about it.

  • It's the best way to shut people down on an airplane.

  • "What do you do?" "I study shame." "Oh."

  • (Laughter)

  • And I see you.

  • (Laughter)

  • But in surviving this last year,

  • I was reminded of a cardinal rule --

  • not a research rule,

  • but a moral imperative

  • from my upbringing --

  • you've got to dance with the one who brung ya.

  • And I did not learn about vulnerability

  • and courage and creativity and innovation

  • from studying vulnerability.

  • I learned about these things

  • from studying shame.

  • And so I want to walk you in

  • to shame.

  • Jungian analysts call shame

  • the swampland of the soul.

  • And we're going to walk in.

  • And the purpose is not to walk in

  • and construct a home and live there.

  • It is to put on some galoshes

  • and walk through and find our way around.

  • Here's why.

  • We heard the most compelling call ever

  • to have a conversation in this country,

  • and I think globally,

  • around race, right?

  • Yes? We heard that.

  • Yes?

  • Cannot have that conversation without shame,

  • because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege.

  • And when people start talking about privilege,

  • they get paralyzed by shame.

  • We heard a brilliant simple solution

  • to not killing people in surgery,

  • which is have a checklist.

  • You can't fix that problem without addressing shame,

  • because when they teach those folks how to suture,

  • they also teach them how to stitch their self-worth

  • to being all-powerful.

  • And all-powerful folks don't need checklists.

  • And I had to write down the name of this TED Fellow

  • so I didn't mess it up here.

  • Myshkin Ingawale,

  • I hope I did right by you.

  • (Applause)

  • I saw the TED Fellows my first day here.

  • And he got up and he explained

  • how he was driven to create

  • some technology to help test for anemia

  • because people were dying unnecessarily.

  • And he said, "I saw this need.

  • So you know what I did? I made it."

  • And everybody just burst into applause, and they were like "Yes!"

  • And he said, "And it didn't work.

  • And then I made it 32 more times,

  • and then it worked."

  • You know what the big secret about TED is?

  • I can't wait to tell people this.

  • I guess I'm doing it right now.