Brené Brown on Listening to Shame

This week we wish to take a look at another TED Talk by the wonderful Brené Brown. This talk is a follow-on from her discussion of shame and vulnerability, which we have covered previously. In this talk however, she discusses the power of listening to shame (20:21).

She begins by re-telling in an open and humorous way the impact the fame of the previous talk had on her life. She was not prepared for the reach her vulnerable story attained. It was a challenge for her to come to terms to, and a part of her life she feared being seen. But it was seen. And it was heard. And it was hard for her. However, it was an experience she learnt from, and she grew.

Vulnerability is not weakness. That myth is profoundly dangerous.

Vulnerability is emotional risk. It is exposure. It is uncertainty. But it is also our most accurate measurement of courage.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.

Brené also stressed the necessity of talking about shame.

She characterized shame as the swampland of the soul. The goal is not to walk in, construct a home, and live there, but rather to put on a pair of gumboots, walk through, and find your way around.

To grow and improve, we cannot focus on failure, and be paralysed by shame.

But if we can quiet down and walk into shame, we can face the critic inside us that thinks we aren’t good enough, that asks us “who do you think you are”.

Importantly, shame is not guilt. Shame is a focus on the self, while guilt is a focus on behaviour.

Shame feels the same for everyone, but interestingly, it is organized by gender. Brené describes shame for women as doing it all, doing it perfectly, and never letting them see you sweat. Shame is the conflicting web of competing expectations about who they are meant to be. For men, however, shame is intricately tied to weakness, and the cultural expectation to hide vulnerability. While these findings come from Brené’s work in Texas and the rest of America, they are experiences many can relate to.

But empathy is the antidote to shame. To grow, shame needs secrecy, silence, and judgement. But with empathy, shame cannot survive.

Finally, Brené shares a simple truth.

If we are going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.

Thank you for joining us for this week’s instalment. We hope you have found it interesting.

Wishing you a wonderful week,

TCS Team

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