Brené Brown : The shame investigator

Today I wanted to talk and share some of Brené’s Brown work because I had viewed her two TED talks, and wanted to know more so I started looking for further interviews. 
Basically, if I had to put it back in the context, the first TED talk that she made went viral and that’s pretty much how she got some exposure which ultimately enabled her to share her work with a wider audience and publish books that were a success. I really feel that she’s nailing very important issues and topics that are worth mentioning here today. What I find interesting too is that throughout the interviews (that I’ve put chronologically), we can see the evolution of her work, and how she overcame various challenges starting as being pretty much the outsider that was just handling out some datas and analysis related to her work, work which was in itself the result of a life experience that I would define as her ‘vulnerability existential crisis’. And later on, as she kept working how she managed to handle ‘notoriety’ and being exposed to criticism.
I can only recommend you to watch all the videos below because there are full of useful and insightful comments and advices. But I guess that making a little summary won’t hurt.

Her earlier work revolves around vulnerability, deconstructing the myth that vulnerability is perceived as weakness and should be avoided at all cost. On this opposite, Brené claims that vulnerability is not only vital but is our most accurate measurement of courage. In her later researches, she actually linked vulnerability to the capacity of being able to create : « there is no creativity without vulnerability ». Which led her to having to deconstruct another persistent myth in our culture that consists of saying that creativity is not for everyone. I guess you’ve probably heard this before (or even perhaps said it yourself) ‘not everybody is creative’, which is as a matter of fact absolutely wrong. We are all creative in our own ways, and Brené’s datas actually show that not using your creativity but repressing it or suppressing it is harmful and dangerous for one’s self.

 

Now if I had to emphasize on what I’ve learnt in the TED talks, I would say that those are the main conclusions that arise from Brené’s studies :

1 - The human experience is all about connexion with others
2 - Vulnerability and shame are somehow related
3 - The only difference between ‘happy-fullfilled’ people (which she calls the whole-hearted) and those struggling to get there is that the whole-hearted believed that they are worthy of love and connexion whereas the others don’t.

 

So what does the whole-hearted have in common then ?

1- They fully embrace vulnerability (and don’t view it as a weakness but something necessary for their personal growth)
2 -They have the courage to be imperfect 
3 - They are compassionate and kind to themselves first
4 - They connect with others as a result of true authenticity within themselves
5 - They set boundaries in their relationships while preserving their integrity*

*Here’s how Brené defines integrity : Choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what is fast and easy, practicing your values not just professing them.

 

What does shame and guilt has got to do with vulnerability then ? 
To put it simply, I would say that from what I understood, shame and guilt are the result of a lack of self-love and low self-esteem (combined ;-) ). Those two are more or so what prevents us from being part of the whole-hearted crew.

 

What is the difference between shame and guilt ?
The best way is to give out the example in one of the Chase Jarvis interview when he spills his glass of water on the table in front of the audience.

The person in a similar situation who feels shame will say to one’s self « I am stupid » opposed to « I did a stupid thing » if he/she felt guilt.

Shame : I am a bad person 
Guilt : I did a bad thing

What is pretty shocking too is that shame is way more damaging and harmful then guilt. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, and eating disorders.

 

How to overcome shame then ?
The good news is that empathy is the antidote to shame. But the tricky part though, is that we have a natural tendency in our society for misbelieves and misunderstanding of what empathy actually is. Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing.

Here’s another example. You’re with someone you know/care about and they’re sharing with you a very bad news that’s happening to them. Your response :

Sympathy : I feel bad for you and I want you to know you’re not alone (but what I won’t say at loud is that I’m so glad I’m not you/in your situation right now).

Empathy : Me too, I know how it feels and I’m with you. You’re not alone.

 

The gremlin voices
The way we talk to ourselves as a tremendous impact on how we feel and the decisions we make. 
The negative self-talk is often linked to shame and shame drives two big tapes  : “never good enough”  and if you can talk it out of that one : “who do you think you are ?

 

Ok, so what should I do about that ?
The answer that Brené suggests concerning the gremlin voices might sound strange at first sight : don’t fight them. Don’t try to put them off, because the more energy you consume trying to get rid of them, the stronger they will become. Let the gremlins say what they have to say, listening doesn’t mean that you agree with them, don’t engage, listen quietly and come up with a simple answer that could sound like this : I hear ya but I’m going to do what I want anyway.
The second tip is to talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend or a loved one.

The other ‘subject’ from the Chase Jarvis interview that got my attention (I think anybody working in the creative field has been confronted to this to some extent) :

 

How to deal with haters and handle criticism ?

1 - If you decide to be brave and embrace fully who you are, you are going to get you ass kicked, you will stumble at times and fail for sure.

2 - Don’t read the comments online, if you already have to much public exposure ask a benevolent soul around you whom you trust and respect to select what seems interesting or necessary to improve your work (= constructive criticism) while sparing you the dumb-hating-simplistic comments.

3 - Have a support group, consisting of people that work in similar field as you, that are whole-hearted and non-judgmental. Or get a therapist to help you deal with the ‘exposure’ related self-esteem damaging issues.

4 - Trying to please everybody is a lost cause. Become picky about who you’re working with or collaborating. If it’s not a good fit, don’t do it.

 

Why the motto « I don’t care what anybody thinks » doesn’t work
Here’s the big dilemma. When you don’t care at all about what anybody thinks, you loose your capacity for connexion, in other words you loose your capacity to love.
On the other hand, when you are defined by what people think of you, you loose the courage to be vulnerable, in other words you loose your authenticity. The real challenge is to be aware that you care what people think of you but you don’t want to be define by it.

 

That sucks … So what can I do ?
Brené as a tip for you. Take a very small piece of paper that you could put in your wallet for instance, to carry it around with you, and keep it secret. On this piece of paper you will write down the name of the people who’s opinions of you really matter to you. People who love you not despite your vulnerability and imperfections but because of them. And when you feel hurt by someone, just take up your little piece of paper and check if the person making you feel bad is on the list.

 

 

 

 


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