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The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown


The following article is derived from the accompanying video. It is provided as an additional resource for your reading convenience.

The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it. The less you talk about it, the more you have it. What underpins this shame? Thoughts like “I’m not good enough, I’m not blank enough, I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” What underpins these things is excruciating vulnerability.

There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, and the people who really struggle for it. People with a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. We numb vulnerability when we’re waiting for the call. We live in a vulnerable world, and one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.




You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So, when we numb those we numb joy. We numb gratitude. We numb happiness. Then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning. Then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin and it becomes this dangerous cycle.




One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. It doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. What we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks.




Also we perfect, most dangerously, our children. We think our children are hardwired for struggle when they get here. Your job is just to keep her perfect. Your job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s your job. We pretend that what we do doesn’t influence people. We do that in our personal lives. We pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. We just need to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”




There’s another way which is to let ourselves be seen. Deeply seen. Vulnerably seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee. That’s hard, a parent can testify that is excruciatingly difficult to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror. We are wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” Just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”  The last, which is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, which says, “I’m enough”, then we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us. And we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.


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