When Daring Greatly best-selling author Brené Brown made a brave decision to talk about her own struggle with shame and vulnerability at a TEDx Talk, she had no idea her life was about to change. Not only did her talk go viral, an incident she calls “happy accident,” but being thrown into the spotlight has also made her realize that the only way to live is to live bravely.
1. Will I choose courage or will I choose comfort?
For many, vulnerability is not a comfortable subject to discuss. Many shun the idea of feeling vulnerable because it’s often seen as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, Brown argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but the most accurate measure of courage. Courage, by definition, is being extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable.
Brown herself displayed vulnerability when she shared her story on TEDx Talk. She talked about how she loves certainty and how she hates ambiguity, and that the only reason why she was trying vulnerability was because, at that time, about 70,000 pieces of data indicated that the one thing men and women who live wholeheartedly share in common is their willingness to be vulnerable.
Brown admits that the idea of vulnerability freaked her out so she decided to see a therapist to help her grapple her own fear of it. “I kid you not, I went to my therapist with an Excel spreadsheet of all the things I want to talk about and the time I will allot on each topic. I also wrote on this spreadsheet: No childhood bullshit,” she says, laughing. But despite being uncomfortable with vulnerability, she decided to embrace it and, in the process, chose courage.
2. Will you show up and be seen even when you cannot control the outcome?
When her TEDx Talk became viral, Brown suddenly found herself the subject of vicious online attacks. Reading through online reviews about her physical appearance, she was hit hard by shame. “Shame is how we see ourselves through other people’s eyes,” she says. “The only people not capable of shame are those without capacity of empathy or connection.” For years, she avoided harsh criticism by staying small. “I have always chosen to not venture out completely into my power because that would be too much exposure and would create opportunity for criticism,” she says. “The problem when you stay small and engineer a little bit of smallness is that it’s always served up with resentment because you are always looking at other people and thinking: ‘The only thing standing between me and trying something like that is my own courage.’”
It was during this moment of shame that she stumbled upon former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech. “That speech changed me. I’ve decided to live my life in the arena. To live a brave life. The two values I hold closest in my life are faith and courage,” she says.
According to Brown, if you are brave in your life or business, there’s one thing certain: You will get your ass kicked. “It’s just the physics of courage that if you put yourself out there and try new things, it’s not going to work out every time. But here’s the question: Will you show up and be seen even when you cannot control the outcome?” she asks.
The answer, Brown says, is “yes.” In today’s world, you have to be courageous in your business and in yourself because the world is changing too fast. “You have to be willing to fall and fail, and you have to have a culture that can survive that,” she says. “You have a call to courage to set up environments where your employees stay out of shame and the people who see you stay out of shame.”
3. How do you let in what’s constructive and not let in criticism that keeps you from trying to be brave?
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback. Period. Why? There are a million cheap seats today full of people who will hurl meanspiritedness, judgment, advice and criticism, but never once stepped foot in that arena. You can’t afford to listen to them,” Brown cautions.
She says, if criticism no longer hurt or you’ve developed an “I don’t give a shit what others think” attitude, you have a bigger problem than the criticism. “This is because there is no mastery without feedback so you have to let some feedback in, but the trick is in allowing only what’s constructive from the people whose opinion matters most to you. She suggests writing down on a one inch by one inch piece of paper the names of people whose opinions matter. “If you need more space than that, you need to edit because the only names that need to go in that piece of paper are the people who love you and care about you, not despite your imperfection or vulnerability, but because of it. That piece of paper should be sacred to you,” she says.
4. Why do we dress-rehearse tragedy in the middle of great things?
According to Brown, there are four pieces of courage: vulnerability, clarity of values, trust and rising skills or the ability to rise back up after a fall. “Some rise up and become more tenacious as a result of that fall. The only way we find our way back after a fall is through vulnerability,” she says. Vulnerability, after all, is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy and innovation.
Many times, however, we find ourselves mentally “dress-rehearsing” tragedy in the middle of great things. Why? “The reason why we dress-rehearse tragedy and great moments is because the most vulnerable emotion people feel is joy. Men or women with the highest capacity of joy are those who actively practice gratitude,” she says. In other words, to have courage is to also have a heart full of gratitude.
IGNITE your passion
Inspired by Brené's words? Want to have be inspired and have your passion ignited? Visit attendISPA.com to learn about this year's International SPA Association Conference & Expo. This year, we welcome keynotes Amy Cuddy, Daniel Pink and Peyton Manning to Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, October 16-18.