Steve Safigan, MAPP '09, is a practicing life coach (CPCC). He is president of Foundations Seminars and presents personal growth seminars specializing in positive interventions for healthy adults looking for more happiness, meaning, and connection in their own lives. Full bio.
Steve writes on the 4th of the month, and his articles are here.
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She’s a writer, a speaker, a story-teller, and—as it turns out—a minor internet phenomenon. Perhaps it’s only because of the field in which I work, but her “TED talk” video keeps being recommended to me from various people who do not know each other and therefore are finding the video independently. I’m apparently not alone, as more than a quarter million people have viewed the 20-minute video through YouTube at a rate of about 10,000 views per week.
The video is attached at the bottom of this article, and it can also be found on the TED site
Brown has dedicated her research career to scientific study of the inner workings of such messy and hard-to-quantify concepts as shame, vulnerability, worthiness, and connection. Because these concepts are difficult to measure using quantitative methods such as questionnaires and surveys, Brown uses qualitative methods such as formal in-depth research interviews. Brown claims, “I hack into other peoples’ lives for a living.” I’ll have more to say about the utility of qualitative methods for these hard-to-define concepts in a follow-up article.Brown has conducted over 10,000 interviews, including more than 1,000 formal research interviews. Because she has talked to thousands of people about topics such as compassion, connection, love, and belonging, she has a rich and detailed perspective into the human spirit. She understands the anatomy of happiness, what she calls “whole-hearted living.” I believe this is why her talks generate so much resonance and referrals to others. It also gives her instant credibility.
Because I facilitate a multi-day, intensive personal growth workshop, I’ve talked to roughly 1,000 people about similar issues. In my view, Brown’s perspective on human relationships is spot on.
Key Points of her Video (for Reference)
Brown’s video is densely packed with important concepts and personal insights. After all, she has to summarize her life’s work in 20 minutes. Here are some of the primary points from her talk:
- Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives; we’re neurobiologically wired for connection.
- Shame is best understood as the fear of disconnection.
- Underlying shame is the feeling of excruciating vulnerability.
- In order for connection to happen, we must be vulnerable and allow ourselves to be really seen.
- People who have a strong sense of love and belonging (Brown’s definition of whole-hearted) believe that they’re worthy of love and belonging. It’s the only difference between those who have it and those who don’t.
- Whole-hearted people have the courage to be imperfect; the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others; and the authenticity to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are.
- Whole-hearted people embrace vulnerability and believe that it is uncomfortable but fundamental and necessary.
- Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and struggle for worthiness, but it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, and of love.
- We numb vulnerability. The problem is that we cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb negative emotion, we also numb joy, gratitude, and happiness.
- We numb through addiction, through trying to make the uncertain certain, through perfectionism, and through pretending that what we do doesn’t have an impact on other people.
Brown’s prescription for happiness is: Let ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen. Love with our whole hearts, even if there’s no guarantee. Practice gratitude and joy. Believe that we are enough.
Brown speaks to what really matters to us as humans, instead of what we often think matters. Her research deepens our understanding of positive concepts such as gratitude, joy, compassion, authenticity, resilience, faith, and play. By doing so, Brown is helping to mature our understanding of the inner workings of positive psychology and make it accessible to ordinary people living everyday lives.
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden Publishing.
Brown, B. (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power. Gotham.
Brown, B. (2010a). Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability. Video retrieved January 21, 2011 from TED talks. It is embedded below, but you may also find the interactive transcript on the TED site useful. You can search the transcript for particular words and then click on them to be taken to that point in the talk.
If you want more, here’s her TED-KC talk.