Brené Brown On Shame4 Flares 4 Flares ×
In 2010, Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability went viral. I believe that part of the appeal was the authenticity people sensed in her personal, vulnerable approach.
Earlier this year, Brené was back at TED with a talk on Shame. This talk has gone slightly less viral, but that is all the more reason to highlight it here.
The talk is worth a watch, and for those that don’t have time, here are my bottom-line notes:
This adage reminds us to be true to our roots, and to have the courage to talk about the things that people would rather we didn’t talk about.
Brown’s roots are in studying shame, even though nobody wants to hear about that research (creativity, leadership, innovation, change management are much more interesting.)
Brené says that shame drives two big tapes playing in our heads: “[I'm] Never good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”
She also suggests that fear of failure is the biggest obstacle for most of us (I would argue it’s at least equalled by fear of success). If you can get over your fear of failure — and your fear of speaking the truth — you can do great things.
Shame, by gender
- For women, shame is: Do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you sweat.
- For men, shame is not a multitude of conflicting requirements, it’s just one requirement: never let yourself be perceived as weak. Equally impossible.
This is poignantly underlined in the story Brené tells of the man who inspired her to begin studying men, not just women:
“You say to reach out, tell your story, be vulnerable. . . but [my wife and three daughters] would rather me die on my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out to be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us, and don’t tell me it’s from the guys and the coaches and the dads, because the women in my life are harder on me than anybody else.”
-The man who inspired Brené to begin researching the effects of shame on men
I think Brené is clearly on to something, as her statement during the talk so closely echo my own conclusions. In paraphrase, she’s saying “As men and women, we need to find our way back to each other, and both men and women who can sit with each other in vulnerability have done some real work.”
A few more tidbits from the related research:
- Top female conformity needs: to be nice, thin, modest, and use all available resources for appearance.
- Top male conformity needs: to be in control of emotions, to be primarily about work, to relentlessly pursue status, to have an ability to wield violence.
Zooming in on male conformity needs for a moment: I think if you look at my idealized Fierce Gentleman material, you’ll see emotional maturity replacing emotional control, pursuit of purpose replacing status seeking behavior, and ability to wield non-violence replacing violence.
As Brené says:
Now go out there, and dare greatly.