Over the past two decades, few individuals have taken the personal development world by storm like the acclaimed research professor, author and speaker Brené Brown. Perhaps, the reason for her rise to stardom has been due to the fact that, rather than zoning in on how to achieve worldly success at all costs, she’s offered life changing advice for how to overcome emotional problems universally known to all. With four best-selling books and one of the five most watched Ted Talks of all time, it’s easy to see why Berne Brown is one of this generation’s greatest inspirational icons.
Brené Brown Profile:
Birth: November 18th, 1965 (age 52)
Occupation: Research Professor, Author & Speaker
Areas of Focus: Courage, Shame & Vulnerability
The Life of Brené Brown:
The world’s most inspiring teachers are ones who have lived through the experience of what they’re teaching. It’s not just something learned, it’s known, in their heart and in their bones. That’s what separates those who truly lead us from those who only pretend- their level of authentic genuineness. Are they being true to their deepest selves and carrying out their work in the service of others? Or are they just acting with hopes of becoming rich and famous? Undoubtedly, this distinction is the reason why Dr. Brené Brown has stood out as one of the most beloved self-help personalities of modern times- her authenticity and conviction to follow her own path for the benefit of all.
Life for Brené Brown began on November 18th, 1965, as she was born the first of four children, to Casandra Deanne Rogers and Charles Arthur Brown, in San Antonio, Texas. During the younger years of her life, she developed the toughness, resilience and courage the Lone Star state is known for, and ironically enough, it’s been these bootstrapping qualities which have allowed her to openly and honestly face the difficult issues of vulnerability and shame head on. Although her path to becoming one of the world’s most celebrated personal development teachers was naturally filled with uncertainty, twists and turns, she knew from a young age that she wanted to positively impact the world. Brown tells us of when she came to this realization:
I went through stages. There was a period when I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, and that was followed by a short period when I dreamed of driving an 18-wheeler. A Texas childhood, no doubt. Everything changed when I did a project on Eleanor Roosevelt. It changed me. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I was inspired to make a difference.”
This desire to make a difference is what inevitably compelled Brené Brown to pursue a virtuous career. From 1995 to 2002, her professional journey began as she attained a Bachelors, Masters and PhD in social work. Then, shortly after finishing her formal education, she began working as a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, focusing on studying wholeheartedness and authentic leadership in families, schools and organizations.
Not long after taking the research position, which she still holds today, Brown became particularly struck by the pervasiveness of shame in both human nature and society. Additionally, just as she was coming to discover that feelings of unworthiness and guilt affect people at an almost epidemic size level, the now acclaimed author came to realize that individuals struggling emotionally can bring solace and light into their lives by opening themselves up and showing their vulnerable side. Once equipped with these insights, her life’s path became crystal clear to see. She recalls:
I told my husband that my professional life goal was to start a national conversation about shame and vulnerability. I don’t want or need people to sign on to my beliefs—I just want a conversation about the importance of showing up and letting ourselves be seen. I think a collective sense of worthiness could shake the world.”
Despite the fact that many of her peers initially tried to dissuade her from focusing her work on vulnerability and shame, even telling her that doing so could possibly derail her academic career, Brené Brown never wavered from her goal of fostering a national dialogue about the unsettling truths she was uncovering. Because she saw shame itself as something truly lethal, while knowing that individuals can ultimately overcome the perturbing emotion by courageously and honestly facing it head on, the potential loss of her job was the last of her concerns.
In 2004, Brown showed just how determined she was by taking the extraordinary step of self-publishing her first book even though doing so was frowned upon by academics at the time. Although she was initially questioned for publishing Women & Shame: Reaching Out, Speaking Truths and Building Connection, which is based on the insights she gained from conducting over 200 interviews with emotionally distressed women, the title would eventually catch the eye of publisher, and after Penguin Books bought the rights, it quickly gained traction within the mental health community.
Brené Brown’s next book I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame came in 2007, but it wasn’t until she published her third book in 2010, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, when she became a globally beloved icon. Just as the book was rising international book charts, with over one million copies sold, the budding star was launched into the personal development spotlight and presented with numerous high-profile opportunities to further spread her teachings, including the incredibly fortuitous invitation to speak at TedX Houston. Since delivering her now celebrated speech The Power of Vulnerability, it’s taken a trajectory similar to her first bestselling book by rising to become the fourth most watched Ted Talks of all-time.
Over the past eight years, Brené Brown has continued to foster a worldwide conversation on shame and vulnerability, which she should be credited for kick-starting, with three additional best-selling titles: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in 2012, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in 2015 and Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone in 2017. Additionally, during this time, the award-winning author and educator has also launched two empowering personal development programs, The Daring Way and Brave Leaders Inc., and been featured on popular self-help television series such as Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.
It will be in October of 2018 when Brené Brown’s newest book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., will hit the shelfs and her third personal development program, Daring Education, is set to launch in 2019. She remains a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.
3 of Her Most Important Teachings:
Although Brené Brown has become a cultural icon for her wisdom filled words, her life’s work has largely been dedicated to analyzing upwards of 200,000 pieces of data related to courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy. By basing her writings and speeches on the insights she’s gained from years of conducting evidence-based research, with her trademark authenticity and kind-heartedness, she’s been able to strike a cord with millions of people around the globe. While the full scope of Brown’s life-affirming teachings certainly isn’t limited to the following three, they are undoubtedly some of her most treasured:
Strive for Authenticity & Acceptance over Conformity & Perfection:
If there is a single Brené Brown teaching that can increase our levels of life-satisfaction more than the rest, it very well may be that authenticity and self-acceptance, as opposed to conformity and perfection, are the foundational elements of happiness and success. Unfortunately, all too many people grow up believing the exact opposite to be true and spend their entire lives trying to satisfy their natural desires for fulfillment and belonging by striving for perfection and conforming to social influence. Yet, as Brown knows, this is a game that can’t be won. She tells us:
The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess.”
Both because there isn’t a single individual who’s entirely perfect and also become fulfillment comes only when we’re able to love ourselves exactly as we are, Brené Brown tells us that it’s imperative to work towards radical self-acceptance. This means that instead striving to get everything right, while showing no weaknesses, and burying the personal qualities and stories we dislike about ourselves, we must strive to accept, embrace and share the truth of who we really are. She proclaims:
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
To Act with Vulnerability is to Act Courageously:
In a culture that has long revered strength and courage as the ultimate form of human expression, and the display of emotions and pain as their weak opposites, Brené Brown has passionately done everything possible to shatter this ambiguous myth. By making a direct correlation between vulnerability and strength, arguing that it actually is a complete act of courage to act vulnerably, the award-winning author has shown how we can overcome shame, judgement and blame if we’re willing to completely open ourselves with unabashed honesty. She tells us:
Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”
It’s been with messages such as these, which tell us that it’s actually a great act of courage to act vulnerably, that Brené Brown has been able to help millions of people throughout the world. As you’ll discover by watching her world-famous Ted Talk, which to date has been viewed over 30 million times, the only way to truly move beyond feelings of inadequacy and shame is by letting down the walls that are meant to keep us safe from embarrassment and harm:
The Importance of Spirituality:
In a day and age when many in the scientific community reject the dogmas of religion and shy away from discussing spirituality, Brené Brown has once again bucked the trend by showing us how affirming it can be to lead a spiritual life. Through her research, Brown has come to discover that the idea of spirituality is not limited by any scriptures or theology, but rather is the express belief that we are all connected by a force greater than ourselves. She tells us:
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”
In her 2017 audio program Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice, Brown goes to great lengths to illuminate how her research shows that spiritual individuals are best at overcoming the inevitable setbacks, hardships and failures of life. Of course, this is because a greater spiritual perspective allows us to rise up over our mishaps, imperfections and flaws while still knowing that we’re not alone and completely worthy of love. Additionally, Brown points to the key role spirituality plays in activating our inner purpose, strengthening our feelings of belonging and giving us the power to rewrite our life story’s end. She proclaims:
Spirituality emerged as a fundamental guidepost in Wholeheartedness. Not religiosity but the deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by a force greater than ourselves–a force grounded in love and compassion. For some of us that’s God, for others it’s nature, art, or even human soulfulness. I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.”
“We’re all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.”
“Wholehearted living is not like trying to reach a destination. It’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really ‘arrive,’ but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction.”
“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”