Brené Brown was having a breakdown.
She’d gone to her therapist with an Excel spreadsheet. She had six weeks, she explained. She needed more of the traits on this list and less of the traits on that list.
“Nothing deep,” she added. “No childhood crap or anything.”
It took longer than six weeks.
In fact, for an entire year, she lost it.
Her body was telling her that she had to stop trying to be everything to everyone. She couldn’t keep “proving, pleasing, perfecting, performing.”  She needed more joy in her life. She needed time to breathe, laugh, and play.
When she resurfaced, she knew she had to talk about what she’d learned.
The result—a bestselling book called The Gifts of Imperfection and a record-breaking 2010 TED talk—made Brené a household name. Oprah came calling.
Three books later (her most recent, Braving the Wilderness, just came out), the shame researcher from the University of Houston had become an international phenomenon.
Needless to say, she never saw it coming.
Her original dream had been much smaller. She wanted to start a conversation about shame.
But she knew that no one wants to talk about shame. It was a real conversation killer at cocktail parties. She explains:
When I use the word ‘shame,’ people have one of two responses: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with me,’ or, ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I don’t want to discuss it with you.’”
We’re terrified of admitting to anyone, even ourselves, that we don’t always feel worthy of love and belonging.
And Brené herself wasn’t exempt.
In fact, her research was the trigger for her 2007 breakdown, which she now calls a spiritual awakening.
She found that some people live their lives deeply bound by shame, while others live “wholehearted” lives. She searched for patterns to tease out the differences between these two groups. Each time she found a pattern, she noted it down on a list.
One list was filled with Do’s, like joy, creativity, play, rest, vulnerability, and gratitude.
The other was filled with Don’t’s, like perfectionism, judgment, exhaustion, being cool, fitting in, and not relying on anyone.
Guess which list described her best?
The second one.
The wrong one.
Back then, Brené didn’t do vulnerability. She was a fifth-generation Texan. She liked being tough, soldiering on, and staying in control. She hated self-help.
She realizes how ironic it is that her books are now shelved in the self-help section, chockfull of personal anecdotes revealing that she’s not perfect, she makes embarrassing mistakes, and she struggles with shame and worthiness just like anyone else.
And that’s why we love Brené.
She struggles. This stuff is as hard for her as it is for us, if not harder.
She’s an academic. She’s not supposed to talk about her personal life. She’s supposed to be logical, didactic, and professional at all times.
But she’s chosen to breach that wall. She can’t teach vulnerability without practicing vulnerability herself. She made the decision to walk her talk even though it’s hard, even though it exposes her to criticism, even though it’s professionally risky.
Her example makes it safer for us to be authentic, to admit our imperfections, to dare greatly, and keep rising each time we fall.
She teaches us that we don’t have to wait until we’re perfect in order to shine.
We can shine our most brilliant light right now, not in spite of but through our broken places.
Here are 5 more reasons to love Brené Brown:
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.”
Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”
Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
What We Can Learn from Brené
- Being perfect is not a goal. Being who you truly are is.
It’s more important to admit you made a mistake than to come across as invincible.
People won’t hate you when they find out you’re imperfect. They’ll love you even more.
Our testing ground for vulnerability is our relationships.
Don’t listen to the spectators. If someone’s not in the ring with you, sweaty and dirty and committed to the fight, then their opinion is just noise.
Stay Tuned for More #BrilliantBabe Profiles
Here at Your Brilliance, we believe the best way to figure out how bright you’re able to shine is to look up to other woman who are doing what you’ve always wanted to do.
The women you see featured in glossy magazines, climbing sheer rock cliffs and heading Fortune 500 businesses and crafting unique Etsy art from the comfort of their own homes, got there on guts and faith.
They didn’t know if they’d be able to succeed at their dream. But each and every one made the decision to take the first step. And the second. And the third.
We hope these profiles of brilliant women inspire you to reach for your dreams.
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