Like many people, I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk and kind of put her in the category of woo-woo semi-spiritual women’s life coach, kind of like a one-note Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s more than that; she’s a researcher who just happens to be able to talk to people about her research in a way that makes sense.
Vulnerability gets a bad rap. It sounds like something a wounded girl has, or a fort that’s not easily defended. A better word would be courage. It’s going through life and relationships without a net, knowing that it’s not the avoidance of pain that matters, but the willingness to open yourself to risk of pain. If you don’t risk getting your heart broken, you will never know true love.
As expected, vulnerability and this concept of living a whole hearted life has a lot to do with patriarchal notions of what it means to be a worthy person. Brown (like many women, including me) mistakenly assumed that shame and the crushing need for perfection in all things was our own burden. But it affects men even more than women. She talks a lot about shame. People feel shame if they do not perfectly fit the role they are meant to have. Women feel shame for being too fat, not being good parents, wanting sex too much, wanting sex too little, wanting too much money, wanting power, wanting anything they’re not supposed to want. But men feel shame too, shame for not being strong enough, for not making enough money, for having emotions. And some of the shame they feel about not falling within the narrow spectrum of “acceptable” for their gender role is shame that women in their lives have placed on them. It’s given me a lot to think about.
I started out thinking that this book was going to be a fluffed up TED talk, that started repeating itself in every chapter, but the further I got into it, the more I realize she’d barely scratched the surface of this subject. The explanation of her methodology at the end really gave me a lot of confidence in her work, and encouraged me to seek out more of her books.