Brené Brown, a New York Times bestselling author and a research professor at the University of Houston, has spent her entire career studying shame and the relationship between courage and vulnerability.
Last weekend, I finally watched her Netflix special Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, and it was nothing short of spectacular. In her talk, both humorous and insightful, she beautifully highlights what it takes to choose courage over comfort in this day and age of fear and uncertainty. She offers some practical tips about how to be courageous while living our best life and the importance of vulnerability in it. She points out, “The key to whole-hearted living is vulnerability. You measure courage by how vulnerable you are.”
There are some brilliant takeaways from this special and I would love to share a few of them so that it helps you answer the call to courage in your life as well.
The first important takeaway is: We need to be conscious about who we accept feedback from.
During the special, Brene Brown revisits her popular and highly loved 2010 TEDxHouston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, that delved into the connection between courage and vulnerability. As the talk started amassing millions of views online in a record time, her husband warned her not to read any comments. She calmly waited for her husband to leave the house and then instantly logged into the computer and started going through them. It turns out that there were several hurtful comments about her appearance and weight waiting for her and as she read them, they got her into a downward spiral. She reveals, “You can study shame, but you are never prepared for the terrible stuff online. It’s the cesspool of humanity.”
To feel better, and distract herself from these comments, Brown jokes that she grabbed some peanut butter and started binge-watching Downton Abbey. She just wanted to numb herself for a while to get past these comments, like we all do when we get stuck in a negative feedback loop.
She ended up watching the show for a good seven hours, then started googling the actors, what it cost to go to England, and eventually looked up who the president of the US was during the Downton Abbey era, and it was Theodore Roosevelt. She clicked on a link of one of his speeches, and that brought her to his following 1910 quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
As she read the quote, Brown had a eureka moment. She says, “There is my life before that quote and my life after that quote.” Brown understood what it meant to “be in the arena” and the importance of vulnerability in fighting the good fight. She shares, “Vulnerability is not about losing, it is about showing up when you can’t control the outcome.”
She further explains that as humans, we are hard-wired to care what other people think, but we need to keep this behavior in check and be intentional about who we accept feedback from. After reading the above-mentioned quote by Roosevelt, at that moment, Brown arrived at a conclusion, “If you are not in the arena, getting your ass kicked and rejected, I am not interested in your feedback about my work.” She made a commitment to herself to only seek and value feedback from people who love her, but are honest with her. She recommends only paying attention to the opinions of the people who love us not in spite of our imperfection and vulnerability, but because of it.