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The psychology of extraordinariness: authenticity
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The psychology of extraordinariness: authenticity
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The psychology of extraordinariness: authenticity
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
2 June 2014

The psychology of extraordinariness: authenticity

What Brené Brown can teach us about authenticity.

Written by Anna Box

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Contemporary wellbeing science has uncovered several universal strengths, identifiable across humanity—a kind of “values without borders” if you like. Science also suggests that being in touch with your values pays dividends. Big time. People who have identified their values are better able to make choices to support them. Unfortunately too few people spend any real time exploring their own values, thus relying on the values of others to guide them instead.

The purpose of this blog series is to highlight different strengths and values, using a conversation from the Dumbo Feather community to illustrate them. For example you could read about Clare Bowditch and acceptance, or Maria Popova and perspective. The tricky part (or blessing, really) is that the extraordinary people within the Dumbo Feather community are multi-passionate, and display several strengths and values across their work and play. Brené Brown is no exception.

To be honest I could have thrown a dart at a board of human traits, and I’m sure it would have landed on a strength that Brené has exuded at some stage. She’s a storyteller, researcher, speaker, author and professor among other things. She specialises in what nobody’s talking about—shame. And vulnerability. My admiration for her is long-standing, so when someone suggested I write an article with Brené as my muse, I froze. There’s not really another word for it. I fell deep into analysis paralysis, wondering how I could ever do justice to one of my favourite people. Then I felt foolish because I don’t even know Brené, I just feel like I do because she’s so accessible, despite talking about what everyone wants to hide. The thoughts came rushing at me: who was I to write about Brené? Who was I to handpick just one value to focus upon when there were so many? Who was I… period? Did I mention she speaks about shame?

So I read Dumbo Feather’s conversation with Brené again. I chuckled as she identified the patterns I had been experiencing as the exact type of thinking that gets in the way of living a good life. I realised that Brené isn’t accessible despite talking about shame; she’s accessible precisely because she talks about shame. “Everyone is completely feeling isolated and alone and ‘less-than’ and these feelings are the one thing we all have in common.”

So while she demonstrates kindness, intelligence, zest and many other values, it’s her authenticity that really shines bright to me. Brené presents her whole self to the world, openly and honestly. She’s not afraid of the dark corners or human underbelly. To the contrary she argues that vulnerability is the very birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. That we’d all benefit from being more open to the chinks in our armour. “We hide our vulnerability because its quite a journey to find the ‘grown-ups’ who can hold the space and sit into the discomfort with you.”

According to science, authenticity is about emotional genuineness and psychological depth; a type of interpersonal sincerity that allows others to genuinely connect. Anyone who has watched Brené speak at TED knows she has that covered in spades. In a nutshell this is about integrity, which is about wholeness, soundness, and entirety. As Brené explains, “I believe with my whole heart there are only two options; to let what scares us stay inside of us—and fester and grow and takeover everything—or to share it.”

So heart felt apologies for the delay in this article, analysis paralysis be gone. Here I am though, blogging about Brené Brown, vulnerability and authenticity. Here I am facing up to my ‘less-than-ness’ and choosing committed action instead. Here I am, as Brené would put it, “daring greatly” to share.

Anna Box

Anna Box is a psychologist, consultant and writer who mashes the art of story with the science of thriving.

Feature image by Felix Sanchez

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