Berry Liberman on Brené Brown
Brené Brown is everything you would expect her to be—warm, funny, gracious, articulate and engaging. That’s partly why over two million people have watched her TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, which was nominated by our readers as one of their standout favourites. A professor of sociology at Houston University, she studies human connection and all the nasty things that get in the way, like shame, and fear.
In her talk, she candidly describes a day in 2006 when, while putting together years of collected data, an unexpected discovery caused her to have a breakdown, or ‘spiritual awakening’, as her therapist calls it. She had identified a unique group of people who “fully embraced vulnerability… (who) believed what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.” She named them the Wholehearted. The scary part was that her life looked nothing like theirs. Like most of us, she avoided feeling vulnerable at all costs, but the problem was, it was costing her too much. What had begun as a research project became a calling.
Her honesty about her own story has seen millions of people connect with her and realise that we are not alone. Sitting in the uncomfortable space we all try to avoid, Brené asks the questions we run from. What makes us feel shame? What makes us afraid? Why do we never feel we are enough? As it turns out, all of us have a heartbreaking story to tell, and all of us are capable of connection. It’s why we’re here.
On the day of our interview, a wild storm whipped through Melbourne and the babysitter was forty-five minutes late. As our interview time, so carefully coordinated, drew nearer, I was a dangerously disintegrating shame minefield. As a mother juggling work and family, there is always a tenuous line between being on top of things and total chaos. There’s also this awful, sinking feeling that everyone is watching. I had to answer this call to Brené, with my twenty-month-old daughter, Willow, on my lap, waving and smiling sheepishly. I was sorry, but could I call back in ten minutes? Brené laughed a big, hearty, Texan laugh and almost cheered. Phew. Fingers crossed the babysitter came in ten minutes…