Brene Brown on The Power Vulnerability

This post was written by Megan on June 27, 2012
Posted Under: burnout and society,Burnout videos

Earth cartoon connection problem

Feeling burnt out means you feel a lot of other things too. One of those things is bound to be 'vulnerability'. Like for many others, vulnerability has come screaming at me like a banshee from my very core. It has showed itself as primal. It has me feeling like a pigeon amongst cats who could eat a horse. Or me. Vulnerability is not one of my favourite emotions.

So when I came across the TEDxHouston video The Power of Vulnerability I was curious.

I was cautious as well. Because if another dingbat hype artist was going tell me to love myself and my imperfection one more time I was going to explode. But TED security usually manage to head those guys off at the pass. Besides, the presenter was arch academic social researcher Brené Brown. So I clicked 'play'.

Brene Brown

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(20 mins 15 secs):

Brown has a magic sense of humour and delivers with a refreshingly gutsy honesty, so it's worth a watch. But I know you're tired, so let me boil it down for you: Our purpose in life is to feel connected to others.

Fair enough, I thought. But then I pondered on the billions friending-up on facebook and wondered whether we can have a little too much connection. Brown moves past my mutterings. She tells me that the thing that gets in the way of connection is the feeling 'I'm not good enough'. Or in one word: shame.

The bells rang loudly at this point.

Those of us feeling burnt out can feel 'not good enough' in a big way. In lots of ways. 'I'm not good enough' descends like an avalanche onto our feelings around work, our home life, our friendships, in the bedroom (and I'm not talking napping…although even that can be harder for the fatigued than many assume). Or what remains of these things in our fatigued state. And we feel shame. But Brown explains that shame is only part of vulnerability. By being vulnerable we can find connection. It's a bit of a round trip.

Have you let someone help you because you're tired?

Asking for help can make you feel vulnerable. But it can also be the thing that makes you feel ultra-connected to the person who is happy to help you. And they feel more connected to you.

The Brown-meets-burnout plot thickens…

The same week of seeing the TEDx video I came across an article about Brené Brown in Dumbo Feather magazine (Issue 30, 2012). Spooky.

I should mention that the way Brené Brown works involves starting with a question and interviewing a lot of people with very open-ended questions to find the answer. An example she gave was:

What do people who have a deep sense of love and belonging have in common?

Punch line: They feel worthy of love and belonging. Brown calls these people 'the wholehearted' and says, "They cultivate creativity in their lives and they work mindfully to let go of constantly comparing who they are and what they produce to other people. They absolutely honour things like play and rest."

So by resting Brown believes you are demonstrating that you are worthy of love and belonging. This means you are by-passing the 'I'm not good enough' trap. Instead, you are being vulnerable in a healthy way. Subsequently, you have a better shot at feeling connected, which means you are more likely to feel good about life. Sound good?

The next line about the wholehearted took some absorption, however:

"They stay very aware of culture that tells us being exhausted is a status symbol and they work to overcome that…"

Here's my interpretation of Western culture's view of exhaustion (warning: the following statement is a massive generalisation): Being tired but ploughing on regardless is often seen as commendable, and I think this is the bit Brown is referring to. Exhaustion that prevents a person from being fiscally productive isn't something heralded by our society. When the wheels fall off, you may as well have contagious leprosy.


What now?

Do you feel worthy of love and belonging? I suspect I need some work in this area. But through my burnout goggles, the world looks very strange. 'Do I really want to belong to it?' is a question that crops up. Maybe I could love the world a little more than what I do, then perhaps I will feel more worthy of love. And the world could belong to me, too. How about you?


Megan's cartoon from:

This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, marketing swashbuckler, and cartoonist who is giving up the idea of finding her true purpose in life. She is tinkering with creativity instead – between naps.  Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

Beautifully put!

Written By Jeff on June 27th, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

Hi Megan—thanks very much for sharing this, and including the summary!
It's tricky to face societal pressure to just push through exhaustion—which comes quicker to some than others, as we know—while trying to carving out a restful place for oneself amid the calamity but not alienate anyone.
On good days I come to the conclusion burnout is just part of me and those who truly value my friendship (or partnership) will make a concession in light of what I CAN bring to others. It's those other days that are the work in progress!

Written By Sara on June 27th, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

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