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What We're Reading Now

13 April 2011

Allison watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk after a client suggested that “The Power of Vulnerability” might provide good insights for our professional coaching work.

Tags: allison read, allison watched, balance, brene brown, courage, ted

You’ve heard me say it before. I love when clients give me homework. This time was no exception. I pushed play and 21 minutes later I was bubbling with enthusiasm about Brown’s breakthrough research. She’s a self-described researcher-storyteller and she’s named herself well. She’s also super funny and full of the kind of candor I most admire in someone who is trying to add her insights to the ‘self-help’ sphere.

In the video (which hopefully is playing for you now thanks to the wonders of technology and the graciousness of TED), Brown describes research she was conducting focused on connection, that thing that gives us a reason to get up in the morning and do what we do all day long. As she interviewed people for the project, she began to realize that shame is the thing that gets in the way of connectedness; a fear that we’ll be discovered for all our badness and won’t be worthy of the connection we crave. She also learned that underneath all of this was painful vulnerability and she thought perhaps she could beat back vulnerability as a way to eliminate shame. Brown published some great research on shame as well as a book, but underneath she felt a nagging sense that she wasn’t done with this topic and there was more to know about vulnerability. This niggling feeling lead her to her next big project—finding out why people feel a sense of worthiness—a strong sense of love and belonging. There was only one variable that separated these ‘whole-hearted’ people from the others. They believed they were worthy of love and belonging and they all had the following in common:

  • courage to be imperfect;
  • compassion to be kind to themselves first and then others;
  • powerful connections as a result of authenticity; and
  • an ability to fully embrace their vulnerability and a belief that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.

No matter how much Brown wanted to believe that life could be controlled and predicted, her research was now showing her that the path to whole-heartedness required embracing the mess of life and being okay with it. As you might imagine, this lead her to a bit of a breakdown and some therapy that was quite revealing. I think you’ll enjoy laughing as she describes her own path to vulnerability and the discovery that we miss out on whole-heartedness when we numb our feelings, try to make the uncertain certain, blame, perfect and pretend.

Brown has hooked me. I’ve seen what she describes in the whole-hearted as well as the behaviors of those who are fighting vulnerability. I want to know more about how we can stop these self-defeating behaviors and allow ourselves to say "I’m enough." It seems like this would make all the other work of being happier, a better leader and co-worker, a better family member and friend a bit easier. We’ve gotten The Gifts of Imperfection for the Allison Partners bookshelf and I feel sure you’ll see a blog post about it soon. Stay tuned.


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