Photo: Joe Pugliese
A professor of social work, Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, studied vulnerability for more than a decade—which led to a witty, soul-baring TED Talk (viewed by more than eight million people) and a best-selling book. Now this brainy, sassy Texan talks to Oprah about shame, courage, faith, her unlikely Internet stardom, and why daring to "show up and be seen" is the key to everything we want in life.
When I first meet Brené Brown at Harpo Studios, where she's come to tape an episode of "Super Soul Sunday," I feel as if I'm reuniting with a long-lost friend. I'm tempted to say, "Girl, what took you so long?" Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston who spends her days poring over data. But when you read her books, it's obvious she's interested in helping people live their best lives.
Since Brené can back up everything she says with research, I believe her when she writes that vulnerability—which she defines as being brave enough to "show up and let ourselves be seen"—is the catalyst for human connection. In 2010 Brené allowed herself to be vulnerable when she gave a talk at TEDx in Houston, an offshoot of the famous TED conference (it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design). In the talk, she revealed that the more she studied vulnerability, the more she realized she wasn't practicing it. In other words, as an academic ruled by certainty, she just wasn't living and loving with her full heart. This disconnect led to what she now calls a spiritual awakening. In addition to her popular talk (which went viral, becoming one of the most-watched ever), she's written a best-seller, Daring Greatly, about her journey, and how we can all make our lives more meaningful through vulnerability.
Reading the book, I kept thinking, "This is everything I know to be true." In person, Brené and I turn out to be just as in sync, discussing everything from gratitude and worthiness to Spanx rolls and Southern-isms (when a Texan and a Mississippian get together, the "y'alls" and "fixin' to's" really fly). Brené is so hilarious and real that after our aha-a-minute conversation, I know this for sure: I hope to see a lot more of her—both in person and in these pages—in the future.
Next: Read Oprah's full interview with Brené Brown
We Hear You!