Oprah: But in the book you said—and I love this—that "vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences." Let's talk about that.
Brené: Vulnerability is when my husband and I are on the verge of a fight and I say, "Let's stop, because I'm making up this story about what's happening right now, and it's that you don't think I look cute or you're disappointed in me," and he's like, "What are you talking about?" And I say, "I love you, and I'm in fear right now."
Brené: As opposed to what I would normally do, which—well, anger and blame are my go-to places.
Oprah: So vulnerability opens the door to greater intimacy?
Brené: I think it's the only door.
Oprah: You also write that "if we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path." Can you explain?
Brené: People always say to me, "I want to go into the arena, but I'm scared. Can I take a little armor with me?" But one thing I have found in my life is that the only thing you need when you go in is clarity of values and faith. As in, "This is the article I wrote. And if you think I need to lose weight or that I suck, that's okay. I'm standing on my faith and my values. You cannot knock me over."
Oprah: You've talked about the original meaning of courage. Can you share that?
Brené: Yes, it's from the Latin word cor, meaning "heart," and so the original definition was to share all of yourself, share your whole story, with your whole heart. An act of courage was an act of storytelling, which I think is true. You know, I watch Super Soul Sunday, and I love when you talk about the ego. I call my ego my hustler.
Oprah: That's a good term for it.
Brené: My ego says to me, "You have no inherent worth. You've got to hustle for it, baby. How fast you gonna run? How high you gonna jump? How many likes do you have on Facebook?"
Oprah: We live in a culture that measures us by how many likes we have on Facebook.
Brené: It's a scarcity culture. We're never thin enough, rich enough, safe enough. And you know—and I want to get your thoughts on this, because you've looked in people's faces for so many years—I started my research six months before 9/11. And I would say that the past 12 years have been marked by a deep fear in our culture. It's like a collective post-traumatic response.
Oprah: Oh my God, I just had a big aha moment.
Brené: Tell me.
Oprah: We've shifted away from being on high alert all the time—always afraid of whether it's the orange or the yellow threat level—to internalizing that fear. And it shows up in the bickering, the snarkiness. That's what I heard you saying.
Brené: That's it. [Oprah high-fives Brené.] I got the high five! [Laughs.] I do think there's a thin film of terror wrapped around us. And if it's not I'm not safe enough, I'm not secure enough, it's I'm not liked enough.
Oprah: I don't have enough. I am not enough.
Brené: Right. At bottom, I am not enough.
Oprah: Whoa, that's big. Somebody ring some bells!
Next: Why we need to be open to failure
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