The Wholehearted Life: Oprah Talks to Brené Brown
Brené: I'm here!
Oprah: And it feels like we're kindred spirits. I'm so excited about Daring Greatly. It came out of your TED Talk, right?
Brené: Yes, and a dozen years of vulnerability research. The title itself refers to a very personal moment in my life.
Oprah: And it's a Theodore Roosevelt quote.
Brené: Yes. What happened is that I had done the talk, and all of a sudden I was everywhere. I was on CNN.com; I was doing an NPR interview. And my therapist told me, "Don't read the comments on the Internet." My husband told me, "Don't read the comments." But I read the comments.
Oprah: Oh, no. I've read comments before. It can be devastating.
Brené: People were saying things like "Less research, more Botox" and "Maybe you'll be 'worthy' in 20 pounds." And they all were anonymous, which is such—well, crapola! I'm not going to cuss, but it's chicken. So one day I sent my husband, Steve, to work, I sent my kids to school, and I sat on the couch in my pajamas and watched ten hours of Downton Abbey. I ate some peanut butter. I was like, This is not worth it, man. I'm not doing this anymore. I didn't want to go back to my world, where all that hurt was. So instead I started googling to find out what was happening in the United States during the Downton Abbey period. That's when I found the Theodore Roosevelt quote. He said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs.... [And] if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly." In that moment, my life changed. You know when you hear something and you're just ready?
Brené: Three things happened. First, I thought, "This is who I want to be. I want to be courageous."
Oprah: You want to be the man in the arena.
Brené: Yes. And I also realized, "Oh my gosh—this describes everything I've ever learned about vulnerability." It's not about winning or losing. It's about showing up and being seen. And the third thing, which was really helpful, is that from that second forward I made a commitment that if you are not in the arena getting your butt kicked on occasion, I'm not interested in your feedback. Period.
Brené: Anonymous comments? You're not in the arena, man. If you can't say it to me in person in front of my kids, don't say it. And if you can say it to me in person, duck.
Oprah: Duck! I love that. So after your TED Talk, a friend joked that you were the "worst vulnerability role model ever." Can you explain why?
Brené: Well, when I got home that day, I had the worst vulnerability hangover. I was like, "I just admitted to being crazy in front of 500 people"—I didn't even know they were videotaping it—"and to having a therapist!" That's dangerous territory for an academic. We're not supposed to break down.
Oprah: Because it's all about the research and the numbers.
Next: The power of vulnerability