We’re all inundated with media in its many forms these days, but I know I need to read or watch something when more than one friend sends it my way. Such is the case with Brene Brown’s incredibly straightforward and incisive TED Talk on vulnerability given at TED Houston back in June. Her speech wasn’t posted on the TED site until December 2010, and I’m surprised it’s taken this long for me to see it, but as soon as I watched it, I knew immediately I had to share it with our readers. I guarantee it will move you and open your mind, even if you think (like me) you’re already in tune with your own vulnerability.
In the 20 minute talk (make time to watch the whole thing in one sitting – it’s worth it!), Brown pins down exactly why so many of us are unhappy or struggling. She says, “We are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is, you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment – I don’t wanna feel these. I’m gonna have a coupla beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing… joy, gratitude, happiness. And then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning and then we feel vulnerable so then we have a coupla beers and a banana nut muffin.”
Yes, Brown’s speech is funny – and also very poignant. Brown talks freely about how her research surrounding vulnerability and connection has improved her ability to parent, saying, “We perfect most dangerously our children. When you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect, make sure she makes the tennis team by 5th grade and Yale by 7th grade.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what? You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that and we’ll end the problems, I think, that we see today.”
In light of the news that a toddler died despite the fact that the Traid Group and the FDA knew Triad was distributing faulty products for two years, I especially appreciate what Brown has to say about corporate responsibility at the end of her speech, but since corporations generally function like sociopaths – without empathy – I’m not sure I see her vision for a perfectly vulnerable world coming to pass anytime soon. Then again, maybe I just need to do my part by living more “whole-heartedly,” as she suggests. Watch her wonderful speech to see what I mean: