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Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

One of TED's most popular lectures, Dr. Brené Brown offers solutions on how we can deal with vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

We received this remarkable video from a brother to his sister. A tribute on art, cancer, and vulnerability that touched us deeply.

The director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project connects the dots between compassion and vulnerability.

Feelings of guilt, normally shunned or discouraged, can actually signal a capacity for leadership. What does this say about people who never feel guilt?

Charles Dickens says a human response that shames us can also change our hearts.

A story of learning and friendship and circles of learning in which each person is a teacher — of learning how to live with death and learning how to live.

Art evolves in its iterations, and it's fascinating to see how Doug Neill's graphic recording session of our show with Brené Brown progresses before our very eyes.

What do Israeli and Pakistani peers have in common? A Jewish American journalist looks beyond Western media's portrayal of Pakistan and discovers universal values.


Another kind of contribution to civility, an act of care for "despairing LGBT kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don't think they have a future" from syndicated columnist Dan Savage.

A compilation of time-shift tweets of Krista's interview with Dr. Brené Brown. Was this an interview or therapy session?

The story behind this one powerful shot of "vulnerability and shame" from Segovia, Columbia.

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I'm not one who ever posts comments. And I'm not one who is known to ever cry. But I just got done listening to this show and I cried through half of it. I've probably listened to all of your shows at least once and this one is undoubtably the best. Thank you Brene and thank you Krista!

Thanks for another inspiring conversation.
Underlying much of the toxic shame that causes humans,myself included , to don our armor before venturing into the world, is the implicit and explicit messages about shame from religions-starting with the concept of original sin.
Elaine Pagels looks at this in her book, Adam,Eve and the Serpent.

Perhaps a subsequent show could look at the role religions play in foisting the patina of shame on much of our population?

Thanks again for sharing Brene Browns work and inspiring more thoughts and feelings for us to grow on.

It was affirming and prodding at the same time to hear your interview with Brene Brown. Hope has been a growing theme in my social work practice for some time while seeing increasingly how it can evolve in our lives through self and connective nurturing. Nurturing hope in our vulnerabilities has added much new value and teeming life into my awareness. With hope one more clearly can conceive goals, identify pathways and change thoughts leading to new ways of existence. A Hikou for this occasion . . .

my life so far
comes spring with promise of bloom
etched in childhood

What an amazing show! Not only was it inspiring to hear Ms. Brown, but Ms. Tippett dis an equally extraordinary job of interviewing. It was like a beautiful duet.

On Being - Thank you for This and ALL your Interviews!!! Since 2008 they have been one of my main Life Guides.
After listening to the John O'Donohue's interview in 2008 I traveled with his friend and fellow poet David Whyte to John's homeland on this trip:

Mornings were full of poetry and afternoon hikes to the specific places in the landscape where the poems where born.
This poem "The Seven Streams" deals with vulnerability. After the hikes, Pints where shared with live Music into the Wee Hours.
I equally wholeheartedly recommend both On Being & David Whyte's poems and Trip to Friends, Strangers, Family & Foes Alike.

The Seven Streams

Come down drenched, at the end of May,
with the cold rain so far into your bones
that nothing will warm you
except your own walking
and let the sun come out at the day's end
by Slievenaglasha with the rainbows doubling
over Mulloch Mor and see your clothes
steaming in the bright air. Be a provenance
of something gathered, a summation of
previous intuitions, let your vulnerabilities
walking on the cracked sliding limestone
be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty
for understanding what's about
to happen. Stand aboave the Seven Streams
letting the deep down curent surface
around you, then branch and branch
as they do, back into the mountain
and as if you were able for that flow,
say the few necessary words
and walk on, broader and cleansed
for having imagined.

-- David Whyte
from River Flow
©2007 Many Rivers Press

Cheers & Peace,

I've been a regular listener of this show almost al long as it has been in production. Thank you for providing this space for reflection and conversation.

this show really struck me. I am in the process of learning more about these ideas.

My take-away from this interview was that it was just 'first world problems' & 'white people angst'. Go let yourself be bad at art class, admit that trying to be perfect tires you out and don't send your kid to 34 camps to prepare her for trying out for a sport. I'd suggest she change the name of her study from 'vulnerability' to 'guilt over not having real problems'.

May I suggest listening to the part again about facing adversity and struggle? When we face those, we become vulnerable, that's when we grow and become, no matter howeasy or severe..

Great show again Ms. Tippett. A wonderful pairing of intellect and compassion between you and Dr. Brown. The unedited interview mentions a possible followup publication of the questions that were received during the interview with answers. Where will this be posted?

I was searching searching through this segment for the magic word "humility" to appear. Did enjoy hearing this segment - it's the sound of a person of New Age sensibilities growing up, growing out of them? I'll reserve judgment. Now to read all these comments.

Really appreciate comments from Sara, Davina and others reminding us that this conversation could go much deeper. I was also bothered a bit by the very binary way that gender and sexuality were assumed in the interview and the lack of mention of diverse cultural viewpoints, even though I don't think that was their intention. I do think Dr. Brown is fairly honest about the fact that she is coming from a biased lens - she admits that she only studied women partly selfishly because that was her vantage point. I hope the discussion here helps her take what she has learned forward onto the next level. Although I am caucasian and certain aspects of this gave me that revelatory feeling some commenters have expressed, I also agree with Davina's point that some of it seemed extremely familiar, like "well...duh." Maybe because I married and then divorced a black immigrant from Africa and did what I could to open my mind to his perspective. Maybe because I have good friends who are homosexual. Maybe because I have worked with low-income families of all backgrounds struggling with chemical addiction. Maybe because I've listened to a lot of On Being conversations that I feel touched on some of the same points, albeit not quite as directly or "jarringly."

I really wonder if the research actually came primarily from white people's experiences, or whether it was a diverse collection but Dr. Brown was just so personally affected by the results she found in her own awakening experience that she didn't quite get to the next leap to look at whether cultural differences were relevant as well. When she was describing people who are more whole-hearted it actually made me imagine a middle-aged black woman, who has maybe had a lot of struggles in life (including the daily confrontation of residual racism that Davina describes so well) but also has a great family, has found her own path her definition of success, and lives her life in gratitude.

Anyway, thanks to others here who are more on top of things and eloquent than me, for helping me name what those red flags were I experienced during the interview. It is still a valuable lesson to share, for sure. We are all gradually waking up to a more clear and compassionate reality at different stages and speeds, but if we're going in the same direction it's a good sign, right?

Thank you for this conversation. Last time I heard this kind of "girl-friend" vibe between Krista and an interviewee was her talk with Terry T Williams. Thanks for the window-in.

I'm glad Brene is doing research on men. I facilitate a men's group who's members are EAGER to share themselves, how they feel & that its ok to show emotion. They always seem to be asking me if this is ok to do this, and I am constantly saying YES! We need to find more ways to help people tap into these vulerabilities so they can heal

What is the source of the "Alleluliah" sung during part of the Brené Brown interview? I would like to get a copy.
Thank you.

It's Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah.
My favorite of his up on YouTube is:
Jeff passed on at a relative early age in 1997.
FYI this song is on his emotively beautiful album Grace.

I have heard you plan to host a live chat w Brene Brown. Can you tell me the details or where I can find it on your site? Thank you LGarfinkel

I haven’t been following the On Being program very long, but almost every story I have heard has interested me greatly. I found myself particularly connected to this story about vulnerability. I find that I can relate greatly to the issue of distancing myself from vulnerability. It has always been my thing to go out and try to make everyone proud and achieve a 4.0 GPA while taking on the world by myself. I never ask for help and I consider B’s a failure. I would attribute this type of mentality by, as Brene says, being hardwired for struggle.
I think I have lived the past few years as if the only way to live life is to succeed in everything I do. To not do so would make me a disappointment to everyone around me, as to myself. In reality, I would probably only disappoint myself, but this is the mentality that I have. I think that if I had been told as a child that I don’t need to be perfect, my life goals would have been completely different. I would have focused on a plan to achieve things that make me happy rather than my only source of happiness being success. I think I will try to take Brene’s ideas to heart in my future, but how hard will it be to completely change directions? I think it might take my own nervous breakdown, but I think that the idea of letting vulnerability in, is one that is very important to fix our society and prevent the epidemic of “emotional numbing” that is clearly plaguing our culture today.

“The most beautiful things that I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things that I didn’t know I could get out from underneath.” -Brene Brown

Identifying with the word shame. It is hard for most of us, but it really is the reality of life. In reality, so many people strive for perfection that it makes them feel like they are not good enough which is the definition of shame given by Brene Brown. The feeling of not being good enough often keeps me up at night but the opening statement (see above) to this broadcast really opened my eyes to some of the greatest things about me which are in fact my struggles an hardships. The things that I thought might keep me down, but never could. These moments of vulnerability did not make me weak, but stronger with each encounter. The times I have felt ashamed, and made it out of that, in turn make me proud. The beautiful part is that we make it out! How can we know what beauty is if we do not know what shame feels like? How can we be strong if we do not know what it is to be vulnerable?

To be truthful, the feelings of shame and vulnerability are present in just about everyone in our society. The question is why do we all hide it? Why are we ashamed of feeling shame or vulnerability? We fail to realize that everyone can relate, and sometimes, in the midst of repressing these feelings within ourselves, we forget that we can relate to others. I think it’s time to start being honest with ourselves and others because not one of us is perfect, and perfection is the only thing that deserves absolutely no shame. If we have nothing else in common, we can at least say that we share the characteristic of being imperfect and that at times we do feel shame or a sense of unworthiness because of it.

This was a wonderful interview. The truth of which Brene Brown speaksI have experienced.
I particularly appreciated the 'turn' she describes in her research when she opened horizons to men. Being a man myself, I know deeply what it feels like to carry shame as well as the release and freedom that come when I've had the courage to be vulnerable.
Brilliant stuff. This is a gift to humanity.

Krista, I just listened to your interview with Brene Brown on vulnerability. I've been a listener of On Being for years, but this particular show resonated with me. I've struggled my entire life with the need to be perfect, to do it all exactly right. I received straight A's in college, but didn't go to graduate school until my mid-forties because I was afraid of failing. A writer, I berate myself if I don't put pen to page or tap the keys every single day. I hesitate to call myself a writer unless I publish a piece of my work. I never made the connection, though, between my perfectionist tendencies and shame. But, after listening to Brene, and you, speak, I see it! The notion of merely "showing up," of embracing vulnerability as a positive experience, is like breathing eucalyptus - I can now breathe.

Like several have said, I never post in response to shows. But at 37:54, Brene says on parenting:

"Our job is during struggle to look at our kids and say: 'yeah, this is hard and this is tough and you're hurt, and I'm not gonna fix it, but you're not alone. And I wanna make sure you understand that this doesn't change the fact that you're worthy of love and belonging.'"

Wow. Don't know if she intended it that way, but just hear that as the job of our Eternal Parent. About as succinct a response to the question if theodicy as I have heard.

I have a different key definition for the courage born of vulnerability. Courage and the vulnerability are born together in the moment when we see and accept what our need is. Our real need is our vulnerability, our place where we are not in control and it shows.

This is also the core of our strength and the reason vulnerability is the opposite of gullibility. Because when we are in touch with our real need - we are in touch with ourselves. We cannot be convinced that our truth is otherwise. We have already had the courage to see and reveal our selves.

Look at the way Abraham negotiates for the Cave of Machpelah as a burial site for his wife Sara. A master of soft power.

Happy Holiday

Andrea CK

Interesting, but strikes me as a highly raced and very much a class discussion.

I got up early enough to listen to the end of your show with Brene' Brown and was caught, taking notes. Both your words applied to my parenting my challenging daughter, and more importantly to me. I am in transition, retiring from a huge job (a chaplain doing integrative medicine in a large cancer center) and a new move. I was sobbing at the end with the awareness that someone had named what I was feeling. The irony is that I am usually very good at self awareness. Thank you, now I have more good work to do,

I grew up in a situation that taught me in a very extreme way that I needed to numb emotions and never be vulnerable; I've spent my adulthood slowly backing out of that insanity. So this interview was, as they say, relevant to my interests.

One thing I wish had been pursued in greater depth, however, was the exact nature of the difference between those who are wholehearted/vulnerable, and those who are fearful/shamed. In a couple of places in the interview, this difference was alluded to, but what I'm thinking of wasn't exactly named.

This is what I mean: to be wholehearted is to be, in one's inner self, simple, unified, direct. It means having a peaceful awareness of one's core being, and acting out of that peace. Shame and fear are the opposite -- to live that way is to be divided. It means we project an image of ourselves, believe that image is our "true" self, and judge it as if from the outside. To do this is to treat oneself as an object in a world of objects -- but who is the self actually doing this? Who is the one doing the judging? "I" see, evaluate, judge, and condemn "myself." But who am "I"? We forget that "I" completely; we believe we are the object of our own judgment.

This is a logical contradiction. Stepping into wholeheartedness means we see that the self we think we are actually doesn't exist; it's a false self, a really bad game we learned to play in order to try somehow to win the love we need and want. (It's what the Bible calls "double-mindedness.")

So I think Brene Brown's ideas about vulnerability point to what is essentially a spiritual truth. Although language can never capture that truth completely, the language I tend to use is that this true self, the self who becomes willing to be vulnerable, is intimately and indissolubly present to God - - completely and always, whether we're aware of it or not; "faith" is perceiving and assenting to this reality. As such the self is actually completely invulnerable, since it isn't subject to the world of experience: it's "hid with Christ in God." But since it's an embodied self, its invulnerability as the beloved of God gives it the capacity to be radically vulnerable -- wholehearted -- in the world of experience.

And the spiritual path is simply learning to disbelieve in the false self (in Christian terms, this is "askesis"), and to believe in the true self, and live accordingly.

Thank you so much, Krista and Brene! I have previously read some of Brene Brown writings and thought they were extremely valuable, but hearing this interview definitely filled in some gaps. I have more admiration and understanding of Brene's viewpoint as well as her background. And beyond that, On Being is one program where sitting down and taking notes--as I did during this interview--is really worthwhile most weeks. Thanks so much for your work!

I've been working with men since 1980. I appreciate what you say about our fear of being perceived as weak either by others or by ourselves as a significant source of shame. I really like the question, "How do women feel about men owning and expressing their vulnerability?" My best hunch is that when women are running a paternal projection upon the significant men in their worlds. they likely will have some attachment to men maintaining a persona of bravado. There is also the threat of losing that part of their identities which had them be the providers of emotional intelligence to the relationship. However, likely an even bigger deal is that women are very often raised by women who taught them to be needed by men. Hence, women tend to organize their psychologies and their rapport to men in a way that keeps women needed by men. These women often have let go of any attachment to being loved by men and have settled into being needed. Once a man begins to live from his vulnerability, the psychological construct of being needed is threatened. The result is some profound insecurity and fear related to: Will I actually be loved? And what does being loved look like? Do I have to betray my father in order to be loved by a man? Will we dare to build emotional intimacy based upon my man's new found ability to be vulnerable? And what in God's name will that look like?

Thanks for a perfect interview with Krista On Being. I am encouraged by your honestly and bravery. I am trying to maintain courage during astonishing losses and bereavement; unfair treatment, of course. Sometimes sowing what others reap seems impossible to integrate into our souls. Sometimes kindness being repaid with great evil (ignorance) causes such harm that the best attitude and coping skills, detachment, prayers and distraction and insight barely help! Thank you for being the continuing voice of reason! Amen God bless you!

Thanks. I have listened to on being off and on...more off than on glad I heard this.
Brene was my hero on Ted talks. I had thought since reading "Living, Loving and Learning" by Leo Buscaglia 25+ years ago that living vulnerably, openheartedly was the way to go...and ever since I read that book, all I saw from my culture near and far was that I was crazy and wrong. What was talked about here encourages me that I may still be crazy, but I am not all that least not any more wrong than the other crazies of the world who don't believe me and live other ways.

Just thanks. And I don't think men and women are all that different about vulnerability. But you both explained what differences there are very well. Every woman wants to know their man is vulnerable and feels shamed, until they understand how weak, vulnerable, shamed they really are and how much they have failed.

I stutter. I compare myself to fluent speakers.
Result: I'm deficient. SHAME ON YOU, HENRY

If when listening to me speak someone appears to be
making a concerted effort to appear compassionate,
I feel patronized and condescended to.
Result: ANGER

I'm aware of this
I'm aware that a lot of this is my own projection.
sometimes I laugh at myself for putting through all this

It's my struggle.
Struggle is enlightening

This show resonated so well with the reflections that I have been following over the past several years of Richard Rohr, OFM. The vulnerability that Brene Brown speaks of parallels the "nakedness" that Rohr says we must experience as we become spiritually mature. Numerous other similarities exist, with Rohr approaching the concepts from a spiritual perspective.

Too Sensitive
Ravi Chandra, M.D.

Is there such a thing as being too sensitive?
Can sight be too keen?
Hearing, too acute?

Sensitivity is what we call listening-with-the-heart.
Your heart can never be too open,
Though listening here can hurt.

“Heart” is a near cousin to “Highly Tuned Ear”;
there is an ear in your heart,
Pulsing a message to “Hear This”,
The beat in all, this beat we must always tend.

Even when we breathe, we inhale
the anagram “Be Heart”,
An inspiring instruction,
Hearing it is life.

For our hearts are sensitive, even to air,
And so, to word, to views and even airs.

To the heartless and hard-hearted,
To the earless for dissent -
I say sensitivity is not a failing -
It predicts the amplitude of ascent.

From feeling heart springs compassion,
Understanding – wisdom – insight.
Sensitivity births every living thing
And precedes even the creation of light.

But some get angry when the sensitive
Point to problems, and suggest that they are flawed.
It takes courage to be vulnerable,
And not everyone applauds.

Why can’t they understand when the sensing
Point to blind spots in their careening, deadly cars?

Their headlights are too dim.
They drive drunk on self-regard.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Ravi, thanks so much for writing and submitting this poem.

This interview really hit home for me. I am 31 one years old, and less then one year ago I had a transformative life experience that vulnerability and courage were at the heart of. I was engaged, a few months away from getting married. I was on a superficial life track like the one mentioned towards the end of the interview. Then one day, I woke up. Suddenly, my walls came down and my heart opened up to myself. What happened after that was the most vulnerable I've had to be in my life and everyone I know told me it was the most courageous. I promptly called off our wedding and started my life over.

Ironically, part of the reason our hearts were not equally matched has much to do with this research as well. I have had some very negative events happen in my life. These things have most certainly shaped me as a person. Most notably is the fact that my older sister was victim of a hate crime which rendered her mentally disabled and schizophrenic for the rest of her life. She was only 14, and is now 37. This event alone pushes me to live a more meaningful life then if it never happened. Everything I do is fueled by my sister's tragedy in some shape or form. My then fiance had never faced a difficult situation in his life. I'm sorry to say it but he was very self absorbed, unable to empathize with others, and obsessed with material living. I could not more forward together with him in my life.

So when Brown talks about vulnerability and struggle as fundamentals of wholehearted living, lives of relationship, courage and creativity — I absolutely feel this to be true. Incidentally, I'm also enrolled in a graduate arts program. In fact, it was the relationships formed within this program that brought me to my awakening. I am now researching creativity. Funny how cyclical and interconnected life is.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Victoria, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm awestruck by the number of folks who are identifying this need to be vulnerable in order to open up to their lives. Just wonderful.

Men and women alike can face shame and vulnerability but it can be experienced differently. Dr. Brown is saying that, we sit and think what others might say about us if they find out we are going through certain things in life. But it is okay to go through struggles and hardship. These are all things in life that we should experience and not things to be ashamed about.
One phrase that really stood out to me is, “Does this mean that our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our courage to be brokenhearted”? Some people allow the sorrow or grief they are faced with to over shadow their commitment. With the passing away of my husband, that has allowed me to use my sorrow and grief as a tool to help me achieve those things in life that I am committed to. This interview has a powerful message that we tend to overlook as humans.

Thank you for your gracious email - it was this interview that inspired me to purchase the book - mostly it was a story she told about a man who asked her if she had looked at the research in terms of male and that exchange whcih is part of this interview moved me to tears

This is a beautiful interview that is raw yet refined. Brené's process of self-reflection and analysis of the human experience are inspiring.

This is quality work and very helpful to to all of us both man and woman.I was introduce to your website you are providing great content that actually help and benefit individuals of every race and gender.Listening to the information provided gives me a new way to view my own life and experiences.Thank you for what you do and please continue to share this high quality information.

I found this through Audible when I searched on Brene Brown. I really enjoyed listening to this interview especially the discussion on men and vulnerability and how women contribute to the inability for men to express it as well as the discussion about hopelessness. Thanks so much for offering this.

I have now downloaded the iphone app and look forward to listening to other broadcasts!

One of the parts that hit me the most is when the husband says he thinks his wife and children would rather see him die on his white horse than fall off. Wow! I think he needs to seriously needs to sit down and have a wholehearted conversation with his family if he really feels that to be true.

Also, the quote something like "be kind to others 'cause you don't know what struggles they're enduring".


Voices on the Radio

Brené Brown is Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her books include: The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Executive Editor/Chief Curator: Trent Gilliss

Technical Director/Producer: Chris Heagle

Senior Producer: Lily Percy