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The power of vulnerability

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    So, I'll start with this: a couple
    years ago, an event planner called me
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    because I was going
    to do a speaking event.
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    And she called, and she said,
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    "I'm really struggling with how
    to write about you on the little flyer."
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    And I thought,
    "Well, what's the struggle?"
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    And she said, "Well, I saw you speak,
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    and I'm going to call you
    a researcher, I think,
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    but I'm afraid if I call you
    a researcher, no one will come,
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    because they'll think
    you're boring and irrelevant."
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    (Laughter)
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    And I was like, "Okay."
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    And she said, "But the thing
    I liked about your talk
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    is you're a storyteller.
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    So I think what I'll do
    is just call you a storyteller."
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    And of course, the academic,
    insecure part of me
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    was like, "You're going
    to call me a what?"
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    And she said, "I'm going
    to call you a storyteller."
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    And I was like, "Why not 'magic pixie'?"
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    (Laughter)
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    I was like, "Let me think
    about this for a second."
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    I tried to call deep on my courage.
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    And I thought, you know,
    I am a storyteller.
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    I'm a qualitative researcher.
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    I collect stories; that's what I do.
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    And maybe stories
    are just data with a soul.
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    And maybe I'm just a storyteller.
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    And so I said, "You know what?
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    Why don't you just say
    I'm a researcher-storyteller."
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    And she went, "Ha ha.
    There's no such thing."
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    (Laughter)
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    So I'm a researcher-storyteller,
    and I'm going to talk to you today --
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    we're talking about
    expanding perception --
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    and so I want to talk to you
    and tell some stories
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    about a piece of my research
    that fundamentally expanded my perception
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    and really actually changed
    the way that I live and love
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    and work and parent.
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    And this is where my story starts.
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    When I was a young researcher,
    doctoral student,
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    my first year, I had
    a research professor who said to us,
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    "Here's the thing, if you cannot
    measure it, it does not exist."
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    And I thought he was just
    sweet-talking me.
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    I was like, "Really?"
    and he was like, "Absolutely."
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    And so you have to understand
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    that I have a bachelor's
    and a master's in social work,
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    and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work,
    so my entire academic career
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    was surrounded by people who kind of
    believed in the "life's messy, love it."
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    And I'm more of the, "life's messy,
    clean it up, organize it
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    and put it into a bento box."
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    (Laughter)
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    And so to think that I had found my way,
    to found a career that takes me --
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    really, one of the big sayings
    in social work is,
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    "Lean into the discomfort of the work."
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    And I'm like, knock discomfort
    upside the head
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    and move it over and get all A's.
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    That was my mantra.
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    So I was very excited about this.
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    And so I thought, you know what,
    this is the career for me,
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    because I am interested
    in some messy topics.
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    But I want to be able
    to make them not messy.
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    I want to understand them.
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    I want to hack into these things
    that I know are important
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    and lay the code out for everyone to see.
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    So where I started was with connection.
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    Because, by the time
    you're a social worker for 10 years,
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    what you realize is that connection
    is why we're here.
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    It's what gives purpose
    and meaning to our lives.
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    This is what it's all about.
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    It doesn't matter whether
    you talk to people
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    who work in social justice,
    mental health and abuse and neglect,
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    what we know is that connection,
    the ability to feel connected, is --
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    neurobiologically
    that's how we're wired --
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    it's why we're here.
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    So I thought, you know what,
    I'm going to start with connection.
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    Well, you know that situation
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    where you get an evaluation
    from your boss,
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    and she tells you 37 things
    that you do really awesome,
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    and one "opportunity for growth?"
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    (Laughter)
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    And all you can think about
    is that opportunity for growth, right?
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    Well, apparently this is the way
    my work went as well,
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    because, when you ask people about love,
    they tell you about heartbreak.
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    When you ask people about belonging,
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    they'll tell you their most excruciating
    experiences of being excluded.
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    And when you ask people about connection,
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    the stories they told me
    were about disconnection.
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    So very quickly -- really about six weeks
    into this research --
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    I ran into this unnamed thing
    that absolutely unraveled connection
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    in a way that I didn't understand
    or had never seen.
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    And so I pulled back out of the research
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    and thought, I need
    to figure out what this is.
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    And it turned out to be shame.
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    And shame is really easily understood
    as the fear of disconnection:
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    Is there something about me that,
    if other people know it or see it,
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    that I won't be worthy of connection?
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    The things I can tell you about it:
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    It's universal; we all have it.
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    The only people who don't experience shame
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    have no capacity for human
    empathy or connection.
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    No one wants to talk about it,
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    and the less you talk about it,
    the more you have it.
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    What underpinned this shame,
    this "I'm not good enough," --
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    which, we all know that feeling:
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    "I'm not blank enough.
    I'm not thin enough,
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    rich enough, beautiful enough,
    smart enough, promoted enough."
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    The thing that underpinned this
    was excruciating vulnerability.
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    This idea of, in order
    for connection to happen,
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    we have to allow ourselves
    to be seen, really seen.
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    And you know how I feel
    about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability.
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    And so I thought, this is my chance
    to beat it back with my measuring stick.
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    I'm going in, I'm going
    to figure this stuff out,
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    I'm going to spend a year,
    I'm going to totally deconstruct shame,
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    I'm going to understand
    how vulnerability works,
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    and I'm going to outsmart it.
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    So I was ready, and I was really excited.
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    As you know,
    it's not going to turn out well.
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    (Laughter)
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    You know this.
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    So, I could tell you a lot about shame,
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    but I'd have to borrow
    everyone else's time.
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    But here's what I can tell you
    that it boils down to --
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    and this may be one of the most important
    things that I've ever learned
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    in the decade of doing this research.
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    My one year turned into six years:
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    Thousands of stories, hundreds
    of long interviews, focus groups.
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    At one point, people were
    sending me journal pages
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    and sending me their stories --
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    thousands of pieces of data in six years.
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    And I kind of got a handle on it.
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    I kind of understood, this is
    what shame is, this is how it works.
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    I wrote a book, I published a theory,
    but something was not okay --
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    and what it was is that, if I roughly
    took the people I interviewed
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    and divided them into people who really
    have a sense of worthiness --
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    that's what this comes down to,
    a sense of worthiness --
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    they have a strong sense
    of love and belonging --
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    and folks who struggle for it,
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    and folks who are always wondering
    if they're good enough.
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    There was only one variable that separated
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    the people who have a strong sense
    of love and belonging
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    and the people who really struggle for it.
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    And that was, the people who have
    a strong sense of love and belonging
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    believe they're worthy
    of love and belonging.
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    That's it.
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    They believe they're worthy.
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    And to me, the hard part of the one thing
    that keeps us out of connection
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    is our fear that we're not
    worthy of connection,
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    was something that,
    personally and professionally,
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    I felt like I needed to understand better.
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    So what I did is I took
    all of the interviews
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    where I saw worthiness,
    where I saw people living that way,
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    and just looked at those.
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    What do these people have in common?
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    I have a slight office supply addiction,
    but that's another talk.
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    So I had a manila folder,
    and I had a Sharpie,
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    and I was like, what am I going
    to call this research?
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    And the first words that came
    to my mind were "whole-hearted."
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    These are whole-hearted people,
    living from this deep sense of worthiness.
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    So I wrote at the top
    of the manila folder,
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    and I started looking at the data.
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    In fact, I did it first in a four-day,
    very intensive data analysis,
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    where I went back, pulled the interviews,
    the stories, pulled the incidents.
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    What's the theme? What's the pattern?
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    My husband left town with the kids
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    because I always go into this
    Jackson Pollock crazy thing,
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    where I'm just writing
    and in my researcher mode.
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    And so here's what I found.
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    What they had in common
    was a sense of courage.
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    And I want to separate courage
    and bravery for you for a minute.
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    Courage, the original
    definition of courage,
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    when it first came
    into the English language --
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    it's from the Latin word "cor,"
    meaning "heart" --
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    and the original definition was to tell
    the story of who you are
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    with your whole heart.
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    And so these folks had, very simply,
    the courage to be imperfect.
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    They had the compassion to be kind
    to themselves first and then to others,
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    because, as it turns out,
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    we can't practice compassion
    with other people
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    if we can't treat ourselves kindly.
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    And the last was they had connection,
    and -- this was the hard part --
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    as a result of authenticity,
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    they were willing to let go
    of who they thought they should be
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    in order to be who they were,
    which you have to absolutely do that
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    for connection.
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    The other thing that they had
    in common was this:
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    They fully embraced vulnerability.
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    They believed that what made them
    vulnerable made them beautiful.
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    They didn't talk about vulnerability
    being comfortable,
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    nor did they really talk
    about it being excruciating --
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    as I had heard it earlier
    in the shame interviewing.
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    They just talked about it being necessary.
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    They talked about the willingness
    to say, "I love you" first ...
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    the willingness to do something
    where there are no guarantees ...
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    the willingness to breathe
    through waiting for the doctor to call
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    after your mammogram.
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    They're willing to invest
    in a relationship
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    that may or may not work out.
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    They thought this was fundamental.
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    I personally thought it was betrayal.
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    I could not believe I had pledged
    allegiance to research, where our job --
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    you know, the definition of research
    is to control and predict,
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    to study phenomena for the explicit
    reason to control and predict.
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    And now my mission to control and predict
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    had turned up the answer
    that the way to live is with vulnerability
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    and to stop controlling and predicting.
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    This led to a little breakdown --
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    (Laughter)
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    -- which actually looked more like this.
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    (Laughter)
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    And it did.
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    I call it a breakdown; my therapist
    calls it a spiritual awakening.
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    (Laughter)
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    A spiritual awakening
    sounds better than breakdown,
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    but I assure you, it was a breakdown.
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    And I had to put my data away
    and go find a therapist.
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    Let me tell you something:
    you know who you are
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    when you call your friends and say,
    "I think I need to see somebody.
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    Do you have any recommendations?"
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    Because about five
    of my friends were like,
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    "Wooo, I wouldn't want
    to be your therapist."
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    (Laughter)
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    I was like, "What does that mean?"
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    And they're like,
    "I'm just saying, you know.
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    Don't bring your measuring stick."
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    (Laughter)
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    I was like, "Okay."
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    So I found a therapist.
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    My first meeting with her, Diana --
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    I brought in my list of the way
    the whole-hearted live, and I sat down.
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    And she said, "How are you?"
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    And I said, "I'm great. I'm okay."
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    She said, "What's going on?"
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    And this is a therapist
    who sees therapists,
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    because we have to go to those,
    because their B.S. meters are good.
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    (Laughter)
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    And so I said, "Here's the thing,
    I'm struggling."
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    And she said, "What's the struggle?"
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    And I said, "Well, I have
    a vulnerability issue.
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    And I know that vulnerability
    is the core of shame and fear
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    and our struggle for worthiness,
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    but it appears that it's also
    the birthplace of joy, of creativity,
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    of belonging, of love.
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    And I think I have a problem,
    and I need some help."
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    And I said, "But here's the thing:
    no family stuff, no childhood shit."
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    (Laughter)
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    "I just need some strategies."
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    (Laughter)
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    (Applause)
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    Thank you.
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    So she goes like this.
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    (Laughter)
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    And then I said, "It's bad, right?"
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    And she said, "It's neither good nor bad."
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    (Laughter)
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    "It just is what it is."
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    And I said, "Oh my God,
    this is going to suck."
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    (Laughter)
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    And it did, and it didn't.
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    And it took about a year.
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    And you know how there are people
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    that, when they realize that vulnerability
    and tenderness are important,
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    that they surrender and walk into it.
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    A: that's not me,
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    and B: I don't even hang out
    with people like that.
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    (Laughter)
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    For me, it was a yearlong street fight.
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    It was a slugfest.
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    Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back.
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    I lost the fight,
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    but probably won my life back.
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    And so then I went back into the research
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    and spent the next couple of years
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    really trying to understand
    what they, the whole-hearted,
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    what choices they were making,
    and what we are doing with vulnerability.
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    Why do we struggle with it so much?
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    Am I alone in struggling
    with vulnerability?
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    No.
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    So this is what I learned.
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    We numb vulnerability --
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    when we're waiting for the call.
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    It was funny, I sent something out
    on Twitter and on Facebook
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    that says, "How would you
    define vulnerability?
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    What makes you feel vulnerable?"
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    And within an hour and a half,
    I had 150 responses.
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    Because I wanted to know what's out there.
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    Having to ask my husband for help
    because I'm sick, and we're newly married;
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    initiating sex with my husband;
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    initiating sex with my wife;
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    being turned down; asking someone out;
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    waiting for the doctor to call back;
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    getting laid off; laying off people.
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    This is the world we live in.
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    We live in a vulnerable world.
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    And one of the ways we deal
    with it is we numb vulnerability.
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    And I think there's evidence --
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    and it's not the only reason
    this evidence exists,
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    but I think it's a huge cause --
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    We are the most in-debt ...
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    obese ...
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    addicted and medicated
    adult cohort in U.S. history.
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    The problem is -- and I learned this
    from the research --
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    that you cannot selectively numb emotion.
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    You can't say, here's the bad stuff.
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    Here's vulnerability,
    here's grief, here's shame,
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    here's fear, here's disappointment.
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    I don't want to feel these.
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    I'm going to have a couple of beers
    and a banana nut muffin.
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    (Laughter)
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    I don't want to feel these.
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    And I know that's knowing laughter.
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    I hack into your lives for a living.
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    God.
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    (Laughter)
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    You can't numb those hard feelings
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    without numbing
    the other affects, our emotions.
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    You cannot selectively numb.
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    So when we numb those,
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    we numb joy,
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    we numb gratitude,
  • 16:19 - 16:20
    we numb happiness.
  • 16:22 - 16:25
    And then, we are miserable,
  • 16:25 - 16:27
    and we are looking
    for purpose and meaning,
  • 16:27 - 16:28
    and then we feel vulnerable,
  • 16:29 - 16:31
    so then we have a couple of beers
    and a banana nut muffin.
  • 16:31 - 16:35
    And it becomes this dangerous cycle.
  • 16:36 - 16:39
    One of the things that I think
    we need to think about
  • 16:39 - 16:41
    is why and how we numb.
  • 16:42 - 16:44
    And it doesn't just have to be addiction.
  • 16:45 - 16:49
    The other thing we do is we make
    everything that's uncertain certain.
  • 16:50 - 16:55
    Religion has gone from a belief
    in faith and mystery to certainty.
  • 16:55 - 16:57
    "I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up."
  • 16:59 - 17:00
    That's it.
  • 17:01 - 17:03
    Just certain.
  • 17:03 - 17:05
    The more afraid we are,
    the more vulnerable we are,
  • 17:06 - 17:07
    the more afraid we are.
  • 17:07 - 17:09
    This is what politics looks like today.
  • 17:09 - 17:11
    There's no discourse anymore.
  • 17:11 - 17:12
    There's no conversation.
  • 17:13 - 17:14
    There's just blame.
  • 17:14 - 17:16
    You know how blame
    is described in the research?
  • 17:17 - 17:20
    A way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  • 17:22 - 17:24
    We perfect.
  • 17:24 - 17:27
    If there's anyone who wants their life
    to look like this, it would be me,
  • 17:27 - 17:29
    but it doesn't work.
  • 17:29 - 17:32
    Because what we do is we take fat
    from our butts and put it in our cheeks.
  • 17:32 - 17:36
    (Laughter)
  • 17:36 - 17:39
    Which just, I hope in 100 years,
    people will look back and go, "Wow."
  • 17:39 - 17:42
    (Laughter)
  • 17:42 - 17:45
    And we perfect,
    most dangerously, our children.
  • 17:45 - 17:47
    Let me tell you what we think
    about children.
  • 17:47 - 17:50
    They're hardwired for struggle
    when they get here.
  • 17:50 - 17:53
    And when you hold those perfect
    little babies in your hand,
  • 17:53 - 17:56
    our job is not to say,
    "Look at her, she's perfect.
  • 17:56 - 17:58
    My job is just to keep her perfect --
  • 17:58 - 18:01
    make sure she makes the tennis team
    by fifth grade and Yale by seventh."
  • 18:01 - 18:03
    That's not our job.
  • 18:03 - 18:04
    Our job is to look and say,
  • 18:04 - 18:07
    "You know what? You're imperfect,
    and you're wired for struggle,
  • 18:07 - 18:09
    but you are worthy of love and belonging."
  • 18:10 - 18:11
    That's our job.
  • 18:12 - 18:14
    Show me a generation
    of kids raised like that,
  • 18:14 - 18:17
    and we'll end the problems,
    I think, that we see today.
  • 18:17 - 18:22
    We pretend that what we do
    doesn't have an effect on people.
  • 18:24 - 18:25
    We do that in our personal lives.
  • 18:25 - 18:26
    We do that corporate --
  • 18:27 - 18:29
    whether it's a bailout, an oil spill ...
  • 18:30 - 18:31
    a recall.
  • 18:31 - 18:33
    We pretend like what we're doing
  • 18:33 - 18:35
    doesn't have a huge impact
    on other people.
  • 18:36 - 18:39
    I would say to companies,
    this is not our first rodeo, people.
  • 18:41 - 18:43
    We just need you to be authentic
    and real and say ...
  • 18:45 - 18:47
    "We're sorry. We'll fix it."
  • 18:50 - 18:53
    But there's another way,
    and I'll leave you with this.
  • 18:53 - 18:54
    This is what I have found:
  • 18:54 - 18:59
    To let ourselves be seen,
    deeply seen, vulnerably seen ...
  • 19:02 - 19:06
    to love with our whole hearts,
    even though there's no guarantee --
  • 19:06 - 19:07
    and that's really hard,
  • 19:07 - 19:11
    and I can tell you as a parent,
    that's excruciatingly difficult --
  • 19:13 - 19:17
    to practice gratitude and joy
    in those moments of terror,
  • 19:17 - 19:20
    when we're wondering,
    "Can I love you this much?
  • 19:20 - 19:22
    Can I believe in this this passionately?
  • 19:22 - 19:24
    Can I be this fierce about this?"
  • 19:24 - 19:28
    just to be able to stop and, instead of
    catastrophizing what might happen,
  • 19:28 - 19:30
    to say, "I'm just so grateful,
  • 19:30 - 19:32
    because to feel this vulnerable
    means I'm alive."
  • 19:33 - 19:37
    And the last, which I think
    is probably the most important,
  • 19:37 - 19:39
    is to believe that we're enough.
  • 19:39 - 19:43
    Because when we work from a place,
    I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ...
  • 19:45 - 19:49
    then we stop screaming
    and start listening,
  • 19:49 - 19:52
    we're kinder and gentler
    to the people around us,
  • 19:52 - 19:54
    and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.
  • 19:55 - 19:56
    That's all I have. Thank you.
  • 19:56 - 19:59
    (Applause)
Titel:
The power of vulnerability
Sprecher:
Brené Brown
Beschreibung:

Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Projekt:
TEDTalks
Duration:
19:59

Untertitel in English

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