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The power of vulnerability

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    So, I'll start with this:
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    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
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    to write about you on the little flier."
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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, "Haha. There's no such thing."
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    (Laughter)
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    So I'm a researcher-storyteller,
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    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
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    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
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    who said to us,
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    "Here's the thing,
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    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 in social work, a master's in social work,
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    and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work,
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    so my entire academic career
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    was surrounded by people
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    who kind of believed
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    in the "life's messy, love it."
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    And I'm more of the, "life's messy,
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    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,
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    to found a career that takes me --
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    really, one of the big sayings in social work
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    is, "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
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    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
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    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 and mental health and abuse and neglect,
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    what we know is that connection,
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    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 you do really awesome,
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    and one thing -- an "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,
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    as the fear of disconnection:
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    Is there something about me
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    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,
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    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,
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    promoted enough."
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    The thing that underpinned this
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    was excruciating vulnerability,
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    this idea of,
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    in order for connection to happen,
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    we have to allow ourselves to be seen,
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    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
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    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
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    turned into six years:
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    thousands of stories,
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    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,
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    this is how it works.
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    I wrote a book,
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    I published a theory,
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    but something was not okay --
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    and what it was is that,
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    if I roughly took the people I interviewed
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    and divided them into people
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    who really have a sense of worthiness --
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    that's what this comes down to,
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    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
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    that separated the people who have
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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,
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    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
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    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
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    in a four-day
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    very intensive data analysis,
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    where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled 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 like writing
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    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
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    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
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    was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
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    And so these folks
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    had, very simply, the courage
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    to be imperfect.
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    They had the compassion
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    to be kind to themselves first and then to others,
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    because, as it turns out, 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,
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    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,
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    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
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    was this:
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    They fully embraced vulnerability.
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    They believed
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    that what made them vulnerable
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    made them beautiful.
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    They didn't talk about vulnerability
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    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
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    to say, "I love you" first,
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    the willingness
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    to do something
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    where there are no guarantees,
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    the willingness
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    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
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    to research, where our job --
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    you know, the definition of research
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    is to control and predict, to study phenomena,
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    for the explicit reason
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    to control and predict.
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    And now my mission
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    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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    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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    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
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    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,
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    because their B.S. meters are good.
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    (Laughter)
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    And so I said,
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    "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
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    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
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    of joy, of creativity,
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    of belonging, of love.
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    And I think I have a problem,
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    and I need some help."
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    And I said, "But here's the thing:
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    no family stuff,
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    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,
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    and what are we doing
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    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
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    what's out there.
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    Having to ask my husband for help
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    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
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    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 --
  • 15:18 - 15:22
    we are the most in-debt,
  • 15:22 - 15:25
    obese,
  • 15:25 - 15:28
    addicted and medicated
  • 15:28 - 15:30
    adult cohort in U.S. history.
  • 15:33 - 15:36
    The problem is -- and I learned this from the research --
  • 15:36 - 15:39
    that you cannot selectively numb emotion.
  • 15:40 - 15:43
    You can't say, here's the bad stuff.
  • 15:43 - 15:45
    Here's vulnerability, here's grief, here's shame,
  • 15:45 - 15:47
    here's fear, here's disappointment.
  • 15:47 - 15:49
    I don't want to feel these.
  • 15:49 - 15:52
    I'm going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.
  • 15:52 - 15:54
    (Laughter)
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    I don't want to feel these.
  • 15:56 - 15:58
    And I know that's knowing laughter.
  • 15:58 - 16:01
    I hack into your lives for a living.
  • 16:01 - 16:03
    God.
  • 16:03 - 16:05
    (Laughter)
  • 16:05 - 16:08
    You can't numb those hard feelings
  • 16:08 - 16:10
    without numbing the other affects, our emotions.
  • 16:10 - 16:12
    You cannot selectively numb.
  • 16:12 - 16:15
    So when we numb those,
  • 16:15 - 16:17
    we numb joy,
  • 16:17 - 16:19
    we numb gratitude,
  • 16:19 - 16:21
    we numb happiness.
  • 16:21 - 16:24
    And then we are miserable,
  • 16:24 - 16:26
    and we are looking for purpose and meaning,
  • 16:26 - 16:28
    and then we feel vulnerable,
  • 16:28 - 16:31
    so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.
  • 16:31 - 16:34
    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.
  • 16:41 - 16:44
    And it doesn't just have to be addiction.
  • 16:44 - 16:46
    The other thing we do
  • 16:46 - 16:49
    is we make everything that's uncertain certain.
  • 16:50 - 16:53
    Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery
  • 16:53 - 16:55
    to certainty.
  • 16:55 - 16:58
    I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up.
  • 16:58 - 17:00
    That's it.
  • 17:00 - 17:02
    Just certain.
  • 17:02 - 17:04
    The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are,
  • 17:04 - 17:06
    the more afraid we are.
  • 17:06 - 17:08
    This is what politics looks like today.
  • 17:08 - 17:10
    There's no discourse anymore.
  • 17:10 - 17:12
    There's no conversation.
  • 17:12 - 17:14
    There's just blame.
  • 17:14 - 17:17
    You know how blame is described in the research?
  • 17:17 - 17:20
    A way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  • 17:21 - 17:23
    We perfect.
  • 17:23 - 17:26
    If there's anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me,
  • 17:26 - 17:28
    but it doesn't work.
  • 17:28 - 17:30
    Because what we do is we take fat from our butts
  • 17:30 - 17:32
    and put it in our cheeks.
  • 17:32 - 17:35
    (Laughter)
  • 17:35 - 17:37
    Which just, I hope in 100 years,
  • 17:37 - 17:39
    people will look back and go, "Wow."
  • 17:39 - 17:41
    (Laughter)
  • 17:41 - 17:43
    And we perfect, most dangerously,
  • 17:43 - 17:45
    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 - 17:55
    our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect.
  • 17:55 - 17:57
    My job is just to keep her perfect --
  • 17:57 - 18:00
    make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade."
  • 18:00 - 18:02
    That's not our job.
  • 18:02 - 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."
  • 18:09 - 18:11
    That's our job.
  • 18:11 - 18:13
    Show me a generation of kids raised like that,
  • 18:13 - 18:16
    and we'll end the problems I think that we see today.
  • 18:16 - 18:20
    We pretend that what we do
  • 18:20 - 18:23
    doesn't have an effect on people.
  • 18:23 - 18:25
    We do that in our personal lives.
  • 18:25 - 18:27
    We do that corporate --
  • 18:27 - 18:29
    whether it's a bailout, an oil spill,
  • 18:29 - 18:31
    a recall --
  • 18:31 - 18:33
    we pretend like what we're doing
  • 18:33 - 18:36
    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.
  • 18:40 - 18:42
    We just need you to be authentic and real
  • 18:42 - 18:44
    and say, "We're sorry.
  • 18:44 - 18:47
    We'll fix it."
  • 18:50 - 18:52
    But there's another way, and I'll leave you with this.
  • 18:52 - 18:54
    This is what I have found:
  • 18:54 - 18:56
    to let ourselves be seen,
  • 18:56 - 18:58
    deeply seen,
  • 18:58 - 19:01
    vulnerably seen;
  • 19:01 - 19:03
    to love with our whole hearts,
  • 19:03 - 19:05
    even though there's no guarantee --
  • 19:05 - 19:07
    and that's really hard,
  • 19:07 - 19:10
    and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult --
  • 19:12 - 19:15
    to practice gratitude and joy
  • 19:15 - 19:17
    in those moments of terror,
  • 19:17 - 19:19
    when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much?
  • 19:19 - 19:21
    Can I believe in this this passionately?
  • 19:21 - 19:24
    Can I be this fierce about this?"
  • 19:24 - 19:26
    just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen,
  • 19:26 - 19:29
    to say, "I'm just so grateful,
  • 19:29 - 19:32
    because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive."
  • 19:33 - 19:36
    And the last, which I think is probably the most important,
  • 19:36 - 19:39
    is to believe that we're enough.
  • 19:39 - 19:41
    Because when we work from a place,
  • 19:41 - 19:44
    I believe, that says, "I'm enough,"
  • 19:45 - 19:48
    then we stop screaming and start listening,
  • 19:49 - 19:51
    we're kinder and gentler to the people around us,
  • 19:51 - 19:54
    and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.
  • 19:54 - 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:
closed TED
Projekt:
TEDTalks
Duration:
19:59

Untertitel in English

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