Blown away thinking about Vulnerability

Being away for a week, I had gotten behind on my podcast listening, so, this morning, during my commute, I out on the most recent broadcast of On Being with Krista Tippett, and heard the most amazing interview with Brene Brown:

There were so many points that were made that really resonated with me, but one that really stood out was the following observation on gender difference:

if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man. And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I’ll show you a guy who’s done his work and a man who doesn’t derive his power from controlling and fixing everything.

I particularly like that reference on both sides of the coin to deriving power from one another person – don’t we all tend towards positioning ourselves to being the one “in charge” – having power. So, giving that up is a potent idea.

There is another section of the interview that struck me, it reminded me of how many of my friends approach parenting, but which I have studiously tried to avoid – the habit of trying to shield our children from disappointment or consequences of their choices and decisions.

The section starts with this exchange:

Ms. Tippett: But, you know, it’s funny, but I think one of the things I was most aware of when I had my daughter, my first child, is that it is utter excruciating vulnerability like you have never known before. You are not in control, you do not know what’s going to happen next.

Ms. Brown: Yeah. I mean, just to hear you say it takes my breath away. It is the ultimate experience in vulnerability, I think.

And continues with this:

Ms. Tippett: I mean, I just took my daughter to college and we got this lecture, … which was clearly based on parents still trying to control. You know, again, it’s like, boy, we know this, don’t we, this desire that you have to create a beautiful world and life and experience for these people you love?

Ms. Brown: But you know what? I think we lose sight of the beauty. The most beautiful things I look back on in my life are coming out from underneath things I didn’t know I could get out from underneath. You know, the moments I look back in my life and think, God, those are the moments that made me, were moments of struggle.

And, isn’t it true – the moments of change and transformation in one’s life are those moments of struggle, and sometimes, those moments of failure.

I encourage you to listen to the interview, and then to go back and listen to the TED talks. They can all be found at the following links:

The On Being interview:

TEDx Houston:


2 thoughts on “Blown away thinking about Vulnerability

  1. You've struck a nerve with me and the truths I seek to dust off in my study of human movement and performance psychology. We are unique manifestations of polar energies (yin/yang) that we are far to ready to neglect for feminist ideals. You are right to mention how this informs our parenting. My wife and I are fortunate enough to recognize that we both have our own special lessons to impart on our children. I'll be sure to check out those podcasts and TED talks.

    1. Janaki says:

      It's interesting to me that this caught your eye. A main part of Brene Brown's talk has to do with creativity flowing out of vulnerability and struggle.

      I have sung all my life, and in the last few years, have been studying voice with an excellent teacher who has been helping me understand that the creative process of making music (and I think it applies to most creative activities, including movement) is based on letting go and allowing the possibility of making a mistake, rather than clinging to control, aiming for perfection, and avoiding error.

      I am not athletic myself, but I often think of my best friend during high school, who was a competitive ice skater, and I know that the secret of her success was to throw herself into each jump and spin.

      Thanks for visiting – your site is very interesting! I plan to read more.

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