2012 TED Talk: Brené Brown talks about shame, empathy, and courage

YOU don’t suck, but maybe you suck at social media. And other life DOHs.

by Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna

Cristina Perri, A Thousand Years

Brené Brown speaks to us again about vulnerability. It’s an all new TED Talk! “Vulnerability is not weakness… vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”

Shame, Brown argues, is an unspoken epidemic that fuels broken behavior, disconnection, and unhappiness. Brené Brown, whose TED talk last year on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores the wonderful things that can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

Brené Brown paraphrases President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote about the man in the arena.

Roosevelt’s original quote is this:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Brené Brown reminds us that when the man in the arena fails, he does so by daring greatly.

Shame is ‘I am bad’, guilt is ‘I did something bad’… Shame is highly, highly correlated to addiction, depression, violence, agression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders… Guilt [is] inversely correlated with those things.

Shame feels the same for men and women, Brown explains. But shame, she says, is organized by gender. For women, shame is competing and conflicting expectations about what they are supposed to be. For men, shame is weakness, not being the hero. Or superhero. It’s not living up to the legend that men are expected to be.

“Empathy is the antidote to shame,” says Brown.

Dare greatly. Love strongly. Give yourself boldly.

Watch Brené Brown’s 2012 Ted Talk, Listening to Shame, just follow the link below:


Stan Faryna
22 March 2012
Bucharest, Romania


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4 Responses to 2012 TED Talk: Brené Brown talks about shame, empathy, and courage

  1. Betsy Cross says:

    I want my children to watch this. There is such a fine line between guilt and shame. And I think a lot of the time our kids feel shame when they shouldn’t be. And I blame that on the ignorance of us, the parents, who don’t understand the power of words and a child’s inability to understand their (the words and the parent’s) intention. But once it’s figured out, and that light bulb goes on that illuminates their core, their goodness, they feel centered and move forward in life more self-assured.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Stan Faryna says:

    My heart tells me that words are not the problem as much as we are the problem. We can’t teach our children (or others) by saying one thing and doing another. For example, we can’t teach our children (or others) about love unless they see how we are loving others – be it a spouse, a friend, or a neighbor. Because they see us; they also see everything about us we don’t want them to see. Mixed messages give mixed, confusing lessons with unpredictable and, often, less than desirable, consequences and conclusions.

    Confidence must build through accomplishment and a habit for excellence. Encouraging self-confidence any other way is building arrogance, conceit, and pride. None of which serves us or others.

    But you can encourage curiosity, questions of a humble heart, wonder, asking for help (not expecting it), persistance, appreciation for those who can and do help, and accomplishment…

  3. I would argue that shame is largely ABSENT from our present society. Do you remember when a celebrity would get caught doing something wrong and the studios would scramble to “fix it?” Now, a celebrity does a porn video and they’re hailed. A celeb gets busted for soliciting a prostitute, doing drugs, breaking the law, etc. and they’re “star” rises.

    Do our kids see this? You bet. There used to be shame associated with a teen getting pregnant. Now there are clubs of young girls competing to get pregnant in high school.

    The list of shameLESS things today is unlimited. I say that SHAME was a helpful governor on behavior…

    • Stan Faryna says:


      Like you, I see shame as key. And we’re in good company. While Aristotle doesn’t say that shame is a virtue, he does say that it is indispensable to virtue.

      Likewise, I fear that scandal has become an unfortunate instrument of change in terms of redefining norms. This, I suspect, is an unwanted consequence of a free market attitude misapplied to culture.

      Brené Brown, on the other hand, wants to redefine shame – she prolly has not read Aristotle. She is saying that shame is bad, but guilt is key. Shame, she might argue, is an acceptance of guilt as being what one is.

      For example, Brown’s shame is saying something like I am a cheater and I am unfaithful to my spouse. Therefore, I cannot correct the behavior and whatever pain is consequence will be managed by a consolational behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse, etc.

      For Brown, the key is guilt. For example, if I cheat on my spouse, I have to be vulnerable enough to say that I’m sorry and work on changing the behavior.

      This could be an interesting topic for #dadchat.

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