“You Can Approach Life With Both Fierceness and Grace”: An Interview with Brene Brown

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brene1 You Can Approach Life With Both Fierceness and Grace: An Interview with Brene Brown

Brene Brown

I had the good fortune to meet Brene Brown last March when we both spoke at TED, and she instantly became one of my favorite people. She is warm and wise and very, very funny. (Check out her two TED talks and see what I mean.) For now, I can’t wait to read her new book, Daring Greatly (which debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list!). In the meantime, here’s an interview with Brene:

1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do other people see you?

Most people find it hard to believe, but I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable speaking to 2000 people about my work, but drop me into a cocktail party with 50 people and I’m lost. My restorative time is alone time or time with my family and a couple of close friends. I don’t function well without serious doses of solitude.

2. What did you want to be when you grew up, and why?

I went through stages. There was a period when I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and that was followed by a short period when I dreamed of driving an 18-wheeler. I was really good on the CB radio – we all had our own handles and my dad taught us how to ask truckers where the “smokies” were hiding. A Texas childhood, no doubt. At some point in middle school I focused on being a cruise director (a la Love Boat). Everything changed when I did a project on Eleanor Roosevelt. It changed me. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I was inspired to make a difference.

3. Tell us about someone you admire.

Right now I’m drawing the most inspiration from my children. Watching my 13-year-old daughter Ellen navigate middle school is a constant reminder that you can approach life with both fierceness and grace. Charlie, my 1st grader, is pure love and curiosity. I want to be as unapologetically playful and open as he is.

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4. What do you do when you feel afraid?

I pray. Faith is the organizing principle in my life. I also try to stay very mindful of my values. Courage is a value that is very important to me. It ranks right up there with honesty and respect.

5. Quirky or mainstream — which adjective suits you better, and why?

I think I’m both. In many ways I’m very quirky and “out there” but I also love tradition. I’ll push the envelope and do things that may not be considered “mainstream” but I’m also big on things like manners and following the rules (even when I’m working to change the rules).

6. What is your absolute favorite way of spending time (other than with your family)?

Being outside near water, taking and editing photographs, working on my Project Life albums, listening to music, reading, watching smart television, and analyzing data.

7. Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” If you could shake the world gently, what would you do? (Please don’t feel the need to say something like “End world hunger” or “Create lasting peace.” We’re more interested in your own signature contribution to the world.)

Thirteen years ago, during a long walk around our neighborhood, I told my husband that my professional life goal was to start a national conversation about shame and vulnerability. I don’t want or need people to sign on to my beliefs – I just want a conversation about the importance of showing up and letting ourselves be seen. I think a collective sense of worthiness could shake the world.

 


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16 Comments

  1. Teresa Green on 24.09.2012 at 13:52 (Reply)

    I love the phrase “the importance of showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Like many introverts, I have done my best to be unseen for much of my life, and only in the last decade or so worked on changing that. Thank you for embracing the idea that grace doesn’t have to be quiet, and fierceness doesn’t have to be cruel.

  2. Linda H on 24.09.2012 at 15:07 (Reply)

    Very insightful…thanks for being vulnerable and sharing.

  3. Nancy on 24.09.2012 at 15:17 (Reply)

    Great interview. I was lucky enough to see Brene last night…Yay!!! It seems fitting that you would know one another, as you both do such important work. I found question #2 interesting. It made me wonder about the event of introverts daydreaming, having goals, dreaming extrovert style.
    “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader” does not seem an introvert dream career! Made me think of my own dreams. Mmmm…

  4. Harriet Cabelly on 24.09.2012 at 15:32 (Reply)

    I just saw Ms. Brown on the Katie show. I actually had not heard of her before. I guess because of her new book release she’s getting a lot of PR. So now that I know of her, I’m seeing her all over the place. I was very taken with her – her personality and her messages.
    For me the word is Authenticity. We need to be ‘real’, like the ideas put forth in one of my beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. There is just too much BS and pretenses around. So much is cover ups. I like straight shooting and openness and honesty.

    And now I just discovered you. I’ll be looking to get your book as well as her new one. I ‘found’ you from Priscilla Gilman’s facebook page.
    Thank you for this lovely interview.

  5. christina parker brown on 24.09.2012 at 15:42 (Reply)

    Great interview!

  6. Shann on 24.09.2012 at 15:58 (Reply)

    Thanks for sharing this lively and interesting interview with Brene. I’m so glad I found your post on facebook. Great questions.

    I loved reading your book. So much so that my partner and I recorded a podcast / review of our shared experience with the manuscript. Our talk will go “live” in the next week or two at Anxiety Slayer. Cheers!

  7. Jules on 24.09.2012 at 17:11 (Reply)

    Thoroughly enjoyed. Ms. Brown’s work is amazing, and I’m grateful for her dedication and persistence to the study of that awful thing called shame.

  8. brainysmurf on 24.09.2012 at 18:12 (Reply)

    Fierceness and grace are a wonderful combination. I recognize my need to work on the grace part. My open letter to introverts is here: http://brainysmurf1234.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/dear-introvert/

  9. Paula TB on 24.09.2012 at 19:14 (Reply)

    I’m reading “Daring Greatly” right now….just LOVE Brene’s books (her first two books got me hooked!) She is wonderful, as is Susan Cain. “Quiet” is another of my favorite books! I hope she writes more! Both are wonderful authors!

  10. Rich Day on 24.09.2012 at 20:00 (Reply)

    I absolutely love your perspective on a conversation about shame and vulnerability, and feel there is such a great need for grace. A grace that would say to people, “I may not always agree with you, you may not always be perfect, neither of us is always right, but I want you to know that I AM FOR YOU. The light switch of my acknowledgement of your worth is permanently in the on position. The jury is not out on this, the verdict is in, and it is I AM FOR YOU”. I hope in my stance towards others this comes through. I am glad you’re out there, and appreciated your thoughts on this.

  11. Christy on 25.09.2012 at 12:57 (Reply)

    I love her answer to #5 best. That’s brilliant.

  12. Andy on 26.09.2012 at 09:49 (Reply)

    Brilliant interview. “I don’t want or need people to sign on to my beliefs – I just want a conversation about the importance of showing up and letting ourselves be seen” A great philosophy. Thanks for posting.

  13. 董抱他友 on 06.10.2012 at 10:37 (Reply)

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  14. sophie on 06.10.2012 at 20:36 (Reply)

    I live in constant shame which makes me vulnerable I believe they go hand in hand. I had just about given up on people when I stumbled on this website. Thank You

  15. Bryant on 08.10.2012 at 05:47 (Reply)

    Beautiful.

  16. Marathon Energy on 13.11.2012 at 13:48 (Reply)

    I like your response to number 7 it was definitely unique and it is bound to get people thinking

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