The secret to living a brave life

The Battery, Charleston SC

I’ve followed author Brené Brown for years, even before her Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability went viral. Through her research, Brown discovered that people who have a strong sense of worthiness, connection, and belonging have one thing in common: they fully embrace vulnerability.

Brown identifies people who fully embrace vulnerability as Wholehearted. Wholehearted people are willing to say “I love you” first. They are willing to do brave things, even when there are no guarantees.

I resonate with Brown’s message and by her definition, I would consider myself wholehearted. Perhaps, too wholehearted. Perhaps, too vulnerable.


Many times I’ve kicked myself for being too sensitive, too emotional and too in my feelings. Sound familiar?


As much as I thought I understood Brown’s overall point about vulnerability, it didn’t really click until I watched a conversation between Brown and bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert about the concept of “living brave.”

In the interview, Gilbert describes vulnerability as terrifying and anxiety-producing. I second that. Gilbert goes on to say:


“I felt like vulnerability is not something I need to be thinking about because actually I need the opposite. I just need to be tougher. And then when I started to read your work I realized, ‘Oh I see. Oh I very much need this.’”

~Elizabeth Gilbert in an interview with Brené Brown


The point of Brown’s and Gilbert’s conversation is that we all need to understand and embrace vulnerability, whether we’re the type of person who wears our emotions on our sleeves or keeps them inside.


Bravery is not bravado. 


Like Gilbert, I’ve sometimes mistaken bravery for bravado—the armor we put on to protect ourselves from getting hurt. I don’t want endure the possible heartbreak. I don’t want to experience the pain of failure, falling down, and rejection, so I avoid (insert courageous act here) altogether.

According to Gilbert, it’s about learning to identify what makes us shut down, melt down, blow up, or break down. And then, sitting with and feeling the discomfort (ugh!) instead of defaulting to our typical knee-jerk reactions.

In essence, when we pay attention, we become more self-aware. When we become more self-aware, we can respond from a place of courage, rather than react from a place of fear.


It seems counter-intuitive, but the bravest thing we can do is let down our guards. We don’t let down our guards so others can walk all over us. We let down our guards so we can reclaim our power.


Beneath our facades of self-protection, we find the place where we can get real with ourselves and admit, “This is what feels true and right to me.” We find the courage to move forward and do the thing, even if we fail. Even if we get hurt.

It’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it as difficult as it seems. As I wrote in my last post, we have to give ourselves permission to take a breath.

I’ll end with some words from Brown’s famous Ted Talk. She says when we find ourselves wondering, “Can I love this much, can I believe in this this passionately, can I be this fierce about this? Instead of catastrophizing what might happen, stop and say, ‘I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means that I’m alive.'”

Watch Brown’s Ted Talk here:

Watch Brown’s conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert here:

Living Brave Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert

“I've realized that one of the most unkind things I can do to somebody is to put them on a pedestal because very soon, inevitably, they’re going to do something that's going to knock them off it, and then I'm going to have a lot of trouble with that because I really needed you to be something else. And that's inhumane.” –Elizabeth GilbertCheck out this #LivingBrave interview with Elizabeth Gilbert—bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic!

Posted by Brené Brown on Thursday, May 4, 2017

Angie Mizzell is a writer, TV spokesperson, and mom of three. She is also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers and blogs about creating a life...

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