Unpacking Brene Brown’s mantra of wholehearted living
Sarah Green, Arts Editor
Not to be dramatic or anything, but Brené Brown changed my life. More specifically, her research on wholeheartedness changed the way I live my life. So much so, in fact, I got the word “wholehearted” tattooed on my body — and that’s saying a lot for someone like me, a perfectionist with commitment issues.
Brown became a household name in 2010 after she gave a TED Talk called ‘The power of vulnerability.’ Her research on shame stirred the hearts of many and brought a powerful concept to light: vulnerability is the key to living a wholehearted life. Brown’s TED Talk has since become a world-wide phenomenon — viewed and shared by millions of people, earning the title of one of the most-watched TED Talks of all time.
In her talk, Brown defines shame as the fear of disconnection. It’s the self-deprecating cycle of believing there is something about us that makes us not worthy of connection. Through her research, Brown discovered that shame is universal — we all have it. She also came to understand that no one wants to talk about it, and the less we talk about it, the more we have it.
Despite the crippling power shame has, Brown believes it never has to have the final word. She explains shame has a kryptonite — excruciating vulnerability. Brown discovered that in order for true, genuine and meaningful connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — shame and all.
In perhaps the most impactful part of her talk, Brown explains that there was only one variable that separated the people who had a strong sense of love and belonging from the people who didn’t. The people who had a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. It really is as simple as it sounds — they believe they’re worthy and therefore, live from a deep place of worthiness.
When Brown came to this realization, she grabbed a manila folder, took a sharpie, and wrote one word on the cover: wholehearted. Since that moment, Brown has dedicated most of her life’s work to unpacking the notion of wholehearted living. Now, she is the author of five New York Times Bestsellers, all dedicated to unpacking this profound concept.
In one of her books Daring Greatly, Brown boils down her years of research into one definition. She writes, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.’”
In the same book, Brown refers to the 10 guideposts of wholehearted living. They are as follows:
1. Cultivating authenticity. Letting go of what people think.
2.Cultivating self-compassion. Letting go of perfectionism.
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith. Letting go of the need for certainty.
6. Cultivating creativity. Letting go of comparison.
7. Cultivating play and rest. Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
8. Cultivating calm and still. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
9. Cultivating meaningful work. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to.”
10. Cultivating laughter, song and dance. Letting go of being cool and “always in control.”
When I first read this list, the realistic and slightly pessimistic part of me kicked in. I managed to convince myself that I could never live a life according to these beautiful values — it was impossible. As I mentioned before, I am a perfectionist with a deep fear of commitment — and that’s just scratching the surface. Yet, as time passed, I realized Brown’s list isn’t a to- do list, it’s a letting go list. It’s letting go of the things that tie me down. It’s letting go of the things that don’t fill me up. It’s letting go of the things that for so long, had the final word.
I realized at the end of the day, it all comes down to living my life with intention. It is waking up in the morning and telling myself I am worthy of great things — and that is something I can get behind.