Archives for the month of: August, 2013

Fries, gravy, cheese curds,

Oh poutine, my comfort food,

What is not to love?



I listened to Brene Brown’s other TED talk,

and the summary is below. It’s interesting what her findings are on the differences between gender and shame.

1. Vulnerability is not weakness.

Vulnerability is emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty, fuels our daily lives.
It’s our most accurate measurement of courage.
To let ourselves be seen, to be honest.

The business sector asked Dr. Brown to speak, but not to mention vulnerability or shame, but to talk about innovation, creativity and change instead.
But she says that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

2. We have to talk about shame.

Shame is the swampland of the soul.
The purpose is not to walk in and construct a home there, but put on galoshes and walk through and find our way around.
The big secret about TED is that it is the failure conference. Very few people here are afraid to fail.
Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts, it is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena at best he wins and at worst he loses, but when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”

Shame drives two big tapes in your mind: “Never good enough” and “who do you think you are?”
Shame is not guilt.
Shame is a focus on self. I am bad. I’m sorry I am a mistake.
Guilt is about behavior. I did something bad. I’m sorry I made a mistake.

Shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.
Guilt is inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we’ve done against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive, although uncomfortable.

Shame is organized by gender, although it feels the same for men and women.
For women, shame is do it all, do it perfectly, never let them see you sweat. Web of unattainable conflicting expectations of who we’re supposed to be.

For men, shame is:
do not be perceived as weak.

You show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, and this is a woman who has done incredible work [i.e., working through shame].
You show me a man who can sit with a woman who has had it with living up to unattainable expectations and who can really listen to her, and this is a man who has done a lot of work.

Shame is an epidemic in our culture.

Research by Mahalik @ Boston College found that —
Norms that women tend to live up to in the U.S.:

  • Nice
  • Thin
  • Modest
  • Use all available resources for appearance

Norms that men tend to live up to in the U.S.:

  • Always show emotional control
  • Work is first
  • Pursue status
  • Violence

Shame grows with secrecy, silence and judgment.

Empathy is the antidote to shame.

The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

If we will find our way back to each other, vulnerability will be that path.

TED Talk: The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

In studying connection, Brene Bround found that the one thing that kept people from connecting was SHAME, the fear of disconnection – is there something about me, if other people see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?

What underpins this is excruciating vulnerability – for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

The people who felt loved and liked they belonged felt that they were WORTHY of being loved and belonging. This was the only difference between those who felt and did not feel a sense of love and belonging.

Those who are “whole-hearted” (i.e., who feel a sense of love and belonging) share common characteristics:

  • Courage: tell your story of who you are with your whole heart = the courage to be imperfect
  • Compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others
  • Connection: as a result of authenticity, willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they really were
  • Fully embraced vulnerability: they believed what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about it being comfortable or excruciating, but simply talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may not work out.

The way to live is vulnerability and not control/predict.

We tend to numb vulnerability.
But you cannot selectively numb emotion (e.g., fear, disappointment, shame, etc.).
You cannot numb those hard feelings without numbing the positive emotions: joy, happiness, gratitude.
Not only do we numb through addiction but also through certainty.
Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mysticism to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up.
We perfect ourselves and our children. Our job should be to tell our children “you’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
We pretend what we do doesn’t have an effect on people.

The other way is

  • to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen.
  • To love with our whole hearts even if there is no guarantee.
  • To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we’re wondering, “can I love you this much? can i believe in this this passionately? can I be this fierce about this?” Instead of catastrophizing, say, “I’m so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive”.
  • To believe that we’re enough. We stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to ourselves and those around us.

Here’s how the author of Being Wrong has concluded that we can aim to be protected from error by (page 306):

Relying on hard data, committing to open and democratic communication, acknowledging fallability: these are the central tenets of any system that aim to protect us from error. They are also markedly different from how we normally think– from our often hasty and asymmetric treatment of evidence, from the cloistering effects of insular communities, and from our instinctive recourse to defensiveness and denial. In fact, the whole reason these error-proofing techniques exist is to exert a counterweight on our steady state. Jettison those techniques, leave us to our own devices, and — as we have seen– we will unreflectively assume that we are right and will investigate for error only after something has gone patently awry.

I am loving this book,  Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. This particular passage strikes a personal chord with me — highlighting how the real stressor in the midst of either my impetuousness or my careful deliberation in decision-making, is the fact that I don’t really know what I want, and that’s why it’s hard to make a firm decision.

Page 282:

If we only experienced buyer’s remorse about impulsive decisions, it would not bear very deeply on wrongness. The issue at hand wouldn’t be fallibility so much as impetuousness — a failure to check in with ourselves before taking action. In reality, though, we are just as likely (if not more so) to regret choices that we deliberated over at great length. The problem in buyer’s remorse, then, isn’t that we don’t ask ourselves the right questions about what we’ll want in the future. The problem is that we don’t know ourselves well enough, or remain static for long enough, to consistently come up with the right answer.


I’m currently reading Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. Fascinating especially for me b/c I’m such a crazy perfectionist that I have an incredible fear of being wrong. But Schulz addresses being wrong in such a way that I can (almost) come to accept that it is simply part of the learning process. In her chapter, “The Allure of Certainty,” she talks about the importance of being committed to and deliberate in our actions (i.e., not constantly waffling and doubting), but also of the pitfalls of being too certain about what we believe. Here’s an interesting quote from her book (page 178):

If the undecided voter has a strong suit, that is it: she knows that she could be wrong.  If the rest of us have a strong suit, it is that we care, passionately, about our beliefs. As conflicting as these two strengths might initially seem, they can, in theory, be reconciled. The psychologist Rollo May once wrote about the “seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time that we might possibly be wrong.” Note that this is not an argument for centrism, or for abandoning the courage of our convictions. May’s point was precisely that we can retain our convictions– and our conviction–while jettisoning the barricade of certainty that surrounds them. Our commitment to an idea, he concluded, “is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.”

Here’s more on doubt from Being Wrong:

…William Hirstein (the author Brain Fiction) calls doubt a “cognitive luxury,” one that “occurs only in highly developed nervous systems.” Hirstein has a point; you will be hard-pressed to find a skeptical mollusk. And what goes for our collective evolutionary past also goes for our individual developmental trajectory– which is why you will also be hard-pressed to find a skeptical one-year-old. “The child learns by believing the adult,” Wittgenstein observed. “Doubt comes after belief.”.. Doubt, it seems, is a skill–and one that…needs to be learned and honed. Credulity, by contrast, appears to be something very like an instinct.

And another quote from page 287:

…the psychologist Carl Jung… argued that our conscious and unconscious beliefs exist in opposition to each other. The more vociferously someone defends a belief, Jung held, the more we can be sure that he is defending it primarily against his own internal doubts, which will someday surge into consciousness and force a polar shift in perspective. According to Jung, this was especially true of the most dogmatic beliefs — which, by rendering all conscious doubt impermissible, must be all the more subconsciously resisted, and thus all the more unstable. (The obvious and important implication of this argument is that the more we can accommodate ambivalence, counterevidence, and doubt, the more stable our beliefs and identities will be.)

This would possibly argue that for a faith to be mature and true, it must move from a simple blind faith through a stage of doubt to faith that believes in the face of doubt. Before you condemn me as a heretic (and I will heartily admit that I am currently struggling with doubt about my faith!), I will pull out some C.S. Lewis in my defense — it is my favorite passage from one of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair. Puddleglum the Marshwiggle is trapped by the evil witch in the underworld with Lucy and Eustace and the Prince Rilian. The witch is trying to charm them into believe that there is no such thing as Narnia / the over world, and Puddleglum replies:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said… “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

Talk about looking doubt in the face, fully acknowledging it, and then still choosing to believe. I think that’s real faith.