Brene Brown on Wholehearted Living


Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind, Emotion & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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“Connection is why we are here. It gives meaning and purpose to our lives.”

Brene Brown is a “researcher-storyteller” that studies human connection. She collects stories as her data.

The goal of science is to understand, control, and predict the world. Science loves certainty. As a child, I loved the natural sciences. I loved exploring the mysteries of the world and finding their explanations in science. Why is the sky blue? Why do we have clouds? Why does the ocean have waves?

Brene Brown is also a lover of science. She takes the tools of science and the scientific method to explore and answer the questions in her world of social work research. Like many of us, she wanted to understand, control, and predict the phenomena of human connection.

In studying connection, she discovered stories of disconnection and shame. She describes shame as the feeling of “I’m not good enough” and the “fear of disconnection” that we all live with. She discovered stories of the “excruciating vulnerability” required for connection. And then she found a category of people that she called the “wholehearted” who live with a strong sense of worthiness, love, and belonging.


What she discovered shook her beliefs to the core. Her science to understand, control, and predict had discovered that the way to live is NOT to understand, control, and predict. The “wholehearted” live by embracing vulnerability as necessary for connection. (Listen to her TED talk below for a humorous presentation on how she dealt with this “breakdown” and sought out a therapist.)

Tools of Wholehearted Living

The tools of the wholehearted are courage, compassion, and connection:

  • COURAGE to be imperfect, like the willingness to be seen, to show up, and to say “I love you” first
  • COMPASSION to be kind to ourselves
  • CONNECTION as a result of authenticity that fully embraces vulnerability to be seen and to show up

Brene Brown explores these tools in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life.

How do you face the sting of shame and the discomfort of vulnerability? Brene Brown says that we all use the same unconscious tools to numb ourselves, look for certainty, struggle for perfection, and blame others. How can we escape this? We can all live more conscious lives and enter into WHOLEHEARTED LIVING by embracing VULNERABILITY. We can embrace the paradox that we are all imperfect AND we are all worthy of love and belonging.

Only by practicing WHOLEHEARTED LIVING can we develop a sense of WHOLEHEARTEDNESS. Only then can we develop a strong sense of worthiness of love and belonging. And only then can we foster that in others, including the children of the next generation.

Escaping Perfectionism

As strange as it seems in a society that struggles for perfection, it is not perfection that makes us feel worthy of love and belonging. It is AUTHENTICITY (being vulnerable, allowing ourselves to be seen, showing up fully and loving with our whole heart) that will create true connection in our lives and thus create true love and belonging.

Watch the TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown

Read more blog posts about Brene Brown