Brené Brown: Listening to Shame

March 17th, 2012 by Pelle Billing

I just saw a TED talk about shame. The speaker was Brené Brown, who’s previously talked about vulnerablity.

This talk is especially interesting from a gender perspective, since she addresses the specific types of shame that men and women tend to struggle with. For women it’s more of a case of wanting to be perfect, and wanting to handle everything from having a nice home to keeping it together at work. For men it’s about always being strong and not showing any weakness.

So how does this relate to gender issues? To feminism? Well, feminism (combined with consumerism and the traditional female gender role) can be a driver of female shame, since it tells women that they can have it all, they can do it all, and perhaps they even should do and have it all.

For men, the obligation to always be strong (in order to avoid shame) means that it is very hard to address men’s issues. Talking about men’s issues feels like admitting to weakness, even though it’s really about vulnerability and being human.

Enough said. I leave you with her talk. Let me know what you think in the comments.

12 Responses to “Brené Brown: Listening to Shame”

  1. Hördur Says:

    I’m not sure she understands what courage is… showing vulnerability is showing weakness, and that is why it is courageous. In essence, it is impossible to be brave without being afraid. If showing vulnerability was not a sign of weakness, it wouldn’t be courageous, it would just be banal.

  2. Zeus Vapor Says:

    Feminism is a hate movement first and foremost. It is entrenched In discrimination, double standards and misinformation. And while I can’t speak for all men I will say that men I know do not have a difficult time sharing ideas when there’s a common cause to focus on. I would also say that they do not see sharing ideas as a weakness.

  3. Yoav Moran Says:

    Sharing ideas is not considered as weakness in men, of course not. But what about sharing emotions? Sharing deep feelings of inadequacy or fears?
    A lady friend of mine always says that what thing she detests about men is how they speak all the time on higher subjects – ideology, philosophy, art – but everything they say stays on surface. Most of them don’t try to reach more internal subjects. For that – they need to look vulnerable.
    I really like this talk, and I agree with her on the distinction she does between men and women. And this is really one of the harder things in helping men – most of them will die inside but when you ask them how they are they’ll respond: “fine”.
    I have a friend that always keeps a cheery outlook. But since we were close friends before, I know how hard his life are now – working all day, taking care of a girl, answering to a wife that’s never pleased. But still, he always say he’s fine and smiles. Only after long conversations (more than an hour) I will start to see the hurt being addressed. This is tough and tiring.

  4. Pelle Billing Says:


    I agree. Being vulnerable and authentic has not been part of the traditional male gender role, so it is something we men need to create together, going forward into the future.

  5. James Barrow Says:

    Hi Pelle – I saw this video via another link and was glad I watched it to the end when she referenced the guy telling her “That’s convenient” when she admitted that she hadn’t studied men’s shame at all (wtf!!?).

    However, I appreciate how she immediately understood that she had been missing a huge aspect within her studies – like half the population of the planet! The comment that stuck with me most was whe she quoated the same guy saying (and I am paraphrasing here) “the women in my life would rather see me die falling off my white horse than see me genuinely vulnerable”. Hmm, I’m still sitting with that. Is that really the case for most women, or was that just this guy’s situation, or is it somehting that many men imagine but is not actually true?

    Anyway, thanks for the link – I think Brene Brown’s work is really really important stuff for any gender.

  6. Pelle Billing Says:


    Yeah, I wonder if that man was talking about weakness or vulnerability. The distinction is not made often enough, but I believe it’s crucial for men. Vulnerability is the paradoxical x-factor that can liberate men.

  7. Dean Esmay Says:

    “the women in my life would rather see me die falling off my white horse than see me genuinely vulnerable.”

    The line struck me so hard tears came to my eyes and I breathed a little heavy.

    I’ve experienced extraordinary contempt for expressing vulnerability, more often from women than men I’ve noticed.

  8. Pelle Billing Says:


    Yeah, I think a lot of men can relate to that phrase in one form or other.

    It’s great though that you were moved by that phrase; it means you still have access to your own vulnerability and emotions. We need that as men.

  9. Zac Says:

    I love Brown’s talks. This one with her talk about vulnerability were amazing. I recently read this article about sexual shame, where it comes from, how it harms us, and how to overcome it. A lot of it seems to go right along with what Brown is saying in general.

    What do you think?

  10. Pelle Billing Says:

    Yeah, good article. In fact, the whole site looks interesting.

  11. Pelle Billing Says:

    Oh, so that’s your site? I didn’t get that at first.
    I looked at some of your other stuff (products, etc) and really resonate with your approach.

  12. Wolfwolveswolf Says:

    NO joke! Where does MONEY fit into all of this, for her and the rest of all the western women, being so important and first most in how MEN qualify to them as worthy?