What holds us back? Brene Brown says…

By Freda Marver 11 years agoNo Comments

What holds us back? Brene Brown says…

Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. — Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown is both Texas-born storyteller and social work professor. She is approaching cult status with her work on the unexpected topic of shame and vulnerability. When speaking, she leaves us equally entertained and uncomfortable because her words make us smile, but when we stop to think, they ring true on a deep level. For example, Brown says that when individuals hear what she has to say about shame, they either respond:

  • I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with me, or
  • I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I don’t want to discuss it.

Yet, she continues. “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”

Brown’s work is so relevant to life and career coaching because fear of failure and its potential to cause shame keep many of us from exploring what we truly want in our lives. She says that shame drives two thought patterns: “You are not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”

Brown cautions that shame’s survival is ensured because we don’t want to talk about it — so she does, and many are listening.

Her 2010 TED talk has been viewed over seven million times. Late last year, she was interviewed by Krista Tippet on NPR. Brown holds that the reason we don’t try isn’t our fear of failure, but our fear of the shame that will result from that failure.


What will others think of me if it doesn’t work out?

She describes shame as that feeling we have when we think about things we don’t want anyone to know about us — things we may have done or even aspects of who we are. Shame leaves us feeling small and unworthy and wanting to hide.

Brown argues that in order to go after what we want, it is imperative to remind ourselves that even when we are hurt or scared, we won’t be alone, and that we are worthy of belonging and connection to others. She argues that acknowledging and feeling shame and vulnerability – rather than stuffing it down – gives us the courage to change and move in the direction of our hopes and dreams.

I want to do something different with my life.

As a career and life coach, I see Brown’s research come to life first-hand with clients who tell me: “I’m afraid” or “I’m embarrassed” or voice other concerns, such as:

  • I have an idea of the work I’d like to do, but how do I know if I’ll be any good at it, especially when there are already so many people who do it well?
  • Is it selfish for me to even think about changing jobs when I already have one, and there are so many people out of work?
  • Am I really that unhappy? So many others have it worse than I do.
  • I used to be so confident and now I don’t even know where to begin.
  • And the one overshadowing them all: what will people think of me if I try something new and it doesn’t work out?

When I help clients work through what’s holding them back, I see surges of insight and confidence and empowerment come their way. It’s from that point that they can explore choices and make the changes they want in their lives. It takes courage for a client to say:

  • I want to do something different with my life — even if I am afraid that it isn’t practical or I might not succeed or that others will criticize me.


Giving voice to the fear of failure opens us up to the possibility of change.

If you are interested in how coaching can help you or someone you know move in new directions, please contact me or check out my introductory coaching session.

To learn more about Brown’s work and its relation to making changes in your career or life, here are two resources:

And – please stay tuned for my March newsletter, which expands on a recurrent question: What do I do when people tell me to follow my passion, but I don’t know what it is?

Best –





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