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Annotated captions of Brené Brown: Listening to shame in English

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I'm going to tell you a little bit

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about my TEDxHouston Talk.

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I woke up the morning after I gave that Talk

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with the worst vulnerability hangover

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of my life.

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And I actually didn't leave my house

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for about three days.

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The first time I left was to meet a friend for lunch.

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And when I walked in, she was already at the table.

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And I sat down, and she said,

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"God, you look like hell."

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I said, "Thanks. I feel really --

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I'm not functioning."

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And she said, "What's going on?"

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And I said, "I just told

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500 people

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that I became a researcher

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to avoid vulnerability.

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And that when being vulnerable

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emerged from my data,

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as absolutely essential

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to whole-hearted living,

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00:56

I told these 500 people

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that I had a breakdown.

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01:00

I had a slide that said Breakdown.

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01:03

At what point did I think that was a good idea?"

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01:06

(Laughter)

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And she said, "I saw your Talk live-streamed.

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01:10

It was not really you.

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It was a little different than what you usually do.

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But it was great."

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01:16

And I said,

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01:18

"This can't happen.

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YouTube, they're putting this thing on YouTube.

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And we're going to be talking about 600, 700 people."

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(Laughter)

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And she said, "Well, I think it's too late."

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And I said, "Let me ask you something."

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And she said, "Yeah."

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And I said, "Do you remember when we were in college

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and really wild and kind of dumb?"

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And she said, "Yeah."

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And I said, "Remember when we'd leave a really bad message

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on our ex-boyfriend's answering machine?

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Then we'd have to break into his dorm room

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and then erase the tape?"

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(Laughter)

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And she goes, "Uh ... no."

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01:56

(Laughter)

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So of course, the only thing I could think of to say at that point was,

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"Yeah, me neither.

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That ... me neither."

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And I'm thinking to myself,

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"Brene, what are you doing? What are you doing?

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02:13

Why did you bring this up? Have you lost your mind?

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Your sisters would be perfect for this."

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So I looked back up and she said,

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02:23

"Are you really going to try to break in

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and steal the video

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before they put it on YouTube?"

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And I said, "I'm just thinking about it a little bit."

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(Laughter)

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She said, "You're like the worst vulnerability role model ever."

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(Laughter)

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And then I looked at her and I said something

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that at the time felt a little dramatic,

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but ended up being more prophetic than dramatic.

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I said,

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"If 500 turns into 1,000

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or 2,000,

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my life is over."

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02:58

(Laughter)

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I had no contingency plan for four million.

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(Laughter)

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And my life did end when that happened.

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And maybe the hardest part about my life ending

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is that I learned something hard about myself,

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and that was that,

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as much as I would frustrated

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about not being able to get my work out to the world,

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there was a part of me that was working very hard

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to engineer staying small,

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staying right under the radar.

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But I want to talk about what I've learned.

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There's two things that I've learned in the last year.

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The first is

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vulnerability is not weakness.

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And that myth

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is profoundly dangerous.

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Let me ask you honestly --

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and I'll give you this warning,

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03:57

I'm trained as a therapist,

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04:00

so I can out-wait you uncomfortably --

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so if you could just raise your hand that would be awesome --

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how many of you honestly,

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when you're thinking about doing something vulnerable

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or saying something vulnerable,

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think, "God, vulnerability's weakness. This is weakness?"

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How many of you think of vulnerability and weakness synonymously?

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The majority of people.

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Now let me ask you this question:

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This past week at TED,

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how many of you, when you saw vulnerability up here,

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thought it was pure courage?

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Vulnerability is not weakness.

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I define vulnerability

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as emotional risk,

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exposure, uncertainty.

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It fuels our daily lives.

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And I've come to the belief --

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this is my 12th year doing this research --

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that vulnerability

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is our most accurate measurement

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of courage --

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to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen,

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to be honest.

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05:00

One of the weird things that's happened

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is, after the TED explosion,

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I got a lot of offers to speak all over the country --

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everyone from schools and parent meetings

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to Fortune 500 companies.

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And so many of the calls went like this,

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"Hey, Dr. Brown. We loved your TEDTalk.

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We'd like you to come in and speak.

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We'd appreciate it

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if you wouldn't mention vulnerability or shame."

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05:26

(Laughter)

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05:29

What would you like for me to talk about?

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05:31

There's three big answers.

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05:34

This is mostly, to be honest with you, from the business sector:

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innovation, creativity

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and change.

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So let me go on the record

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and say,

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vulnerability is the birthplace

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of innovation, creativity and change.

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05:54

(Applause)

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06:00

To create is to make something

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that has never existed before.

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There's nothing more vulnerable than that.

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06:08

Adaptability to change

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is all about vulnerability.

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The second thing,

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in addition to really finally understanding

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the relationship between vulnerability and courage,

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the second thing I learned is this:

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We have to talk about shame.

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And I'm going to be really honest with you.

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06:32

When I became a "vulnerability researcher"

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and that became the focus because of the TEDTalk --

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and I'm not kidding.

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I'll give you an example.

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About three months ago, I was in a sporting goods store

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buying goggles and shin guards

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and all the things that parents buy at the sporting goods store.

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About from a hundred feet away, this is what I hear:

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"Vulnerability TED! Vulnerability TED!"

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07:00

(Laughter)

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I'm a fifth generation Texan.

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Our family motto is "Lock and load."

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I am not a natural vulnerability researcher.

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So I'm like,

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just keep walking, she's on my six.

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07:16

(Laughter)

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And then I hear, "Vulnerability TED!"

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I turn around, I go, "Hi."

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She's right here and she said,

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"You're the shame researcher who had the breakdown."

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(Laughter)

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At this point

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parents are, like, pulling their children close.

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"Look away."

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And I'm so worn out at this point in my life,

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I look at her and I actually say,

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"It was a frickin' spiritual awakening."

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(Laughter)

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(Applause)

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And she looks back and does this,

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"I know."

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And she said,

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"We watched your TEDTalk in my book club.

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Then we read your book

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and we renamed ourselves

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'The Breakdown Babes.'"

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And she said, "Our tagline is:

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'We're falling apart and it feels fantastic.'"

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(Laughter)

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You can only imagine

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what it's like for me in a faculty meeting.

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So when I became Vulnerability TED,

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like an action figure --

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like Ninja Barbie, but I'm Vulnerability TED --

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I thought, I'm going to leave that shame stuff behind,

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because I spent six years studying shame

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before I really started writing and talking about vulnerability.

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And I thought, thank God, because shame is this horrible topic,

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no one wants to talk about it.

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It's the best way to shut people down on an airplane.

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08:52

"What do you do?" "I study shame." "Oh."

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08:54

(Laughter)

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And I see you.

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09:02

(Laughter)

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But in surviving this last year,

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I was reminded of a cardinal rule --

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not a research rule,

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but a moral imperative

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from my upbringing --

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you've got to dance with the one who brung ya.

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And I did not learn about vulnerability

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and courage and creativity and innovation

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from studying vulnerability.

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I learned about these things

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from studying shame.

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And so I want to walk you in

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to shame.

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Jungian analysts call shame

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the swampland of the soul.

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And we're going to walk in.

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And the purpose is not to walk in

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and construct a home and live there.

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09:51

It is to put on some galoshes

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and walk through and find our way around.

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Here's why.

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We heard the most compelling call ever

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to have a conversation in this country,

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and I think globally,

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around race, right?

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Yes? We heard that.

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Yes?

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Cannot have that conversation without shame,

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because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege.

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And when people start talking about privilege,

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they get paralyzed by shame.

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We heard a brilliant simple solution

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to not killing people in surgery,

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which is have a checklist.

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You can't fix that problem without addressing shame,

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because when they teach those folks how to suture,

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they also teach them how to stitch their self-worth

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to being all-powerful.

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And all-powerful folks don't need checklists.

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And I had to write down the name of this TED Fellow

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so I didn't mess it up here.

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Myshkin Ingawale,

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I hope I did right by you.

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10:58

(Applause)

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11:00

I saw the TED Fellows my first day here.

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And he got up and he explained

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how he was driven to create

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some technology to help test for anemia

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because people were dying unnecessarily.

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And he said, "I saw this need.

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So you know what I did? I made it."

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And everybody just burst into applause, and they were like "Yes!"

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And he said, "And it didn't work.

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And then I made it 32 more times,

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and then it worked."

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You know what the big secret about TED is?

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I can't wait to tell people this.

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I guess I'm doing it right now.

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(Laughter)

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This is like the failure conference.

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No, it is.

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11:39

(Applause)

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You know why this place is amazing?

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Because very few people here

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are afraid to fail.

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And no one who gets on the stage, so far that I've seen, has not failed.

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I've failed miserably, many times.

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I don't think the world understands that

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because of shame.

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12:00

There's a great quote that saved me this past year

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by Theodore Roosevelt.

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A lot of people refer to it as the "Man in the Arena" quote.

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And it goes like this:

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"It is not the critic who counts.

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It is not the man who sits and points out

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how the doer of deeds could have done things better

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and how he falls and stumbles.

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The credit goes to the man in the arena

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whose face is marred

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with dust and blood and sweat.

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But when he's in the arena,

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at best he wins,

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and at worst he loses,

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but when he fails, when he loses,

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he does so daring greatly."

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And that's what this conference, to me, is about.

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That's what life is about, about daring greatly,

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about being in the arena.

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When you walk up to that arena and you put your hand on the door,

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and you think, "I'm going in and I'm going to try this,"

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shame is the gremlin

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who says, "Uh, uh.

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12:56

You're not good enough.

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12:59

You never finished that MBA. Your wife left you.

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13:01

I know your dad really wasn't in Luxembourg,

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he was in Sing Sing.

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I know those things that happened to you growing up.

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I know you don't think that you're pretty enough

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or smart enough or talented enough or powerful enough.

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I know your dad never paid attention, even when you made CFO."

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Shame is that thing.

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And if we can quiet it down and walk in

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and say, "I'm going to do this,"

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we look up and the critic that we see

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pointing and laughing,

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99 percent of the time is who?

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Us.

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13:39

Shame drives two big tapes --

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13:41

"never good enough"

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and, if you can talk it out of that one,

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"who do you think you are?"

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The thing to understand about shame is it's not guilt.

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Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior.

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Shame is "I am bad."

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13:57

Guilt is "I did something bad."

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13:59

How many of you,

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14:01

if you did something that was hurtful to me,

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14:03

would be willing to say, "I'm sorry. I made a mistake?"

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14:06

How many of you would be willing to say that?

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14:09

Guilt: I'm sorry. I made a mistake.

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14:13

Shame: I'm sorry. I am a mistake.

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There's a huge difference between shame and guilt.

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And here's what you need to know.

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Shame is highly, highly correlated

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with addiction, depression, violence, aggression,

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bullying, suicide, eating disorders.

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And here's what you even need to know more.

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Guilt, inversely correlated with those things.

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The ability to hold something we've done or failed to do

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up against who we want to be

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is incredibly adaptive.

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It's uncomfortable, but it's adaptive.

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The other thing you need to know about shame

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is it's absolutely organized by gender.

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14:55

If shame washes over me and washes over Chris,

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it's going to feel the same.

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15:01

Everyone sitting in here knows the warm wash of shame.

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We're pretty sure that the only people who don't experience shame

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are people who have no capacity

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for connection or empathy.

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15:09

Which means, yes, I have a little shame;

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no, I'm a sociopath.

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15:14

So I would opt for, yes, you have a little shame.

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Shame feels the same for men and women,

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but it's organized by gender.

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15:23

For women,

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the best example I can give you

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15:27

is Enjoli

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the commercial:

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15:31

"I can put the wash on the line,

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15:33

pack the lunches, hand out the kisses

tedtalks 15:33
15:35

and be at work at five to nine.

tedtalks 15:35
15:38

I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan

tedtalks 15:38
15:41

and never let you forget you're a man."

tedtalks 15:41
15:43

For women, shame is do it all,

tedtalks 15:43
15:45

do it perfectly

tedtalks 15:45
15:48

and never let them see you sweat.

tedtalks 15:48
15:51

I don't know how much perfume that commercial sold,

tedtalks 15:51
15:53

but I guarantee you,

tedtalks 15:53
15:55

it moved a lot of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds.

tedtalks 15:55
15:58

(Laughter)

tedtalks 15:59
16:02

Shame, for women, is this web

tedtalks 16:02
16:05

of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations

tedtalks 16:05
16:08

about who we're supposed to be.

tedtalks 16:09
16:11

And it's a straight-jacket.

tedtalks 16:11
16:13

For men,

tedtalks 16:13
16:16

shame is not a bunch of competing, conflicting expectations.

tedtalks 16:16
16:18

Shame is one,

tedtalks 16:18
16:21

do not be perceived as what?

tedtalks 16:21
16:23

Weak.

tedtalks 16:23
16:26

I did not interview men for the first four years of my study.

tedtalks 16:26
16:28

And it wasn't until a man looked at me one day after a book signing,

tedtalks 16:28
16:30

said, "I love what you have to say about shame,

tedtalks 16:30
16:32

I'm curious why you didn't mention men."

tedtalks 16:32
16:35

And I said, "I don't study men."

tedtalks 16:35
16:37

And he said, "That's convenient."

tedtalks 16:37
16:40

(Laughter)

tedtalks 16:40
16:42

And I said, "Why?"

tedtalks 16:42
16:45

And he said, "Because you say to reach out,

tedtalks 16:45
16:47

tell our story,

tedtalks 16:47
16:50

be vulnerable.

tedtalks 16:50
16:52

But you see those books you just signed

tedtalks 16:52
16:54

for my wife and my three daughters?"

tedtalks 16:54
16:56

I said, "Yeah."

tedtalks 16:56
16:59

"They'd rather me die on top of my white horse

tedtalks 16:59
17:02

than watch me fall down.

tedtalks 17:02
17:05

When we reach out and be vulnerable

tedtalks 17:05
17:07

we get the shit beat out of us.

tedtalks 17:07
17:09

And don't tell me

tedtalks 17:09
17:13

it's from the guys and the coaches and the dads,

tedtalks 17:13
17:17

because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else."

tedtalks 17:17
17:19

So I started interviewing men

tedtalks 17:19
17:21

and asking questions.

tedtalks 17:21
17:24

And what I learned is this:

tedtalks 17:24
17:26

You show me a woman who can actually sit with a man

tedtalks 17:26
17:28

in real vulnerability and fear,

tedtalks 17:28
17:32

I'll show you a woman who's done incredible work.

tedtalks 17:32
17:34

You show me a man who can sit with a woman

tedtalks 17:34
17:36

who's just had it,

tedtalks 17:36
17:39

she can't do it all anymore,

tedtalks 17:39
17:41

and his first response is not,

tedtalks 17:41
17:44

"I unloaded the dishwasher,"

tedtalks 17:44
17:47

but he really listens --

tedtalks 17:47
17:49

because that's all we need --

tedtalks 17:49
17:51

I'll show you a guy who's done a lot of work.

tedtalks 17:51
17:54

Shame is an epidemic in our culture.

tedtalks 17:56
18:01

And to get out from underneath it,

tedtalks 18:01
18:03

to find our way back to each other,

tedtalks 18:03
18:05

we have to understand how it affects us

tedtalks 18:05
18:08

and how it affects the way we're parenting,

tedtalks 18:08
18:12

the way we're working, the way we're looking at each other.

tedtalks 18:12
18:16

Very quickly, some research by Mahalik at Boston College.

tedtalks 18:16
18:19

He asked, what do women need to do to conform to female norms?

tedtalks 18:19
18:23

The top answers in this country:

tedtalks 18:23
18:25

nice, thin, modest

tedtalks 18:25
18:28

and use all available resources for appearance.

tedtalks 18:28
18:30

When he asked about men,

tedtalks 18:30
18:32

what do men in this country need to do

tedtalks 18:32
18:34

to conform with male norms,

tedtalks 18:34
18:36

the answers were:

tedtalks 18:36
18:39

always show emotional control, work is first,

tedtalks 18:39
18:42

pursue status and violence.

tedtalks 18:42
18:45

If we're going to find our way back to each other,

tedtalks 18:45
18:48

we have to understand and know empathy,

tedtalks 18:48
18:50

because empathy's the antidote to shame.

tedtalks 18:50
18:52

If you put shame in a Petri dish,

tedtalks 18:52
18:55

it needs three things to grow exponentially:

tedtalks 18:55
18:57

secrecy, silence and judgment.

tedtalks 18:57
19:00

If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy,

tedtalks 19:00
19:02

it can't survive.

tedtalks 19:02
19:05

The two most powerful words when we're in struggle:

tedtalks 19:05
19:07

me too.

tedtalks 19:07
19:10

And so I'll leave you with this thought.

tedtalks 19:10
19:12

If we're going to find our way

tedtalks 19:12
19:15

back to each other,

tedtalks 19:15
19:19

vulnerability is going to be that path.

tedtalks 19:19
19:21

And I know it's seductive to stand outside the arena,

tedtalks 19:21
19:23

because I think I did it my whole life,

tedtalks 19:23
19:25

and think to myself,

tedtalks 19:25
19:27

I'm going to go in there and kick some ass

tedtalks 19:27
19:31

when I'm bulletproof and when I'm perfect.

tedtalks 19:31
19:33

And that is seductive.

tedtalks 19:33
19:36

But the truth is that never happens.

tedtalks 19:36
19:38

And even if you got as perfect as you could

tedtalks 19:38
19:40

and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster

tedtalks 19:40
19:42

when you got in there,

tedtalks 19:42
19:46

that's not what we want to see.

tedtalks 19:46
19:49

We want you to go in.

tedtalks 19:49
19:52

We want to be with you and across from you.

tedtalks 19:52
19:54

And we just want,

tedtalks 19:54
19:56

for ourselves and the people we care about

tedtalks 19:56
19:58

and the people we work with,

tedtalks 19:58
20:00

to dare greatly.

tedtalks 20:00
20:03

So thank you all very much. I really appreciate it.

tedtalks 20:03
20:17

(Applause)