“And maybe stories are just data with a soul.”
Brene Brown is a researcher-storyteller. A professor at the University of Houston, her work involves the language of humanity. She has spent the last thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, shame, and if you get to know her, you will realize that there isn’t a soul in this world who knows you better. She’s the CEO of The Daring Way, an organization centered around helping you live a braver life. “The Power Of Vulnerability”, her Ted Talk, is featured in the top five Talks of all time, and once you listen to her, you know why. Academic or professional qualifications celebrate her, but the absolute beauty that this woman is, lies in her knowledge of humanity; of how our souls work, of the deepest secrets we don’t even tell ourselves, and the magic we’re all capable of. While she laughed at the idea of being called a “magic-pixie”, she is nothing short of that.
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Here are 12 quotes by Brene Brown that tell you why you should be unabashedly, and truly, yourself.
1. “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
Altruistic tendencies have always preached ‘greatness’. You are not a saint. You are not the embodiment of all things good. If I was “sugar, spice, and everything nice”, I’d be a Powerpuff Girl. We carry our angels and demons on our shoulders, and anybody who disagrees just hasn’t found theirs yet. Do not be afraid of the darkness within, it only makes you human. We carry our hell and heaven within ourselves. Embrace it.
2. “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
In trying to aspire for greater things, we never learn to appreciate what we have. In dreaming of a sea-side villa, we never realize what the warmth of our own home gifts us every single day. We’re caught in a constant rat race, but what we don’t see is how, after a certain point, our opponents begin to fade out of our horizon. Before we even realize, the only person we are fighting against, is our own self. Like F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ Monica tried to outdo last year’s Monica in the Thanksgiving episode, our most toxic enemy is often our own mind.
Life does not always have to be about the extraordinary. Sometimes, it’s the ordinary that ropes in all the happiness. The sound of your mother working in the kitchen when you wake up, your sibling stifling you with a pillow because that’s how their love works, your coffee-stained work desk that has always been too small for your giant imagination, and the small cups of coffee from a roadside shack which smelled like the morning sun- I can promise you, happiness lies in accepting what you have, and learning that it’s better than everything you don’t.
3. “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
Escapism is not defense; it is self-harm. I’ve witnessed too many people retreat into a protective shield once they encounter something even remotely disturbing. I am one of them, and I try every day, not to be. There’s nothing wrong about ‘feeling’, it’s what your heart is meant to do! Can you imagine what every bookshelf would look like if we all decided to stop feeling at all. Everything comes in ‘two’s, and when you refuse the darkness, you close your doors on the light.
4. “Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.”
A walk down memory lane. This resonates a little too deeply in what I see all around me, particularly amongst modern day lovers. You can feel the assessment, the constant comparison, done by you, or your best friends, or the society at large, all of which will find their way to you. Understand that there is a reason why those things are in your past. Nostalgia tends to blur the details, and tricks our mind into believing that our good days are the ones that have gone by.
5. “I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
We spend a lifetime writing priority lists without our names on it. I cannot stress this enough, but being your own best friend is the best thing that is ever going to happen to you. Can you imagine somebody learning your deepest secrets, of who you are, all that you have done, the good, bad, the ugly, the mildly disturbing, the things you would never tell, the person you would never be in front of anybody else. Can you imagine standing before the mirror and have it smile back at you? (In a very non-horror-movie-ish way) And, better still, can you imagine that very person accepting you for all that you are? You are wonderful, and it should be your No. 1 priority to remind yourself that, every day of your life, because you deserve it. Know yourself, take time off to get to know what you mean when you say ‘I’, and life will never be the same again.
6. “If you want to make a difference, the next time you see someone being cruel to another human being, take it personally. Take it personally because it is personal!”
We are a family. Rohan Sarkar’s spoken word poem ‘Looking The Other Way’, ends with: “Finally, they came for me. And that day, there was no one left to speak for me.” We look away when we witness cruelty, but expect compassion and understanding when we find ourselves spiraling downward. “You get what you give”. Be there for another person, for every person you possibly can, not simply because you want them to be there for you, but because cruelty to anybody, anything, in any context in this whole wide world, is not justified. Remember, in the wake of destruction, no excuse is good enough.
7. “Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak.”
While this is no different for women, I want to make this point especially for men. Emotions do not make you weak, they make you sane. You know the eyes that reflect a stone cold heart have often, in the line of history, belonged to a serial killer. Unless of course you’re Jack The Ripper, this is for you. Scream, cry, shout, express what you want to, let your hurt be felt, your strained voice be heard, your tears not be hidden behind coughs and ‘excuse me’s. What is a world that teaches you that your own heart makes you less masculine? There is no shame in being vulnerable, no matter your gender, race, ethnic background, or what you had for breakfast. Our hearts all beat the same.
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8. “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
This is one of the strongest quotes by Brene Brown. Most of us are constantly overcome with ‘self-doubt’. We keep feeling and even worse, believing, that we have somehow missed the mark. Who sets the mark, and why they get to tell us what we ought to aspire to be, is something nobody questions. I see so many people around me, everyday, who are crippled by the thought that they aren’t worthy. They’re ashamed of not being “as good” or “as well-off” as they ought to be, and I am overcome with the urge to shake them up and deliver lengthy epistles on how they make my life a better place to be in. You may not know it, but you’ve left magic growing in several dark alleyways. The best version of yourself, is better than all the things you are not.
9. “Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behavior has gone to hell in a handbasket.”
We have been brought up in a world that preaches entitlement. We expect our lunch to be ready by the time we get home, our morning coffee to be delivered to our desks, our highways to be clear of all traffic because, clearly, you’re the only one in need of a road. The disaster transpires when this entitlement slips into all the spheres of our lives. We feel entitled to not have to send the first text, or be the first one to say sorry, or treat anybody but ourselves, right. We have become so entitled that the slightest gesture that falls below our expectations, unleashes the Hulk within us. Breathe in, and be kind. It only takes a moment.
10. “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”
The two cannot co-exist, right? You can either live a life guided by what everybody else had to say about you, how they thought you should dress, speak, eat, sit, love, and most dangerously, live, or you could be your own person. In letting others own your soul, you stand the risk of losing it completely. Everybody has one life, let the others fool around with their own.
11. “You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Stephen Chbosky wrote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” What if I told you that means “all of it”? Let’s face it, you will never be perfect. Not because your jaw line isn’t prominent, your mathematics is weak, you never quite understood science, or you ended up several inches shorter than your parents’ genes promised. It’s not because you don’t fit the standard of perfection, but because ‘perfection’ in itself does not exist. We are imperfect (Remember? Light and darkness?), and we are every bit worthy of all the love this world can hold.
12. “The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.”
Begin. Start somewhere. I cannot promise you the gold at the end of the rainbow, I refuse to tell you that success and happiness is all that await you in your journey, but I know, in the bottom of my heart, that whatever it is, scribbled in the corners of your journal, whatever it is, trying to lift its head from the hidden corners of your mind, whatever it is, that you have been too afraid to bring into the light, is worth taking the plunge for. You have to step out in order to step ahead. Be your best friend, do yourself a favor, and begin. Because you, oh you, are worth it all!
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Brene Brown is an inspiration in the strength that she carries. In being a powerhouse herself, she exudes so much courage that simply her words are enough to shine us through. In a vortex that life often is, I hope these quotes by Brene Brown, have given you what it takes to push forward.
“We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight”
–Courageous, Casting Crowns