What I Learnt from Brené Brown

I read this Guardian article recently about people who have aversions to recommendations. I think I often fall into this category (and to confirm, I have never seen any Game of Thrones).

I have managed to resist Brené Brown’s work for years, until about a month ago when I succumbed and watched her TED talk - one of the most popular of all time.

What then followed was a (accepted!) recommendation of her book The Power of Vulnerability. I downloaded the audio book and the 6 hours and 31 minutes were devoured in just four days.

Brené is so personable and her qualitative research on fear, shame and vulnerability is peppered with both heartbreaking and hilarious stories from her subjects, as well as her husband, kids, friends and wider family.

So what did I learn? Apart from the 10 guideposts for wholehearted living which she goes through in the book, these lessons struck me the most:

We all care what others think of us

Brené points out two thoughts we all often come up against when pursuing something new, or even just getting around in our regular everyday life:

  1. ‘I’m not good enough’
  2. ‘Who do I think I am?’

Being crippled by what others think is so common for many people, and I do find some comfort in that commonality.

This blog was a huge undertaking for me and believe me, the above questions have crossed my mind more than once when I press publish on a post…

Be who you are

One of Brené’s mantras is: ‘"Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground."  

Once I heard this, I could hear it ringing in my ears during the smallest day-to-day situations. So often in conversations I was playing myself down or changing my style to try and match or dominate another’s - particularly at work.

Thankfully I found this doesn’t happen often with those closest to me, but it’s a huge challenge to just be who you are without pretense or adjustments to suit those around you.

Choose empathy over sympathy

Confession - this section of the book had me welling up a little. So often we jump to sympathise with people when they’re vulnerable with us, but as Brené points out, this doesn’t put us side by side with them - it usually places us above them.

Empathy should be the real focus in these intimate conversations - even if we haven’t gone through the exact same situation as others, we can just say ‘that sounds like it’s really hard/horrible/sad/embarrassing’, rather than ‘oh, you poor thing’.

As Brené beautifully puts it - ‘sit in the dark with them, don’t flick on the lights’.

I could go on with more lessons, but we'll leave it there for today.

I'll finish with a quote about the wholehearted, vulnerable people Brené interviewed - she notes they were also usually the happiest...

“They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first. The willingness to do something when there are no guarantees. The willingness to invest into a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”

...And now to read the rest of her books! 


5 Lunch Break Ideas to Increase Your Productivity This Week

For my entire career, I’ve always been a huge proponent of taking my lunch break.

In fact I’m quite commonly known around the office as the one that will always go out for a walk at lunch, and have befriended many coworkers over the years who want to join me sporadically or regularly.

Clearly not every day or week lends itself to taking a full lunch break but, when possible, I try and recharge.

I find my afternoons are much more productive and I can reset my energy levels for the rest of the day.

Here are 5 ideas to try out this week.

Enjoy a book

Escapism is a great way to recharge your brain. After a busy morning, reading fiction can help you step out of the work grind and even strengthen brain connections and cognitive function

If you can’t find a cosy spot to read, download an Audible book and listen to it as you take a walk around the area.

Eat without digital distractions

This is a tough one that I continually have to work on.

It’s very easy to scoff your lunch while scrolling through all the Instagram marble bathroom or smoothie photos you’ve missed from the morning.

The problem is you very rarely enjoy your food and it’s easy to either eat past fullness or not feel full at all as you haven’t savoured your food.

I find it hard to stare into space while eating, but talking to coworkers at the office kitchen table is a good alternative and, as an added bonus, it helps build relationships.

Meet a friend

Use your lunch hour to catch up with a friend for lunch.

Chatting about topics other than work projects and enjoying a proper break at a local cafe will leave you ready to focus for the afternoon.

As an added bonus you won’t have to cram as many social engagements into the evenings and weekends if you utilise your lunch break for catch ups.

Listen to music

A good way to give your eyes a rest from screens is to plug in some good tunes.

You could enjoy music while lying in a nearby park, taking a walk (we’re seeing a pattern here) or browsing local shops.

Again it will help you get out of your own head and escape into whatever type of music works for you.

Pamper yourself

Self-care is a very positive way to spend the middle of your day.

Get a manicure, a short shoulder and neck massage or try out some makeup at a local cosmetics store.

The focus is on rejuvenating yourself and feeling fresh when you return for an afternoon of work.

What helps you recharge on your lunch break?