Brené Brown Netflix Special: Advice on Vulnerability from 'The Call to Courage'

In her capacity as a research professor at the University of Houston, Brené Brown studies some of our most complex emotions and social interactions, like shame and vulnerability, developing a theory of shame resilience in women based on hundreds of interviews. Ever since a blockbuster 2010 TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability, Brown has synthesized her findings for huge audiences. Brown is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, her latest book is Dare to Lead. On Friday, Netflix released Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, in which she shares how bravery, belonging, vulnerability and joy interrelate, both in our personal lives and in how they resonate through society.

While her conclusions are founded in research, Brown's approach in The Call to Courage emphasizes the personal, beginning with her own struggles to choose to put herself out into the world and embrace vulnerability, which she defines as "the feeling we get when we feel uncertain, at risk, or emotionally exposed."

"The fear of shame, the fear of criticism, was so great in my life up until that point, I mean just paralyzing, that I engineered smallness in my life. I did not take chances. I did not put myself out there. I mean, I just didn't," Brown says, describing how she felt after her TED talk exploded into a viral sensation with over 35 million views, putting her in the public spotlight. "It wasn't worth it to me to step into my power and play big, because I didn't know if I could literally, physically withstand the criticism."

She found inspiration in an unexpected place. "You can't really be brave without vulnerability," Brown says in The Call to Courage, referencing a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt that inspired her 2012 book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brown relayed Roosevelt's words:

"It's not the critic who counts, it's not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done it different. The credit belongs to the person who's actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again and again and who in the end, while he may know the triumph of high achievement, at least when he fails he does so daring greatly."

Brené Brown Netflix Special: How to Embrace Vulnerability

"We can’t go it alone. We’re neurobiologically hardwired for other people. In the absence of connection, love and belonging, there is always suffering," Brown says in 'The Call to Courage.' Netflix

So how can you dare greatly? Here's just a sample of Brown's advice. Her full talk, Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, is streaming now on Netflix.

How to Choose Courage by Embracing Failure

"You choose to live in the arena, you're going to get your ass kicked. You're going to fall, you're going to fail, you're going to know heartbreak," Brown says in her Netflix special. "These are the words I say before my feet hit the floor every day: today I'll choose courage over comfort. I can't make commitments for tomorrow, but today, I'm going to choose to be brave and I know what that means."

Key to this courage is recognizing that vulnerability isn't a weakness, but instead the proper measure of courage. "We can measure how brave you are by how vulnerable you are willing to be," Brown says.

Ignore the Cheap Seats

While Brown believes a willingness to be vulnerable is essential to courage, she cautions simply opening yourself up to the torrent of criticism modern society can bring, particularly in online venues. In a continuation of her and Teddy's arena metaphor, Brown urges people not to open their hearts to just anyone.

"Don't grab that hurtful stuff from the cheap seats and pull it close, don't pull it anywhere near your heart. Just let it fall to the ground. You don't have to stomp it or kick it, you've just got to step over it and keep going. You can't take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives," Brown says. "The deal is that you have to be very specific about people whose opinions of you matter. It's not that you don't give a shit what anyone thinks, just don't give a shit about what some people think. And then really solicit feedback from the people that do give you good feedback. And you know who makes that list? I'll tell you who should make the list: People who like you, not despite your imperfection and vulnerability, but because of your imperfection and vulnerability."

The Difference Between Belonging and Fitting In

Many emotions can come from our vulnerability and Brown acknowledges that it will sometimes lead to shame, fear, grief and scarcity. But in The Call to Courage she also describes vulnerability as the "birthplace" of love, belonging and joy.

"How can you let yourself be loved, if you can't be seen?" Brown asks. "Vulnerability is the path back to each other, but we're so afraid to get on it."

But sometimes it's possible to confuse fitting in for belonging, a crucial mistake. "The opposite of belong, from the research, is fitting in. Fitting in is assessing and acclimating: 'Here's what I should say, or be, here's what I shouldn't say and avoid talking about,'" Brown says. "That's fitting in. Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth. Telling your story. And never betraying yourself for other people. True belonging doesn't require you to change you who are, it requires you to be who you are."

The Joy Variable

Finding joy is particularly difficult, and Brown describes it as the "most vulnerable of all human emotions." According to Brown's research, the people who could best experience joy shared a common variable: gratitude. "The people who could really lean into joy, they didn't dress rehearse tragedy, they didn't practice the terrible things, they just leaned in," Brown says. "They practiced gratitude."

Brown suggests doing some joyful things "for the hell of it," choosing what's frivolous or fun without looking out for the "ROI or payoff or upside."

Through all of her advice in Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, she emphasizes how central vulnerability is to human experience. This makes it preferable to experience vulnerability consciously, rather than imagining yourself invulnerable and "working your shit out on other people."

"You do vulnerability, knowingly or unknowingly. And here's the thing, here's why we need it: man, it is so much easier to cause pain than feel pain," Brown says.