Brene Brown: ‘Everyone’s bullsh-t meter is really sensitive right now’

I know a lot of you are familiar with and follow self help expert, professor Brene Brown. Honestly I don’t really know much about her. I’ve tried watching her Ted Talk and I couldn’t finish it! She’s kind of off-putting to me for some reason, I think because she’s so blunt. Anyway Brene was on The Tonight Show, where she gave advice for surviving our current situation. I like what she said, but her delivery was somewhat off. Maybe I just need to give her a chance.

On how she’s quarantining
There are 12 of us quarantined between two houses, one in Austin and one in Houston, sisters, families. We got my mom out of assisted living last minute as they were closing the doors. So [we’ve] got a big crew.

On her plans for her commencement speech to University of Texas at Austin
I think everyone’s bullsh-t meter is really sensitive right now. I think it’s just straight talk. Take a look, here’s a big secret, adults are just winging it.

What is an FFT?
It’s a f’ing first time. It’s so helpful because there’s a process you can follow when you’re doing something for the first time. First times are super vulnerable. We get to a place in our lives where we don’t want to do anything that we’re not already good at doing. We don’t want to suck at something. Unfortunately that muscle that we use when we do first things is the lifeblood, it’s the secret sauce to life. That discomfort, that cringiness.

The three things that are super helpful is: name it, take perspective – this is going to end at some point, this is not going to last forever – [and] check expectations – nothing is going to go like we have planned.

What do you say to someone who asks what is going to happen?
I know for sure that we will have a huge opportunity to be better than we were before we went into [this]. A crisis like this shines a light on fault lines in our communities, in our families, in our country, in our services. We’re seeing disproportionately affected people. We’ll have an opportunity to be better. We’re stronger than we think.

[From The Tonight Show]

I side eye her a little for traveling between her two homes with her entire extended family, but I get why she did that. She surely also helped her mom by getting her out of the assisted living facility. I really like her three part plan for learning something new, and I appreciate how she extended that to the current reality – name what it is, get perspective on it and check your expectations. A lot of these self help experts are just repackaging different therapy recommendations into advice, which is useful. They make it more accessible. Lately I’ve been trying to use different things I’ve learned from rational emotive therapy, particularly trying to put things into perspective and not catastrophizing. It also helps to compare this time in quarantine to how I handled other tough situations. I think I’ve been through worse, but it all feels so unfamiliar and that’s what she’s saying about first times and being vulnerable.

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34 Responses to “Brene Brown: ‘Everyone’s bullsh-t meter is really sensitive right now’”

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  1. MMC says:

    I am usually very suspicious of anyone who is a self help expert and doesn’t have a psychology background. But I do like her more blunt approach. Most self help talk is very annoying to me because it has an expetation of constant optimism and it comes of as so patronising most of the time.

    • Esmom says:

      I agree, I tend to stay far away from the self-help book section. Probably partially because my first roommate after college was really into them yet didn’t seem to be able to help herself and some of her sh^t choices at all. And I side-eyed one therapist I had who recommended two self-help books. As I suspected, they were full of platitudes that didn’t really apply to my situation. She said she meant them to be used to spark our discussions but I felt like they were such a waste of time and that we could have gotten to the heart of the matter easily without them.

      I don’t really know enough about Brown to know if I like her approach. My platitude meter dinged a bit while reading what she said but I guess I’m a cynic.

    • Goldie says:

      I believe Brene had a Ph.d in social work. Social work and psychology have a lot of overlap, and certainly both are in helping people improve their lives.

      • MMC says:

        Yes, but they tackle quite different areas of help, so in terms of self help advice I would still prefer an educated psychologist. Having said that social work is a lot better than most self help gurus who have no education.

    • Arwen says:

      She has a PhD is Social Work and 20 years of research in her field. She is more than qualified to be a self help expert. There are other degrees besides pyschology that qualify people for this type of work. Sorry for taking this a little personally but I also have a social work degree. It’s frusterating because many don’t understand that we can absolutely help with mental health among so many other things.

      • BeanieBean says:

        I don’t get it either. My first therapist was an LSW. I live in a small place, and when I needed help my options were few, particularly since I wanted to see a woman therapist and not a man. So my choices were from among a whole bunch of male psychologists & psychiatrists or a very female LSWs. I went with the latter. And yes, that was the gender breakdown.

      • MMC says:

        In my country you can not be a licensed therapist ( or cunduct thos type of work) unless you have a degree in psychology. I am not familiar with the way degrees are structured in the US, but here a degree in social work would not give you the skill set needed for therapy. Even the degree itself is just a start, you need a lot of extra education.

        And how interesting that most psychologists were male, in my country it is a very very female heavy field.

  2. buenavissta says:

    I’m a fan. She’s very astute and I’ve learned a lot from her.

  3. Tuntmore says:

    I really like Brene Brown’s style and message. No, she’s not a psychologist, but anyone who’s seriously researched cognitive therapy, mindfulness, studies about humans and happiness, etc., will realize that the solution to human suffering is very basic and unchanging.

    The most effective methods are cliches for a reason — because they’re old as dirt and they’ll be true until the end of time. We suffer when we hold on to pain, when we worry about things outside of our control, when we lose our perspective. Therapy and self-help will forever just be different ways of packaging and presenting those basic truths.

    Before years of therapy and psychiatric treatment, I thought a lot of those so-called platitudes didn’t apply. After coming out the other side, though, I realized the innate truth behind them. The “secret” to happiness and contentment is simple. The fact that it’s often difficult doesn’t make it any less simple.

    • pineapple says:

      Tuntmore … it is a long time since I have read such a wise comment. Your years of therapy have paid off. Wow.

      I would add, knowing what you are responsible for is helpful. I am responsible for my own life, my own choices, no one else’s. That could help so, so, so many humans. We can’t fix others. NO way. Only ourselves. Again, the fact that that is difficult to accept … it doesn’t make it any less simple.

      I once read a book about psychiatry. It was called “A Week in my Life”, or something to that effect. I am paraphrasing. But I stopped reading when I hit this sentence. “I have a job as a psychiatrist because people insist on seeing their family members.” IT is honestly that simple. People make it more complicated but what relationships work for you? Keep those things around you.

      I love what Brene says about First times. So simple but so true. Obviously, I am a therapy lover. And often, it is so, so simple.

    • pawneegoddess says:

      I would count Brene as a psychologist as she has a PHD in social work. She just does research and teaches instead of treating patients.

    • Cheryl says:

      I agree. Brene is a very gifted speaker in engaging and inspiring others to take action in helping themselves work towards acknowledging and fixing their deeper root issues, and eventually working towards reaching their fullest potential. Thats very hard to find, and it’s even harder to find the person who has the education to back up those words. People connect with her, engage with her, and respond to her. What she brings to the table in terms of her contribution to society at large is extremely valuable, so her type of education shouldn’t be dismissed as lesser than.

  4. Joan Callamezzo says:

    Big fan of Brene Brown. 🙋🏼‍♀️

  5. McMom says:

    Huge fan (and I actually know her). While she may be considered self help now, everything she talks about is grounded in her research on vulnerability. She was (is still?) a professor at the University of Houston’s School of Social Work.

  6. Other Renee says:

    I’ve heard of her but have never read her books. I read a lot of self-help books about a decade ago when I was going through a bad patch in life. They were incredibly useful to me and really did help me get to a more empowered place.

  7. Chelle says:

    We teach a de-escalation course to teachers and use some of her stuff. She’s well-received regardless of gender by the group, which is also wide ranging across age, teaching experience, grade levels and subject matter taught as well as being racially and ethnically diverse.

    Dr. Bruce Perry is another person to closely follow. He really makes the information accessible and easy to follow and apply.

  8. Rapunzel says:

    FB and all social media prove most people’s BS are far from sensitive, but in fact, quite broken. Honestly, most folks don’t criticality think.

    We need critical thinking to be more widely taught. It’s such a self help tool. If you can’t identify truth from lies, facts from opinions, or which sources of information are credible or not, then you are likely to have a very unhappy, unsuccessful life. Therapy teaches many things, but if you can’t learn to judge what’s accurate, or properly gauge the long term ramifications of your decisions, you’ll just make the same mistakes over and over again.

  9. TeamAwesome says:

    I don’t know that I would call her just a self help expert. She holds three degrees in social work and has been studying shame and vulnerability for like 30 years.


    I was once on a road trip to go to a friends’ wedding and a girl I had just met who tagged along insisted on bringing an audiobook by Brene brown and listening to chapter after chapter and having “heartfelt discussions” after each one. It was an unfortunate introduction. What I really couldn’t stand were the anecdotes she told—specifically one about a man coming up to her after a talk and thanking her and telling her he never realized he didn’t have to be a white knight for his daughters or something. It sounded forced and totally made up but hey, maybe it happened. I think if someone had chatted about her with me instead of essentially trapping me I wouldn’t mind it so much. But I don’t really like self help as a genre in general. From every bit of advice I’ve ever heard, it’s nothing people can’t come up with themselves.

    • McMom says:

      Crooksandnannies – I know the section you are referring to. Again, all of her stuff is grounded in her research on vulnerability. That particular anecdote was related to men specifically who are told by the women in their lives to be open about their feelings and then are essentially crucified once they do so because the women who have depended on them to be “strong” can’t handle it. That point has resonated with a lot of men.

      A few years ago, I had lunch with an older man who had spent the first part of his professional career as a driller on an oil and gas rig. If you haven’t spent much time in the industry, drillers are a no-nonsense bunch. The joke was that if you were missing a digit, you were likely a driller (and I did have a client who lost a finger in a drilling accident and knew of people who had lost arms and legs). It’s dangerous and dirty and heavily male dominated (I worked with a drilling company that was 90% male – there was one woman to thousands of men). Over the course of the lunch, he actually used the term “vulnerability,” so I went back to the office and sent him a link to Brene’s TED talk. He emailed me back, saying not only did he already know Brene, but he had watched her talk 5 times. That’s when I knew she had hit on something important.

      So I get that she might not be your cup of tea, but she has enabled so many people (men and women) to talk about things they have been hesitant to do. Being grounded in research helps, I think – it takes the mysticism out of it and makes it much more tangible.

  11. North of Boston says:

    If she and her bubble of 12 people are really social distancing and isolating from others, then I don’t side eye her, really. They’re in isolation together, just at two locations and their cars, Austin to Houston, so 2-3 hours apart, so they don’t need to stop and shop and have contact with anyone along the way if someone travels between the two locations.

    My family is doing something similar, though all within a 15 minute drive. Three homes, three of us sisters and our families. Everyone’s working from home, and there’s no school, so we’re not out mingling. One sister is the designated “go-getter”, with mask and precautions, for groceries, medicine, anything we need that we can’t get delivered.

    We’d all just stay in our own places and deal, but my mom is 88 and requires extra TLC/assistance with daily living, and she lives with one of my sisters, who has her own set of physical/health challenges. It would be A LOT on that one sister to do it all 24 x 7, especially during a pandemic. So my other sister and I rotate in, stay overnight some nights or all day to make things doable, while “live in” sister comes and stays at my house for a day or so. Everyone else is staying put aside from going outside to play, exercise, do yard work.

    It’s not easy, it’s not ideal, but that’s the best we can do right now to be sure we all make it through this in one piece, somewhat sane and healthy. So if that’s what this lady’s family is doing too, staying in their own 12 person – 2 location bubble, if they’re not wandering the streets and green spaces of Austin and Houston and everywhere in between, mask-free, yelling and singing and coughing and spreading respiratory spray everywhere, that’s fine by me.

    • Green_Eyes says:

      We are doing the same thing, we all live in the same city (well hubby & I live 10 united out by the lake). It’s worked for us so far for our families. . 1. My husband’s sister & brother in one home (both in 70’s & brother just had partial lung removed 3 weeks ago for lung cancer. Hubby takes his brother to all his medical appts & sits in the car, even during his brother’s operation. VA let’s no one in.
      2. My parents who my spouse, sister, and responsible niece share in taking care of physically. I do a lot of their emotional & supportive care via phone & keep up on things for them that can be done via phone or electronically. We do this so they don’t have to go into a nursing home & can stay in their house. They insist & thrive thinking they are independent so we do that while monitoring & taking care of them from behind the scenes so to speak. So far it has kept my parents safe.. @89 my dad is in stage 4 kidney failure & has Alzheimer’s. But thankfully still showers & shaves everyday & sticks to his lil routine at home. We have had him on lockdown for almost 4 months now. Mom is 88 she gets chemo shots in her eyes every 6-8 weeks, blind in one eye & can barely see out of the other w/ disfigured hands and feet since she was young from rheumatoid arthritis but both are independent & mom is sharp as a tack mentally. But both are frail. My sister checks in on them twice a day, my niece once a day, I’m disabled & on chemo meds so I talk to them via phone a lot thru the day. Hubby does all their major shopping & sister or niece pick up lil things when they need to but we usually make a list & try to make the trips very infrequent. Hubby does all our parents Doctor/lab appts except kidneys.. my sister does that. Hubby also does all the pharmacy trips. My nephew (sister’s 16 yr son) stays w/ our dad or he stays out at our house w/ me when hubby has to take mom for her chemo shots. We skipped one due to pandemic last month but she can’t miss this next one her eyes are in so much pain. 3. A younger single nIece that lives alone and has Bipolar w/ clinical depression and deep anxieties. She has her own lil apartment. She burned bridges in the past so a lot of mistrust issues so she’s better in her own apt & we all help her. Hubby takes her to long distance dr appts (sits in car), her mom takes her to work &/or picks her up. She walks the other times. Sister does her major shopping & to local dr appts since this niece no longer has a license. I’m not sure how much longer this niece will be able to be left on her own though. She started having major black outs in November.. all this stress has made them progress and this last I e has all of us perplexed. She had a bad episode 2 weeks ago. She remembers going to bed that night and no idea what happened but apparently the police brought her home (no idea where from her yard, neighbors yard, across town?) at 5 in the morning she was so out of it & naked laying in someone’s yard. They did a breathalyzer no drugs or alcohol other than her bipolar meds in her system, and they left her w/ the officers card & said she needed to call them when she came to. She woke up the next morning around 10 and as I said no memory.. she called the police station & they told her what all transpired & she had been arrested for the bong sitting on her living room end table that they saw when they put her to bed ( though she had no drugs in her system). Didn’t arrest her for public nudity, disturbing the peace, or any other thing else .. but for the bong & didn’t bring her in but put her in her bed.. she has a court date the officer told her but won’t give a police report.. she asked for a public defender since she can’t afford a lawyer & was told not til
      Her court date I told her to bring all her records to show her history of black outs, her meds list & the Tox report.. this whole thing is so crazy! Between the pandemic, our parents, & this crazy thing w/ niece my sister & I laugh to keep from crying that this feels like we are the lil people that live on a lil globe and are amusement for an entire other galaxy that watch all of our craziness & laugh (our reference is to the end of the original Men in Black movie where the huge locker is opened and you see the earth is like a small ball or globe & amusement for another species in another galaxy. Yes crazy jokes like that keep my sister, spouse, sister in law, and I sane while we juggle our families thru all of this craziness & our system works for us everyone of us is at risk. My spouse & his siblings are in their 70’s all w/ diabetes & heart complications (plus brother who is now thankfully cancer free for 3 weeks now)! My sister has auto immune illness & takes immunosuppressive drugs like me & she’s head of house keeping & safety at her hospital. My responsible niece is in the same boat w/ the autoimmune illnesses, then I take immunosuppressive drugs, chemo shots (not for cancer though but for my intestines & Scleroderma), and I am on oxygen due to several lung & vascular illnesses related to Scleroderma & other autoimmune illnesses. Like my dad I am not allowed to leave the house period. I’ve been home now 3 months straight w/ teleconferences for Dr appts. I also have a port so I need to get it flushed soon I’ve been postponing labs & flushes as we have been on lockdown since beginning of March. Our Kansas Governor thankfully took things serious. I have made masks for my family members so we are all protected. We all just worry now since as of Monday Kansas has been an open state again & our state counts are rising fast. Everyone please stay safe and please know some of us have to do multi family & homes but we do so cautiously & only as a necessity.

  12. Alexandra says:

    She would never call herself a self-help expert. She is a researcher/story teller who has a PhD in social work. All of her perspective comes from interviewing hundreds of people on topics such as vulnerability, courage, etc.

  13. Snowslow says:

    I tried watching the segment but the Oh Gosh I LOVE it and O GOSH OMG’s were too much for me. I love the American culture but this constant self-celebration is a bit of the downside of it for me.

    On another topic, and as a researcher myself I’m torn on Brown. On one side, it’s great to see scholars have a way with words and communication. On the other, with her more than two decades of research, I find most of it self-serving and on the side of platitude served with story-telling.

    Give me Miranda July any day as a story-teller who talks about fears and compulsions like non one else.

  14. Sumodo1 says:

    Brene Brown has statistics to back up much of what she preaches. I enjoy her fact-driven stuff. Let’s face it, it’s FTT for her, too, during the lockdown. Sucks, huh?

  15. Case says:

    I’m weary of a lot of self-help gurus because I don’t understand what qualifies them to be giving advice on how to improve your life. Brene has an education where it actually makes sense though.

  16. LouLou says:

    Social workers are trained to provide therapy. My therapist is a social worker. Brown honestly has excellent credentials. No one has to like her, but it is untrue that she is just a self-help guru who randomly decided to write books.

  17. Bobafelty says:

    Saw her speak in person and she was phenomenal. Wasn’t into the book too much. She gets death threats from the MAGA crowd, so guess she’s struck some kind of nerve.

  18. Maida says:

    I’ve found Brown’s books, and her podcast (Unlocking Us) very helpful. I can understand that her manner may not resonate with everyone, but I like her bluntness and her enthusiasm. Her ability to combine the results of research with anecdotes from her own and others’ lives brings what could be a dry academic subject to life, IMO.

    I respect her as a researcher and academic (she has a PhD in social work and is a professor at the University of Houston’s school of social work) who is interested in reaching the public at large rather than just talking to other academics. Her work on shame and vulnerability has helped a lot of people.

  19. pawneegoddess says:

    CB, I personally do not lump Brene Brown into the general “self help guru” category (thinking of people like Liz Gilbert and Glennon Doyle with no shade to those who like their work!). She has a PhD in social work and has spent something like 30 years researching shame, vulnerability, and resilience. I can see why her delivery/message isn’t for everyone but I set her apart from the general self help section because she has legitimate expertise and education to back up what she says. I found her books much more complex than her short talks which makes sense as she has more room so to speak to expand her points. I’m usually annoyed by platitudes but in these times I appreciate the simplicity of the “FFT”.

  20. Prof Trelawney says:

    her interview w Marc Maron on his WTF podcast is a worth a listen, v insightful and deep. And, as others have pointed out here, she has a lot of research to back up her POV. But possibly to your point celebitchy, she admits to not really being a warm fuzzy type of person, maybe that’s what you’re picking up on, a certain disconnect on the surface between what she writes about and how she really is, but that’s actually what led her via intellectual honesty to explore the issues of shame and vulnerability. As I noted in another comment today, there’s my Cliff Clavin moment for the day, but really, I find her insights v helpful 😉

  21. Lola_Lola says:

    I discovered BB at the PA Conf for Women. At first I was like whatever…I wrongly sized her up as a southern, Christian WW that was there to give us some fluffy BS. How was I wrong. She was very real. She cursed…which i loved. She even mentioned trump and what was going on in america. She openly said she was scared and we can recognize bullshit when we see it and to call it out. My girlfriends and I were so touched and impressed. We all now follow her. I highly recommend her Ted talk and she spoke on her years of research on vulnerability.
    @celebitchy I loved what you said about going through harder situations than this. I was just thinking yesterday that if I can survive years of a horrible marriage and a divorce…I can survive this. As traumatic as all this has been…I’ve been through worse.

  22. AL says:

    Brene Brown gets a thumbs up from me. Her books and TED talk have helped me delve into my own shame (coming from a very traditional Asian household, there’s a LOT of shame to unlearn and heal from), as well as my ability to be vulnerable. I haven’t read all her books though, especially her newer ones, but I’ve found her very accessible and easier to understand. Maybe her bluntness was what I personally needed – it has really clicked with me.