On Brené Brown


I wanted to know what the hype was all about, so I watched Brené Brown’s stand-up comedy special The Call to Courage on Netflix.

Brené tells a mighty anecdote, the kind long on wind-up with a well-planned punchline, and no challenge to think deeply. She is the sort of person you hope accepts an invitation to your dinner party, whose story-telling will make the evening a smash.

Brené’s style of teaching through parable brought back memories of my intensely religious upbringing, bizarre when you grow up in Los Angeles, not in Arkansas. Nothing about my life has been appropriate.

My father, a Fundamentalist and fundamentally insecure guy, needed the idea that only a few folks, pre-selected by God Himself, were going to heaven. Naturally he was one of them. What could be better.

I heard many a sermon growing up, many a recording of a Southern preacher. Those polished orators captivated the believers with cute domestic tales, casting their spouse as straight-man to their own G-rated antics. God was always there, personally communicating and guiding. Brené carries on this great American tradition. She calls the Almighty “My God.” What could be better.

Brené spent the first ten minutes doing a humblebrag about how many books she has sold in so many languages. Oh, what a nightmare, the bad artwork that editors suggest! She invites those “who have empathy” to audibly agree with her. Brené, winning the audience over through manipulative indoctrination, to swallow whole whatever she will say in her talk, if she ever gets around to it. My bullsh*t radar sounded.

Brené’s other impressive credentials: she went to therapy for a loooooooooong time and has “done the work,” which is totally meaningful. She doesn’t have much respect for people who haven’t.

And she gets paid big bucks to advise Silicon Valley executives. Woah, hold up Brené. That heavily Asperger and therefore socially-blind set are incapable of knowing if she is saying anything intelligent about human interactions.

I like to watch something at night that doesn’t take too much visual attention. I’m in and out of the bathroom with my elaborate régime de beauté. This replaced the deep, unending emptiness left when I got off my nighttime dose of Vicodin and morphine.

I have a face steamer from Amazon. My collagen stimulating light and face massager, I got in Asia. I layer on oils, serums and creams (definitely get one made from snail slime) while I roll a tennis ball under each foot for my chronic plantar fasciitis. True relaxation. If you’re too sick to do much, then at the very least, cleanse and moisturize. Every. Single. Night.

Thusly distracted, I thought surely I’d missed something, rather everything in The Call to Courage. What were her points between those long, stupid anecdotes? I mean, were there any?


Shame Researcher Brené congratulates herself on her successful body-image work and tells, with no sense of irony, this moving story of injustice:

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  1. She recorded a TED Talk. It became super-popular.

  2. YouTube commenters insulted her appearance.

  3. Knowing how impulsive and insecure she is, her husband told her not to read them.

  4. She did immediately.

  5. She got so upset, she spent the day watching Downton Abbey, eating peanut butter in her jammies.

  6. Hours went by. The peanut butter and British period drama binge didn’t ease her despair over anonymous typing that she needs more Botox and to lose weight. She finished the series.

  7. While Brené was reading more about Downton Abbey at her computer, things got mystical. She had a “God Moment.” (I had to look that up.)

  8. God descended in full regalia and guided Brené’s clicking. Up popped a delightfully bombastic quote from a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, so generic, so self-congratulatory, that everybody uses it, and it comes up top on Google.

  9. Brené put President Roosevelt’s picture all over the house, so they’d all remember

And God said ….

And God said ….

God’s Message to Brené

Nobody can make fun of Brené’s looks.
Because she’s trying so awesomely hard.
Even God noticed.
So he told her.
Via Teddy Roosevelt via Google.

Interesting procedure for a “researcher.” Not the Scientific Method, but then my father preferred a self-affirming message from God, too. It is easier to understand than statistics and just feels right.

“But Brené!” I wanted to shout at my TV. “Are you sure that message came from Your God, not yourself? Because you cannot win the approval of everyone. Ever. That. Is. Impossible. And everyone gets made fun of on the internet. Surely God knows that.”

God would have had said something like Let your haters be your motivators, right?


Not Brené Brown

I also wanted to tell Brené that self-pity eating to excess of calorie-dense foods causes weight gain, and there are way better things to eat than peanut butter. This is not society body-shaming you, that’s just the way you chose to spend your afternoon. Brené gets it twisted.

Since Brené is obsessed with her looks, I wanted to tell her that plenty of us are walking around, or not even able to walk around, actually being tortured to death by our malfunctioning bodies, that no one can fix. Brené’s problem — lack of Brené accepting Brené — would be luxurious to people like me.

And while nothing is more attractive than confidence, Brené, you look great as a disembodied head with sanitary napkins for earrings floating around that stage. Whatcha worried about?

I run into conceited people like Brené from time to time. So clueless they are about life, they actually think beauty makes life happy/easy/trouble-free and beautiful people are taking something from them. And why not milk it, Brené? This theme fueled Joan Rivers’ 55-year career in comedy.

I don’t bother mentioning that I look the way I do because I have the mother of all pain diseases, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and what hell-of-disability my life has been. Yes, I agree, I am lucky that my neck is so long.

I accept that many people, as I was, are born with terrible diseases. Or get sick from wretched illness. Or have accidents that leave them in pain forever. So I don’t take my medical problems personally, just try to get on with things as best as I can. But then, I haven’t known the suffering of Brené and subsequent anointing by God, so who am I to say what’s unfair.

Learn From Others

Brené is highly allergic to criticism. But why? Others tell you about how you come across. Beneficial information, although not always flattering. Jerks can have a special knack for being insightful. It’s not too hard to take, unless you think you must be prefect.

Brené says, shut that sh*t down! Her critics are looooooooooosers!

“You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who aren’t taking chances with their lives.” 

Brené doesn’t say how she knows who are the ones taking chances with their lives and who are the stupid plebs she is so above, those idiots who are just getting by, with our meaningless struggles, our pathetic lives.

Maybe the gladiators are those who follow Brené’s example of behaving like a mature adult, taking things in stride: The not heeding her husband’s logical advice of ignoring internet nonsense, the hours of inflaming her own emotions, the peanut butter, the psychotic hallucination of a personal visit from God affirming her right to a hassle-free existence on Earth.

Or maybe God whispers the list of the worthy in Brené’s ear.

From what I have seen, most people are trying as best as they can. Life is hard for everyone. You never know what someone is going through, so best to respect people and not judge. Don’t yell at someone with a disabled parking placard who doesn’t look handicapped. How would you know if that person has something awful like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and is very, very sick.

Love Me Now!

Here is Brené’s relationship strategy, so effective, she wants you to follow it:

  1. Jump a long-term partner or causal date with unsolicited declarations of love at an inappropriate time.

  2. Get mad when the target does not respond in kind.

  3. Conclude that you are brave and the better person for “being vulnerable” (Brené’s euphemism for unmanaged neediness).

Ah, the emotional terrorism of a four-year-old. “Love me right now!! Now!! Now!! Now!!” No matter what mommy or daddy is busy doing. Then have a fit.

A Brené super-fan tried this on his new girlfriend. She bolted from the restaurant immediately, as he just showed he has no sense of boundaries or appropriate behavior so would not make a good partner.

Why Brené tells this story, I have no idea. It’s like how she says she can’t be shamed, especially about her body. WTF? Is she kidding?

But then I wondered, is this dupe one of her gladiators? A Daring Greatly-er permitted by God to criticize Brené, as he did the stupid sh*t she recommended? Because he did get mad at her. He personally confronted her about her relationship-ruining advice. No matter. To Brené, this is success. Reality-shmreality!

Brené is a demanding lady. She wants what she knows she deserves, just cuz.

“People should love you because of your imperfection and vulnerability.”

Hmmmm. How about because you treat someone kindly, respectfully and fairly? Because you appreciate and support them? Because they can trust you?

“We’re scared of our vulnerability. We’re so afraid to let ourselves be seen and to see people.”

Not so on my Facebook feed, Brené.

However, the world is not your therapist. People who run around dumping it all on non-intimate-friends are a lot to take. And may be emotionally imbalanced.

It’s That Simple!

Brené reduces life to simplistic, sweeping generalities, which insist on no thinking because they make no sense. She advises those Silicon Valley dudes:

“If there is no vulnerability there is no creativity. If there is no tolerance for failure there is no innovation. It is that simple. If you’re not willing to fail, you can’t innovate. If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture, you can’t create.”

Oh for sure.

Nothing got made in Silicon Valley, until they established the Brené-topia, where epic emotional neediness, I mean, vulnerability, rules. Until Brené came along, everyone in Cupertino just sat there, twiddling their thumbs, too shut down to try, confused about what to do with their bazillions of dollars of pre-IPO stock they couldn’t cash out yet.

No Empathy

Brené says the gateway to joy is to be gratitude. Or something like that. I can’t watch her again to find out. I took notes on The Call to Courage during my lunch at work, earbuds in, captions on, ROFLing on the break room floor, but that’s all I can take.

“What are you doing?” my co-worker asked, since I was not joking around with him as I usually do, but blotting my tears of laughter.

So it helps to be grateful. Sounds fine, until Brené drops the following example brag about your kids to the person with a dead kid. That makes them feel better about their kid being dead.

Bravo Brené! That wins as the most passive-aggressive recommendation you gave.


I can’t fault Brené’s Little Engine That Could section, the get out there and try! pep talk she ends with, except to say, what functioning adult doesn’t know this?

“Be brave, show up, take chances. You’re going to fall, and know heartbreak.” 

“Show up when you can’t control the outcome.” 

“Are you 100% sure the person will always love your back?

To love is to be vulnerable.”


The Call to Criticism

The Call to Courage is my only experience of Brené Brown and will remain so.

Brené conflates research with her personal religious beliefs. As a professional patient, that offends me. Religion is subjective faith, above proof. Science should be objective and rigorous.

Someone should point that out.

So I did.

Brené is a lucky lady who has hit the jackpot in life. She has a husband, two healthy kids and a cool name. She is an international best-selling author, highly-paid consultant, friend-of-Oprah and TED Talk sensation.

Brené describes herself as a pessimistic person, always catastrophizing, dress-rehearsing tragedy in her mind. She has trouble appreciating life because she is run by fear. She is also afraid of being herself.

According to Brené, we are all like this and also so dang terrified of joy!

Um, whut?

I don’t know many people like this. The ones who are seem, well, depressed.

Brené is intolerant of others, a perfectionist, judgmental, deficient in empathy, desperate for approval, clueless in relationships, and pissed that she is not thin and beautiful. That’s a tough way to live.