Dr. Brené Brown was a TED* speaker on the power of vulnerability. She also is the author of “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be; Embrace Who You Are.”

The theme of Brown’s talk is that we have a deep need to connect along with a corresponding fear of disconnection that is related to shame. Shame is the fear of disconnection: “Is there something about me that if other people know or see, I won’t be worthy of connection?”

Thus the conflict. We all fear disconnection and wish to hide anything that might cause others to disconnect from us. The fear that we are somehow not good enough, not fill-in-the-blank (thin, rich, interesting, smart) enough. Yet in order to have deep, meaningful connection to others, we must allow ourselves to be seen.

Brown’s research lead her to conclude that to have deep connection, we must believe ourselves worthy of being loved, worthy of belonging. They are what she calls whole hearted people.

Whole hearted people

– Live from a deep sense of worthiness.

– Have the courage to be imperfect and not hide it or run from it.

– Have the compassion to be kind to themselves first, then to others (because you cannot give what you do not have).

– Have deep connection with others that comes from the willingness to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are.

– Fully embrace vulnerability. What makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.

– Are willing to say I love you first or invest deeply in a relationship that might not work out, to do things where there are no guarantees.

The essence of Brown’s message: To connect, we must risk. We must be willing to be vulnerable and have the courage and compassion to believe we are enough, that we are worthy, that we belong, and then extend that kindness to others.

Fascinatingly, it seems in large measure that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Belief goes a long way to creating the reality.

* Note: TED is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” TED began in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design. Dr. Brown’s talk may be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html