Posted by: hjwilliams94 | April 6, 2016

Shame on You

So as I was trolling the internet for good videos, 5-10min in length, on women and leadership hoping to find a good video about a topic we’ve discussed, I couldn’t find any. The video I have linked is long and for that I’m sorry, but it is an awesome video!! If you don’t have the full time to watch it, go to about 11 minutes in and start there because the last half is the stuff that really ties into our class.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. This video is a follow up from her Ted talk on vulnerability which is also great and if you get a chance you should watch it as well.

In her talk, Brene explains that shame drives two big tapes in our own minds: “Never good enough” and “Who do you think you are?” She notes that shame is an epidemic in our country. She gets into more detail about shame for women vs. shame for men and how they are different. For men shame is always tied up in being weak. These thoughts about shame along with cultural views on failure inevitably tie into how we view ourselves as leaders. The pressure women feel to be perfect before taking on a leadership role goes hand in hand with the shame we feel about not being good enough. Brene talks about how easy it is to say “I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive, but the truth is that never happens.” Nothing great has ever happened because someone had a good idea and it worked out flawlessly. Almost all of the greatest inventions have come from failing miserably first. We have to push the gremlin called shame aside (we can’t completely get rid of it) and have the courage to be vulnerable and take chances. Otherwise, we will sit on the sidelines waiting for the perfect opportunity that never comes.

As a culture, there is a great need for a shift in how we think about failure, how we talk about success, and how we deal with shame and vulnerability. Brene is starting that conversation and shedding light on topics. Think about how you view these things and how you and others talk about them.


  1. Great video, really worth the watch! I like that you brought up the topic of shame this week because I think it ties into the Zeilinger reading about millennial women “having it all”. Brown talks about how shame is a web of unattainable conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be and women feel they have to do it all, do it all perfectly, and never let them see you sweat. That’s how women feel shame and what separates them from men. Zeilinger also talks about how women associate having it all with doing everything and doing it perfectly. I really like how Brown provides a solution to this phenomenon by projecting your failure outwardly as guilt instead of inwardly as shame. It’s an interesting thought as to the effect this way of thinking could have on women’s ambition and leadership.

  2. I think I would agree with her about their being an epidemic of shame in our country and I think that could tie in with our millennial discussion. Is our generation more willing to step out into leadership roles regardless of if they are handed toward us or if we have to work for them…or will we let the idea of shame take over and paralyze us from making any strides as women in leadership roles. In regards to shame relating to success and happiness. I learned this is one of my sociology classes required for MAT. “Success is immediate but happiness is long-term.” If we let failure inhibit us from being successful, that can be overcome but if we can failure keep us from happiness than that’s a real shame because that has an affect on our life overall. Thanks for your thoughtful input!

  3. The first thing I questioned about what you posted about was whether or not a man, that studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, would feel the same sense of fraudulence that it seems many women feel when taking on leadership roles. Another thing that I felt you noted adequately was that we are feeling this sense of fraudulence and shame at the hand of ourselves. At this day in age I feel the most pressure to be perfect, not from men, not from my colleagues, but from myself. I do feel that this needing to be perfect has been engrained into me from an early age by societies’ voices, but the one perpetuating it, is me. It’s interesting that men are shamed if seen as physically weak. I would have assumed that they would be shamed for acting too masculine and aggressive because of the feminist movement that has been centralized in the last couple decades. Some of your last points I thought were good, but I’m not sure how much they related to your initial points.
    When it comes to failure, I have had multiple leaders, CEOs and Deans of Universities tell me that I need to be okay with making mistakes and taking risks. For me, the struggle that keeps me from putting it all on the line is my need to feel perfect. When I feel I can take risks, I often feel out of my comfort zone, and end up not taking the risk. Shame isn’t what is keeping me back, its fear of failure. I am continuously working on myself, especially when it comes to my ability to deal with failing. But hey, that’s easier said than done.
    Anyways, thanks for sharing!

  4. I generally agree with her talk, but there are a few things that just do not sit well will me. The first is that shame for men is revolved around the feeling of being weak. Why do people need to feel the need to lump everyone together under these credentials. It’s true that some men may feel this way, but at the same time some do not. I am not a very big or powerful guy, but I am not ashamed of the way God made me. I find pride in other things in my life. Also I don’t like how she says no great things come with out miserable failure. First of failure should not be seen as a different path from success or miserable. It’s both natural and necessary path to knowledge. Secondly I’m sure that people have succeeded and done something great without failing before. No need to scare off people trying to reach for success.

  5. The quote “I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive, but the truth is that never happens” is so true in my mind. But what makes having a kickass, bulletproof attitude hard is that life just kicks ya sometimes. That things don’t go your way. That you feel like others are basing your self worth off of things you can’t control. That nothing is going right. But the thing about life is that it isn’t perfect. If life were perfect we wouldn’t learn, grow, or develop on a daily basis. We would be stuck in stagnation. “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful” is a quote that I have written on a canvas on my wall. This can relate back to leadership in replacing “life” with “leadership.” “Leadership doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” As long as you strive for your best and have good intentions in all that you do every single day, there is no way you’re leading/living wrong. Thank you for posting about this!

  6. This is a great video for everyone to see. It is interesting that shame also presents itself differently in different cultures. In Japan bringing shame to the family by doing a ritual wrong or by not following set rules can lead to being ostracized by the community. However, in the United States, shame is often on a more personal level and not on a societal level. Shame in front of the society still happens in the United States, like when a big company CEO is found guilty for committing fraud, but these examples seem extreme in our society. This video sheds light onto the personal side of shame and how shame effects people in everyday life.

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