Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

Brené is a nationally renown speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her work has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and was the topic of two 2010 TEDx talks (Houston and Kansas City).

Brené is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (Hazelden, 2010) and I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (Penguin/Gotham, 2007). Her next book, Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy will be released in 2011. She is also the author of Connections, a psychoeducational shame resilience curriculum that is being facilitated across the nation by mental health and addiction professionals.

Brené’s current research focuses on authentic leadership and wholeheartedness in families, schools, and organizations.


The Unspoken Epidemic of Shame
Dr. Brown is an expert in the field of behavior, specifically focusing on vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. Following her first TEDx talk, Dr. Brown experienced a "shame hangover" in which she felt paralyzed for admitting her breakdown during the talk. In this compelling keynote, Dr. Brown makes an essential connection between vulnerability and courage, asserting that innovation, creativity and change all stem from that vulnerability. She helps the audience differentiate shame from guilt: Shame focuses on the self with thoughts like "I am something bad” versus guilt which says, "I did something bad." Dr. Brown explores the unhindered success of those who confront their shame head-on, reinforcing that shame is an unspoken epidemic from which we need to be freed in order to reach our full potential.

The Inspirational Leader: Why Courage, Authenticity, and Calm Matter
From developing talent and connecting with consumers, to building brands and fostering innovative cultures, inspiration is critical. Inspirational leadership is not about job titles and roles – it’s a style of leadership available to anyone who is willing to practice courage in the midst of fear, to choose authenticity over self-protection, and to foster calm in times of high reactivity. In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The three primary components of inspirational leadership;
  • The behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that sabotage inspiration; and
  • Actionable strategies for practicing inspirational leadership.

    The Power of Vulnerability
    In our culture, vulnerability has become synonymous with weakness. We associate vulnerability with emotions like fear, shame, and scarcity; emotions that we don’t want to discuss, even when they profoundly affect the way we live, work, and even lead.

    To reduce our feelings of vulnerability, we wake up every morning, put on our game face, and rarely take it off – especially at the office. We use invulnerability as a shield to protect us from uncomfortable emotions and struggles with anxiety and self-doubt. But invulnerability has a price.

    Vulnerability is indeed at the core of difficult emotions, but it is also the birthplace of: Creativity and innovation, authenticity, adaptability to change and accountability – the key elements that every business needs to survive and thrive.

    In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The critical role vulnerability plays in our personal and professional success
  • The five most common strategies we use to avoid and minimize vulnerability and how they move us away from our goals; and
  • Five actionable strategies for leaning into our discomfort and embracing vulnerability as a source of strength and inspiration

    Great Expectations: What Leaders and Managers Need to Understand about Goals
    Setting, tracking, and celebrating goals are primary tasks in business; however, very few managers and leaders understand the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral anatomy of the goal process. Understanding the loaded dynamics of expectations, disappointments, and accomplishments gives us more tools for cultivating success with our own goals and becoming more effective mentors for our employees.

    In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The relationship between buy-in and the deeply human need for purpose and meaning;
  • How fear, blame, and scarcity sabotage the goal process;
  • Why hope, vulnerability, and self-compassion are prerequisites for success; and
  • Actionable strategies for increasing goal achievement.

    The Only Constant is Change: Developing Courage, Compassion and Connection in Overstressed and Anxious Organizations
    For organizations to successfully navigate change, it is imperative that employees at all levels bring their best selves to work. But too often leaders and managers don’t know how to navigate the emotional landscape of change – especially the human response to stress, anxiety, and fear. Unknowingly, leadership often incites the exact behaviors that sabotage the creativity, trust, and accountability that are essential to managing change.

    In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The primary patterned methods for managing anxiety and how to use these as intervention tools;
  • How fear and uncertainty can turn the best organizational cultures into shame and blame cultures and why courage, compassion, and connection are the best practices for strengthening culture during change; and
  • Actionable strategies for cultivating a culture of courage, compassion, and connection in the midst of change.

    For corporations, associations, medical and nursing professionals, school faculty and administration, mental health and addiction professionals, parents, and faith-based groups

    The Hustle for Worthiness: Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough
    A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women, and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. We confuse purpose and meaning with acquisitions and accomplishments. We lose sight of what is important.

    The greatest barrier to experiencing love and belonging is our own beliefs about our worthiness. When we struggle to believe that we are truly worthy of love and belonging, we hustle for it. It’s the constant shuffle of:

    “What will people think?”
    “No one can find out about __________.”
    “I’m going to pretend that everything is OK.”
    “Am I _____________enough?”
    “I’ll be worthy if and when . . . “

    Worthiness is not about who we should be or who we might be or who we could be. It’s about who we are. Right now. Today. It’s about waking up and believing, “I am enough.”

    In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The definitions of love and belonging that emerged from Brené’s 10-year study on Wholehearted Living;
  • Why owning our story is an integral part of claiming our worthiness; and
  • Specific strategies for cultivating a life defined by authenticity, love and belonging, and worthiness.

    The Gifts of Imperfections: Guideposts for Letting Go of Who We Think We’re Supposed and Embracing Who We Are
    Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we′d no longer feel less than. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking,

    What if I can′t keep all of these balls in the air?
    Why isn′t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations?
    What will people think if I fail or give up?
    When can I stop proving myself?
    In this keynote/workshop we will explore tools for engaging in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness, including:

  • How and why authenticity is a collection of daily choices rather than an inherent way of being;
  • How perfectionism is different than healthy striving and why we use “being perfect” as protection; and
  • Actionable strategies for cultivating the gifts of imperfection: courage, compassion and connection.

    Courage and Story: Three Guideposts for Cultivating a Resilient Spirit
    This workshop will explore the concepts of self-compassion, rest and play, and belonging, and how these experiences relate to resilience and hope. In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • Hope as a cognitive behavioral construct and identify the elements of hopefulness;
  • How rest and play affect the development of resilience; and
  • The components of healthy belonging and how they relate to self-acceptance and resilience.

    The Art of Acceptance: Why Boundaries, Accountability and Compassion Come First
    We often hear how important it is to cultivate acceptance, but we don’t talk about the critical roles that boundaries, accountability, and compassion play in that process. In this workshop we will explore how boundary setting and accountability facilitate compassion and acceptance and help counter feelings of resentment and blame.

    In this keynote/workshop, we will explore:

  • The meaning of compassion and how it is different than empathy and sympathy;
  • The challenge of practicing compassion in culture of blame;
  • The role that boundary-setting plays in the development of acceptance; and
  • The anatomy of accountability and how it relates to vulnerability and self-compassion.

    For Health Professionals

    I’m Trying to Help! Cultivating Compassion and Empathy with Difficult Patients and Families
    In an increasingly anxious world, nurses, physicians, social workers, and hospital administrators often find their efforts to help met with resistance and anger. Fear, anxiety, and uncertainty create hostile environments even when our goal is to help, support, and heal.

    Upon completion of this keynote/workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of empathy and how empathy is correlated to positive patient outcomes;
  • Identify the three components of self-compassion;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between self-compassion and empathy;
  • Identify how and why our functioning is affected by anxiety; and
  • Identify two strategies for practicing self-compassion and empathy in anxious work environments.

    Wired for Connection: How Empathy, Shame, and Vulnerability Affect Helping and Healing
    There is a constant barrage of social-cultural expectations that tell us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. After spending 10 years studying authenticity, shame, and belonging, Dr. Brown believes that nothing could be further from the truth – our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all deeply connected and more the same than different.

    In this workshop/keynote we will explore the concepts of shame, empathy, and vulnerability, and the role these emotions play in perfectionism, addiction, and isolation. Clinicians will learn specific tools and strategies for helping clients understand shame and develop shame resilience. Experiential and didactic learning will focus on how we can use individual and group modalities to help clients find the courage to talk about their fears of being unworthy, unlovable, and "not good enough" so they can move through shame in order to live more compassionate and connected lives.

    At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Define shame and differentiate the construct from guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role empathy plays in the development of shame resilience;
  • Identify the four elements of shame resilience (as conceptualized in shame resilience theory - SRT); and
  • Utilize one clinical tool related to each of the four elements of shame resilience (SRT)

    Shame, Addiction and Authenticity: Issues for Adolescents and Young Adults
    For teens and young adults, the yearning for belonging is so strong and the sensitivity to shame is so high that “fitting in” becomes an acceptable substitute, even if it means sacrificing their sense of self and engaging in high-risk behaviors. In this presentation we’ll explore shame resilience strategies that can help teens and young adults navigate the very real need for belonging while cultivating their sense of an authentic self.

    At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Define shame and differentiate the construct from guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role belonging plays in the development of shame resilience; and
  • Utilize one clinical tool related to each of the four elements of shame resilience (SRT).

    For Education

    The Pedagogy of Resilience: Strategies for Cultivating Hope, Gratitude, and Perseverance
    In this keynote/lecture, we’ll explore:

  • How and why we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually hard-wired for connection;
  • The newest research on hope as a cognitive behavioral process;
  • The relationship between joy and gratitude; and
  • Strategies for helping children develop a tolerance for disappointment, hopefulness, and perseverance.

    Teachable Moments: Bringing Courage, Compassion, and Connection to the Classroom
    In this keynote/lecture, we’ll explore:

  • How shame affects social and academic learning;
  • Why boundary-setting (with students and parents) is necessary to cultivate compassionate classrooms; and
  • How teachers and school administrators can turn difficult situations into opportunities for connection and growth.

    The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting
    Even though we come from diverse parenting traditions and rely on a variety of parenting techniques in our own families, most of us share the same hope for our children. We want our children to be authentic and to carry a deep sense of love and belonging within them, rather than always searching for it in external places.

    We also want our children to know that their imperfections are not inadequacies, and that they don’t need to fear being ashamed or feeling unlovable if they are different or when they are struggling.

    To engage fully in the parenting journey means practicing what we want to teach and acknowledging that we can’t give our children what we don’t have. If we want our children to have courage, compassion and connection, we must practice these things in our daily lives. And, we must be willing to practice, teach and learn imperfectly.

    The Wholehearted Child: Guideposts for Helping Children Cultivate a Resilient Spirit
    In an increasingly anxious world, it’s important that our children feel grounded and guided by a deep sense of purpose and meaning. Based on her most recent research, Dr. Brown will explore strategies that parents and teachers can utilize to help children develop a spirit of hope, gratitude, connection, and perseverance.

    Other suggested speaking topics:

  • Authenticity, Courage, and Joy: Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
  • The Spirituality of Midlife: Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy
  • The Wholehearted Family: Guideposts for Cultivating Meaning, Purpose and Joy
  • I Thought It Was Just Me: Shining a Light on Perfectionism, Shame, and Being Enough
  • Wired for Connection: How Empathy, Shame, and Vulnerability Shape Academic and Social Learning
  • Self-compassion, Empathy and the Anxious Workplace

    Books / Videos

    Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
    Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brené Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

    Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

    Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.

    The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You′re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
    In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

    Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we′d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, What if I can′t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn′t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?

    In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, And to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn′t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.
    Order Here

    I Thought It Was Just Me (But it Isn′t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power
    The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. We spend too much precious time and energy managing perception and creating carefully edited versions of ourselves to show to the world. As hard as we try, we can′t seem to turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like, “Never good enough!” and “What will people think?”

    Why? What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it′s because we admire perfection, but that′s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are “real” — we′re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance.

    There is a constant barrage of social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. Everywhere we turn, there are messages that tell us who, what and how we′re supposed to be. So, we learn to hide our struggles and protect ourselves from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection.

    Based on seven years of ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we′re all in this together.

    Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It′s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection — the courage to be real, the compassionwe need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”
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    “We invited Brené to speak at The UP Experience – a daylong event for business, education, and cultural leaders. She was amazing! Her presentation had all 500-plus people in the audience completely mesmerized. Out of the sixteen internationally renowned writers, scientists, and business experts speaking that day, our audience rated her presentation as one of the top two.

    Not only was Brené informative and thought-provoking, but her willingness to talk about the parts of our lives we rarely discuss was profoundly honest. As she spoke about the importance of living our lives from a place of worthiness, her humorous approach to storytelling made us all sit back, appreciate our imperfections, and laugh at the same time.

    If you are looking for an excellent speaker who is extremely knowledgeable, inspiring, and relatable, I highly recommend Brené. She will offer your audiences a very real look into the powerful emotions that affect every aspect of our lives.”
    Sheryl W. Rapp,
    The UP Experience

    "The world is full of good corporate speakers, but if you miss the opportunity to have Brené Brown speak to your executive team, you will miss something unique, amazing, and powerful. Brené led our Executive Forum in a forward-thinking and powerful presentation that challenged executives to think differently and act boldly. Today′s corporate leader needs this kind of personal authenticity if they are to meet the growing challenge of corporate transparency. Brené brings this message to the table with commanding charisma."
    Karl E. Hansen, CEO
    and Rae Lee Olson, COO,
    The Vita Companies

    “Brené’s research on connection, empathy, and vulnerability in the workplace helped us better understand how the emotional consequences of change play out in the workplace, and how to more effectively engage with one another.

    She delivers a critically important message that is supported by original research and does so in an engaging and intelligent way. Leaders at all levels of the organization came away with a new framework for looking at these issues and making effective changes to how we lead.”
    Elaine DeCanio,
    Shell Oil Company

    “Brené has delivered numerous lectures for us over the past several years, and we believe that in addition to being an incredibly gifted speaker, she is a change agent and a thought leader. She combines research and storytelling in a way that creates real paradigm shifts for audience members. A few examples of their responses include, ′This changed my life,′ and ′I’ve never heard anyone talk about these issues,′ and ′Brené’s parenting guideposts changed the way we raise our children.′

    Brené uses warmth, humor, and vulnerability to connect with her audiences at a deeply authentic level. Whether addressing corporate leaders and philanthropists or parents and mental health professionals, she educates and inspires audiences to cultivate more courage, compassion, and connection in their lives. It’s truly an experience to hear her speak.”
    Laura A. Easton, LMSW,
    Chief Planning and Development Officer,
    The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston

    "Brené is one of the most requested speakers among our teachers, administrators, and parents. As a teacher and a parent, she is able to connect with the joys and struggles in the classroom, at home, and within the school community. She talks openly and honestly about the pressures that come from living in an anxious and overscheduled world, offering real strategies for change. She has talked to us about perfectionism, privilege, addiction, bullying, and many other issues.

    Brené’s speaking style is one-of-a-kind. One minute the entire audience erupts in laughter, and the next minute everyone is so captivated that you can hear a pin drop. She’s real and inspiring, and our school community is grateful for her ability to combine her fresh perspective with original research, providing the kind of stories that make you realize that we’re all in this together.”
    Kevin Brown, Ph.D.,
    Alamo Heights Independent School District

    “Dr. Brown’s gift for combining a thoughtful analysis of her research with her actual experiences as a teacher makes her one of the most engaging speakers we’ve ever had at St. Andrew’s School.

    The point she makes about the tension between holding kids accountable and the unsustainability of a perfectionistic culture speaks to the complexity of being a human being and the beauty of the middle path. If your school is interested in more than simple academic excellence, and wants to explore the importance of balance, purpose, and wellbeing, I don′t know of anyone better to start the conversation than Brené.”
    Tim McGhee,
    Academic Dean,
    St. Andrew′s Episcopal School

    “Brené Brown is one of the best trainers we have had in the eleven-year history of Hazelden’s Women Healing conferences. What’s so unique about Brené is that she does her own research and has the talent to share her work using an extremely engaging presentation style. Over 2,000 people attended our conferences in 2007, and she received excellent reviews on all her evaluations. We hope to have Brené at our conferences again in the future.”
    Patricia Broat,
    Corporate Events Director,
    Hazelden Foundation

    *Please note that while this speaker's specific fee falls within the range posted (for Continental U.S. based events) at the top of this page, fees are subject to change without notice. For current fee information or international event fees, please contact your representative.

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