Bréne Brown and how she got me writing again / by Karen Staniland-Platt


I'd heard of Bréne Brown before of course. Friends had recommended her books, I’d seen her referred to in interviews, but I’d never been prompted to pick up one of her books. That was until Monday. This Monday.  

I have a very dear friend and we try to meet every week for coffee. We put the world to rights over flat whites and more often than not we discuss books we’ve read and people we admire. This week my friend mentioned Bréne Brown, and in particular her Ted Talk about The Power of Vulnerability. I don't always follow up on recommendations but I think I kinda felt a bit embarrassed when she told me ‘it’s had like 7 million views, one of THE most popular talks ever!’ and yet I’d never heard of it! It was also kind of down to timing. 

Later that same day, I’d just finished putting my daughter to bed. Correction. I’d just walked out of my daughters bedroom shouting at her for NOT coming off her electronics and I was telling myself what a bad parent I was for over reacting when a message flashed up on my iPad from my friend saying how nice coffee and our chat had been earlier. I needed to calm down for a few minutes before going back into my daughters room and apologising (we’d never talk again if I didn’t make the first move) and so I googled and found the talk.  

For one thing she looked different than I'd imagined. I had conjured up an image of some skinny American with bleach blonde hair preaching at me about being brave but instead this Bréne looked, well a bit like me. Her mannerisms reminded me of an ex work colleague who’s intelligence and opinions I’d always admired and so I warmed to her very quickly. That feeling increased when I witnessed her dry, sarcastic sense of humour, almost British in it’s 'laugh at myself' darkness. She talked about her research into happiness and how much she relied on data and things she could ultimately control (another tick in the box for a control freak like me) and then the biggy, she spoke of her own breakdown…or spiritual awakening as she apparently now calls it.

That was it, she had me. She was totally relatable (and ironically I now realise she made herself vulnerable) and she had me hooked. Then the light bulb, life changing moment of change sentence… of the two groups she’d studied, the one’s who were most content, most happy, where the ones comfortable in their own vulnerability. These were the people happy to say I love you first. The people who took risks focussed on the potential outcome and not how foolish it might make them feel if it went wrong. I was NOT one of these people, and slowly but very surely I began to think about the things I struggled with, the moments of regret I’d had, the dreams I still had not quite got on with pursuing and realised every darn one of them was down to my not wanting to be vulnerable.


For reasons too complex and downright dull to go into here, I've spent a lot of the last 18 months turning inwards and trying to gain a better understanding of myself and my motivations. In many ways I've been successful in that and learnt a lot but at no point had I had the earth shattering ‘OMG that's IT!’ realisation I had right then, watching that Ted talk. Brene went on to talk about it being no surprise that we’re the most addicted, obese and medicated generation around…(more light bulbs) and I could barely keep up with the thoughts buzzing though my mind. 

Later that evening I sat and wrote down everything that had come to mind earlier and it was like a truth I’d always known but never said out-loud. A true breakthrough. I was paralysed at the thought of being vulnerable…vulnerable to insult, loss, mockery, the whole shebang. Ironically the biggest revelation was still to come…

Fast forward 48 hours and I receive an email from a writing course challenge I'd signed up for a week or so earlier advising that my first task was due, to write about something life-changing. I had just the right thing! Writing that first task (this!) was when I rediscovered my love for writing. I'd loved writing as a child (and told more than my fair share of 'tall tales') and now I began to realise why. I loved writing so much because I don't feel vulnerable when I do it.

I don't worry what it sounds like, I don't procrastinate about what people will think, I just let it flow. That makes it sound easy. It’s not. But the fear of baring my soul, the vulnerability that creates, well it doesn't show until my writing is done and out there for the world to see, and by that point it’s too late anyway.

So thank you Bréne (because of course you'll be reading this blog 🙄🙄🙄) for teaching me that embracing my own vulnerability may well be the key to my future happiness but best of all for your immaculate timing as it may just be the spark that gets me writing again. 

Note: This piece was actually written in February of's just taken me until now to embrace my vulnerability and start this blog. How ironic.

If you haven't seen it before you can view this life changing TEDTalk here.

The writing challenge referenced above ran in early 2018 and isn't currently available but I'd highly recommend taking a look at it's creator Beth Kempton. She runs fabulous self development courses all year round and by registering with her you'll not doubt hear when the next writing retreat is running. Take a look here.