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Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language
its from the Latin word cor, meaning heart and the original definition was to tell the
story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to
be imperfect.(Brown). This quote is taken from The Power of Vulnerability TED Talk by Brene
Brown. This text studies human connection delivered through a powerful speech. Brene Brown
summarizes and explains our ability to empathize, belong, and love. In a touching and humorous
talk, she shares a deep insight from her research and stories from her own life, that had sent her
on a personal journey to know herself as well as to begin to understand humanity. Vulnerable is
an adjective that is defined as: 1. Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a
weapon. 2. Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc. 3. (Of a place) open to assault;
difficult to defend. Vulnerability is hard. We live in a world today where we are very
individualistic and egocentric. Our society tends to only think of oneself and our egocentric
tendencies causes us to think of ourselves as invulnerable. Society struggles asking for help,
accepting help, and believing all together that help is needed. With over 27,000,000 million
views on Brene Browns talk titled The Power of Vulnerability you cannot help but ask why is
this so popular and relevant in todays society? The Power of Vulnerability is so popular because
of the communication, language, and storytelling techniques that Brene Brown uses in her
dialogue. Walter Fisher who is a communication theorists discusses The Narrative Paradigm
(which we will examine more later on) explains that stories persuade an audience by their
coherence and fidelity. These are two strengths that Brene Brown carries throughout her talk. In
this essay I will discuss the history of storytelling, TED Talks, and Brene Browns life. I will
examine the perspective of language and storying telling in relation to Brene Browns talk.

Finally I will look at why this talk has made such a huge impact in todays society and the
reasons vulnerability applies to everyone and why you should tell your own story.
Why Storytelling?
Stories are an essential part of our society and culture. If you look at our world today
movies, books, music, news, or any type of media, you may notice the influence that storytelling
holds in those and all aspects of our lives. For as long as there has been language and
communication people have been telling stories. According to Association of College Unions
International stories, storytelling is the oldest form of narrative communication known to
humans. Everyone throughout history and the world today creates stories as a way of making
sense of the world. Stories help us understand complexities. Storytelling and human emotions are
closely linked and strongly influence every aspect of our lives. We tell stories every day. Stories
come many different types of forms. There are seven basic plots of stories: overcoming the
monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. Storytelling
has many uses and could be used in order to teach, settle a disagreement, make sense of the
world, entertainment, and record the actions or characteristics of the past for the future. Although
no one knows when the first story in history was actually told, it is said that the origin of
storytelling could have come from the idea of calming fears or doubts that others held. The
oldest surviving tale in the storytelling history is the epic, Gilgamesh, relating to the deeds of a
famous Sumerian king. The earliest known record in the origin of storytelling can be found in the
Egypt, when the sons of Cheops entertained their father with stories. (Colwell). Stories and
storytelling are so important because when they are passed down from generation to generation
or from person to person, the stories show a reflection of wisdom, care, and knowledge from a
personal point of view. Many traditional stories are relevant to our lives today. Stories can tell us

about a truth even if the story is fictional. Stories have the advantage that can take us on journeys
in our imagination and feelings. All people tell stories about the world around them. Cowell
states that storytelling keeps the present in touch with the past, reaffirms values, and passes on
wisdom in an entertaining and memorable manner. It is believed by most historians and
psychologists that storytelling is one of the many things that define and bind our humanity
What is TED, and what does it stand for?
TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. These talks first came about in
1984 with one failed attempt and then another successful attempt in 1990. The two men in charge
were named Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks. Wurman had stated he found an
observation of a powerful convergence among the three fields of technology, entertainment, and
design. (Anderson). TED talks started out as an annual conference in California and at the time
TED was an invitation only event. As time went on TED talks went from being a single talk on
how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry by a mathematician to a
wide variety of presenters. TED speakers included scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious
leaders, celebrities, and so many more. In 2000 Richard Wurman met with a man named Chris
Anderson who wanted to bring change to the TED talk conference. Chris Anderson wanted to
take TED and make it a nonprofit organization. His goal was to find the most fascinating people
and let them be a part of TED by letting them speak on what made them passionate. Anderson
wanted to reach many and not just the people who attended the annual TED conference. In 2001,
Chris Anderson became the keeper of TED talks and his goal to leave an impact on many had
started. TED soon transformed into something huge. Different conferences came about making it
easier for all to participate or attend these talks, prizes were developed for the winners, and TED

talks were then put online. The first six appeared online in 2006, it became a craze from then on.
In 2014 the company had reached its 30th anniversary and celebrated by holding a conference to
look at all they had done and what is going to come.
Brene Brown and The Power of Vulnerability
Brene Brown was born in San Antonio, Texas and then raised and now still lives in New
Orleans, Louisiana. She received her bachelors, masters, and Ph. D in social work. Brene Brown
began her career as a research professor exploring authentic leadership and wholeheartedness in
families, schools, and organizations. She is also an author of three best sellers, now the CEO of
online companies that are learning communities and self-help for many. Brown is the founder
and CEO of COURAGEworks, which is an online self-help website and organization that offers
classes for individuals interested in Brenes work on braver living and loving. Her other
company is Brave Leaders Inc. which is an organization that brings her latest research on
leadership development and culture change to teams, leaders, entrepreneurs, change makers, and
culture shifters. Brown is also the CEO for The Daring Way, a training and certification program
for helping professionals who want to facilitate her work on vulnerability, courage, shame, and
empathy. (Hai). Brene Brown presented her first TED talk in 2012 and it was titled The Power of
Vulnerability and it immediately became popular. In her TED talk Brene begins by telling a story
of herself when she was a doctoral student. Her research professor had told the class that if
something cannot be measured then it does not exist. With her own personal mindset on life and
in social work career, she loved hearing that. She did not like living by the motto of life is
messy, love it she felt she needed an exact answer. That is when she decided she wanted to
make life not messy. Brene wanted to understand the messiness of life and lay out the answer of
how to handle and make sense of it in front of everyone to see. She started with the idea of

connection. Connection is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives and important for
humans to have. From connection Brene Brown started to look deeper into shame since she said
the opposite of connection, she discovered is shame. What she realized that shame is the fear of
disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, I wont be
worthy of connection? (Brown). Brene then identified that there are two types of people; the
people who feel shame and tell themselves that they are not good enough and then the whole
hearted who are people who have a strong sense of worthiness and a sense of love and belonging.
From here she examined what these two factors had in common and found four core reasons.
That those who had a strong sense of worthiness had the courage to be imperfect, compassion to
be kind to themselves first, connection as a result of authenticity, and they fully embrace
vulnerability. Brene realized this about her research: my mission to control and predict had
turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and
predicting. She finishes with, that we live in a society where we feel we need to numb
vulnerability but when doing that we numb every other emotion we could possibly feel. We try to
make everything that is uncertain, certain. We blame, and we try to perfect. What we should be
doing is to let ourselves be deeply, vulnerably seen. To love with our whole hearts, to practice
gratitude and joy, and to believe that we are enough. When we work from a place, I believe, that
says, Im enoughthen we stop screaming and start listening, were kinder and gentler to the
people around us, and were kinder and gentler to ourselves. (Brown).
Impacting Society
This TED talk took the internet by storm. With now 26,903,863 views, Brene Browns
talk on The Power of Vulnerability is number three on TEDs top talks of all time. Lots of
information, talks, speeches, and words in our world today are true but not many get the same

circulation that this twenty minute talk did. Why is that? This is a state and experience that
everyone is our world goes through and must go through. This resonates with many people who
are struggling and this resonates with many because this is our human nature in a broken world.
We live in a society today where we are individualistic and must do things on our own and only
for ourselves. We all have emotions and like Brene had stated in her talk, the ability to feel
connected is why we are here and connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. As humans
and as Christians we are called to live in connection and community. In the book of John he
states This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13). Brenes talk is
centered on the idea that we need to be connected and that shame only appears when we feel we
cannot be truly ourselves. That is when we must be whole hearted and have the courage to be
imperfect and embrace being vulnerable. The Lord has called us to love one another as He has
loved us first. We live in a world where nearly one in five adults suffer from a mental illness.
NAMI (The National Alliance against Mental Illness) states Every year, about 42.5 million
American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from
some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Many people in this world are struggling with being vulnerable. It is proof that we struggle with
negatives such as shame like Brene explains. When we feel these negative emotions we do not
carry the courage to ask for what we need, to talk about our feelings, or to have the difficult
conversations. The question we are faced with now is why is this talk by Brene Brown so
popular? This TED talk is not only extremely effective and popular in society today because it
speaks truth and is true but because of the language, communication, and storytelling that Brene
Brown uses.

The Narrative Paradigm Perspective

When looking at Brene Browns talk on The Power of Vulnerability you may instantly
note that it hits home in your own life, feelings, and inner being. Brown describes why being
vulnerable is important and a practice that everyone in society should embrace in todays
overwhelming world of emotions. With Brene Browns talk reaching over 26,903,863 viewers, it
leaves us with the question of why is this particular conversation on vulnerability is so popular
and why has it reached so many people? It is popular because of the way that Brene Brown
organizes her speech. She makes an extremely powerful use of a narrative by using honest and
witty language and telling stories from her own personal journey that cause the audience to view
her as relatable and form connections to their own lives. In this analysis I will form ideas and
comparisons to why I believe Brene Brown organized her speech with certain language choices
and storytelling, The Narrative Paradigm, and thinker Abraham Maslow and what it means to be
fully human.
Narrative paradigm is a concept found in communication theory and was developed by
Walter Fisher. The concept is adopted from the oldest form of communication which is story
telling. Walter Fisher had stated that all meaningful communication is in the form of storytelling.
Peoples past experiences influence our need for communication and also base our human
behavior. Narrative paradigm is very helpful in analyzing the nature of human communication. A
narrative is described as any verbal and nonverbal interpretation which is arranged logically to
generate a meaning. (Fisher). The Narrative Paradigm is influenced by the experiences and
other aspects a person could experience from the past. This concept maintains the idea that
communication happens between two people, a narrator and the listener to form a dialogue in the
arrangement of a story. The story includes the events that the narrator wants to communicate

with the listener and the story does not have to be described to fit in one single category. Walter
Fisher divides The Narrative Paradigm into two categories, coherence and fidelity. Coherence is
defined as any content while communicating is effective only if it makes sense to the listener
and coherence is the degree of sense making of a narrative.(Fisher). The effectiveness of
coherence in delivering a story is influenced by three factors such as the structure of the
narrative, the resemblance between stories, and credibility between characters. The second
principle is fidelity. Fidelity is defined as the credibility or reliability of the story narrated. It is
greatly shaped on the persuasion of the listener whether the person accept the story or not. A set
of values is followed for accepting the reliability of the story.(Fisher). Fidelity is achieved in a
story by following a sequence of questions that could be answered such as: Are the events
described really factual? Has the facts been distorted while narrating? How does the argument in
the story effect the decision making of the listener? How are the importance of the story been
narrated? When summarized, Walter Fisher states that narrative coherency and narrative fidelity
are what make one story better than another.
When looking at Walter Fishers ideas on The Narrative Paradigm and Brene Browns The
Power of Vulnerability, you can make clear distinctions and comparisons on how these two align.
To start, the beginning of Brene Browns speech starts with Brene describing what she could be
called as a person and profession combined. She starts by telling a story of when she is on the
phone with an event coordinator, planning an event she is to speak at. The coordinator calls her a
storyteller and the story takes off from there. And she said, Well, I saw you speak, and I was
going to call you a researcher, but I'm afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because
they'll think you're boring and irrelevant. And I was like, "Okay." And she said, "But the thing I

liked about your talk is you're a storyteller. So I think what I'll do is just call you a
storyteller.(Brown). At the start of Brene Browns talk a point is clearly made that Brown is a
storyteller. This is important not only for the point of the language and communication style that
Brene Brown uses in her work but also because of the idea from Walter Fishers The Narrative
Paradigm, he states that one of the main points is that all humans are essentially storytellers. It
promotes the belief that humans are storytellers and that listeners are more persuaded by a good
story than by a good argument. Brene Brown completes this task throughout her speech. Her goal
is to persuade the audience to embrace vulnerability but in order to do so she does by not only
use being vulnerable herself but by telling examples through stories from her own life instead of
arguing or just stating that being vulnerable is an important and good thing. Brene Browns
whole talk is a story of her own personal journey of discovering her own comfort with
vulnerability. That is why it catches the audiences attention and interest, because Brown uses a
very specific type of language and storytelling communication style to relay her message and
Walter Fisher talks about how stories persuade people by their coherence and their
fidelity. Browns story is coherent. It hangs together well, it makes sense, and its consistent. It
also rings true for us today because it has fidelity. Coherence is the quality of being logical and
consistent. I had stated earlier that the three points of coherence are the structure of the narrative,
the resemblance between stories, and the credibility of characters. In The Power of Vulnerability
all three of those things are shown in order to prove Brene Browns coherence in the narrative.
Brenes style is calm, relaxed, and witty. She makes herself relatable, just as an everyday person
or a friend you would regularly get coffee with. Her language used is informal and is so
connectable that it feels like you are reading a story from your own life. The structure of the

narrative begins with Brene describing research she had done while getting her masters degree.
She wanted to make life un-messy, so she decided to research the idea of connection. From there
it was a downward spiral of self-discovery and she tells this story from the same continuing
structure and language. She continues the narrative with story after story of monumental
discovery moments in her life. She is logical with her thinking, consistent with her words and
actions, and relatable with her stories. My one year turned into six years: Thousands of stories,
hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point, people were sending me journal pages
and sending me their stories -- thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a
handle on it. I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I
published a theory, but something was not okay -- and what it was is that, if I roughly took the
people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness -- that's
what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness -- they have a strong sense of love and belonging
-- and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they're good enough.
(Brown). This quote taken from Browns talk shows her logical and consistent language. She
speaks about her life as a story, telling her listeners in a structural way how she got to the place
she is today. You can continue to see The Narrative Paradigm in The power of Vulnerability by
also noticing Brene Browns use of fidelity. Fidelity is faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief,
demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support. It is reliability or credibility. I had stated earlier
that you can notice fidelity in a story by answering a few questions such as: how does the
argument in the story effect the decision making of the listener? Or how has the importance of
the story been narrated? Brene Brown answers both of these questions and you can see the
answers by the number of views the video has gotten and also by the popularity that Brene
Brown has in our world today. You can answer how has the importance of the story been narrated

by what we have been discussing on Brenes relaxed language and personal phrasing of words.
She is never trying to sound better or more important than her listeners. Her communication and
dialect shows that her point is to prove we are all the same. We might have different situations
but walking the same journey.
Another example would be how Brene Brown expresses her feelings and emotions
through language and storytelling. There are parts of the speech where you can clearly tell she is
ecstatic and others where you could tell she was feeling heartbroken. She is able to capture these
emotions through speech and storytelling by her language used while telling stories and also the
dialect used when you listen to the video. Brene does this in order to relate to her audience in a
moment that she can share that she also feels these highs and lows in life and to make known to
her listeners that they are not alone. At one point in her talk, Brown describes when she had a
breakdown. She tells the story of when she decided to go and see a therapist and her journey
through that particular experience. And so I said, "Here's the thing, I'm struggling." And she
said, "What's the struggle?" And I said, "Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that
vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's
also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I
need some help." And I said, "But here's the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit. And then I
said, "It's bad, right?" And she said, "It's neither good nor bad. "It just is what it is." And I said,
"Oh my God, this is going to suck." And it did, and it didn't. And it took about a year. For me, it
was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight,
but probably won my life back. (Brown). Here, Brene shows her vulnerable emotion through a
particular time she was struggling. She allows her listeners to view a time in her life where she

was feeling stuck. Through this story you can note her emotions changing and also see the valley
and hardship she was walking through, through her language.
One reason discussed is why we individuality and personally should make ourselves
more vulnerable. One of the biggest reasons why people become shut-offs is due to their
crippling lack of confidence and self-love. When we have little respect for ourselves, the
criticism and judgement of others comes as huge shattering blows that severely cripple us. No
wonder many of us despise vulnerability! The more self-love you cultivate, the more confidence
you have in yourself and thus the easier it is to embrace vulnerability. (Luna). An article by
Aletheia Luna describes four reasons why. It allows you to be more authentic and honest with
yourself and others. It opens opportunities that otherwise would have never happened unless you
were vulnerable. It allows you to be challenged and thus grow, learn, and be strengthened. And it
promotes general well-being by allowing you to fully experience everything life has to offer.
Luna summarizes well the importance of vulnerability and why we should take steps in order to
be vulnerable in our lifetime Vulnerability is an immense asset, and yet our current values and
ideals in society portray it as undesirable and dangerous to our well-being. In reality, the
opposite is true: our vulnerability empowers us to love deeper and grow stronger.
(Luna).Abraham Maslow is the theorist who developed the hierarchy of needs and helped define
what it truly means to be fully human. Abraham Maslow states that the highest need of mankind
is becoming fully human or as it is titled in his pyramid, self-actualization. The hierarchy of
needs can be described in the shape of a pyramid. The bottom two layers of the pyramid you
have physiological needs and safety needs, which could be described as your basic needs with
examples such as security, safety, nourishment, warmth, and rest. The middle two layers of the
pyramid are belongingness and love needs and esteem needs which are described as

psychological needs. They include prestige or the feeling of accomplishment and also developing
intimate relationships with others. The top of the pyramid is the most important in this case. At
the top is self-actualization, which stands for the self fulfilment needs which includes achieving
ones full potential. We can also call this becoming fully human. In order to reach the top of the
pyramid you must first start at the bottom and fulfil each needs moving to the top. It is hard to
reach self-actualization because we do not allow ourselves to feel or be vulnerable with one
another. Jean Vanier who is a Canadian philosopher says Sharing our weakness and difficulties
is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes. Imperfections are seen as
both gifts and opportunities, yet society does not view them that way. This could draw people
closer together. Moving others to give more of themselves and in doing this, opening a space in
order to discover our common humanity. (Taylor). This shows that in order to be fully human
we must be fully in touch with our emotions and remember that what makes us vulnerable also
makes us beautiful. We must let go of who we think we need to be in order to be who to be truly
who we have been made to be. What society struggles with is reaching the point of being fully
acceptable of themselves and not letting that fear of individuality consume them. Through Brene
Browns speech of storytelling on vulnerability, Maslows point of becoming fully human is
reached. I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last,
which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we
work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start
listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to
ourselves. (Brown). This quote taken from Brene Browns talk shows through her language and
storytelling that when you embrace yourself, your emotions, and your vulnerability, you then can
fully embrace everything life hands you.

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown is relevant to so many in todays society and
gained such great popularity so quickly due to the way it is communicated through storytelling
and the language used. Brene Brown uses coherence, fidelity, and relatability in order to reach
and engage her audience. Storytelling is a powerful and valuable tool to share and inform
important messages in our world today. When examining what this summarizes and answering
what it means for the text, it could be stated that in order to be relatable, relay a message to other
in an orderly way. It stands for the importance of storytelling and how being relational and
vulnerable are important and also go hand in hand. That a good story is not only absorbing but
also has emotions, rawness, coherence, fidelity.
From my own personal stance, I learned a lot from this semester long research on
storytelling and The Power of Vulnerability. Walter Fisher and his idea in communication theory
of The Narrative Paradigm opened my eyes to thinking of Brene Browns speech in a rhetorical
manner and also viewing what elements give not only her story but stories in general coherence
and fidelity. I learned about the importance of telling my own story that it is not about me and
could be used to touch or influence another life. I learned that being vulnerable is not a sign of
weakness. That when you are vulnerable you are strong, beautiful, and truly embracing yourself.
The biggest thing I learned and comprehended was the idea behind what makes something
popular. The answer is not always just because it is a fad, but because there is a larger and deeper
meaning behind it. In this case it was storytelling, language, and communication. I will continue
to believe that in our world today, communicating with the world around us is extremely crucial.
When looking at the next steps of this research, examining the world around us and what
could be foreseen with future research on vulnerability I would ask the question of if this speech

by Brene Brown is so popular and loved by so many, why isnt society practicing the tools we
have been given? We have an understanding that there is a fear of disconnection and shame still
holding us back but why do we not take the steps to live whole heartedly? Why do we not begin
to use storytelling to communicate? When thinking ethically, I ask myself why do we sell our
own selves short? If a friend were to want advice on this topic we would advise them to tell their
story and live vulnerably but when it comes to ourselves we are so willing to take steps back.
What changes could be made and how do we continue to move forward?

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