The Wholehearted Revolution

This week, I and thousands of other people around the world are finishing up Part 2 of Brené Brown’s online Art Journaling course (which is a very simplistic description of a very powerful program). The course ends by talking about a Wholehearted Revolution, and I’m here to say, I AM IN, and to invite you to be a part of the discussion, as well.

What is a Wholehearted Revolution?

Well, let’s back up a bit.

The first time I ever heard of Brené Brown was when something spurred me to click on a link to her first TED Talk, from the 2010 TEDx Houston conference. It was just a few weeks before I was about to publish my first book, and it had a profound impact on me, which I wrote about in one of my earliest blog posts, “Imperfection: a novel.”

Brené Brown’s first TED Talk

I’ve followed Brené’s work and career since then, voraciously devouring her videos and her books (see resources throughout and at the end of this post). The information Brené shares is life-changing.

Brené describes herself as a shame and vulnerability researcher, which at first blush sounds a bit intimidating and for some even unpleasant. But, as she says,

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

The bottom line, Brené says, is:

“If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.” (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

One thing I love about Brené is that she’s so honest about her own struggles. She talks very candidly about her story and her own journey to become a wholehearted person like those she discovered in her research. She doesn’t say, “I’ve got it all figured out, just do as I do and you’ll be wholehearted,” but rather, “This is what my research shows to be true, and I know it’s so hard, because I struggle too.” The fact that the woman who literally wrote the book on vulnerability and wholeheartedness still struggles is so reassuring to me, as I work my own way to the wholehearted path.

The other day, I thought about the part of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry and all the other kids have gathered to talk about all the sh*t that’s going down. Hermione’s all, “So, we need a Dark Arts teacher because the lady with the cats is not going to help us at all.” The other kids are all, “Yeah, but he-who-shall-not-be-named is totally not back.” Harry’s all, “He is. I swear.” Hermione’s all “Harry has done all this awesome stuff! He knows how to fight Voldemort!” And Harry’s all, “Look, I’m not special. I fought because I had to. I worked and I learned. This stuff is hard, but you can learn it, too. Together, we can fight the Dark Arts.” (Quite loosely paraphrased, but you get the point.)

I had this image of Brené as Harry, with Mashawn (her producer for the online ecourse) and Oprah standing strong by her sides, getting everyone ready to fight the Dark Arts.

In one of her talks, Brené said something about how if every woman suddenly decided she looks okay exactly as she is in her natural state (and therefore stopped using all the products that are designed to convince us otherwise), the economy would collapse. (That’s not the exact quote, so if you want to know the exact quote you should buy Brené’s 6-CD Power of Vulnerability audio book, and listen to the whole thing, because it’s awesome!)

Those messages that we are not beautiful as we are, that’s the Dark Arts. (In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says: “Who benefits by my seeing these images and feeling bad about myself? Hint: This is ALWAYS about money and/or control.”) The pressure to be Cool and never Uncool, that’s the Dark Arts. The people who tell us our art and our creativity and we ourselves aren’t any good, that’s the Dark Arts. Our addictions, the things we do to numb and distance and distract ourselves from the pains and fears of our lives – and that’s not just drinking and drugs, but also overworking, overeating, overexercising, or even spending too much time on social media – those are instruments of the Dark Arts. The judgments and gremlins that get inside our heads and tell us we will never be Enough, those are the Dark Arts.

The Wholehearted Revolution is about arming ourselves to take on these Dark Arts and live wholehearted lives.

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

So. What then, really, is the Wholehearted Revolution?

I asked Brené that question in the ecourse, but she had about a million other questions to answer and couldn’t answer them all, including mine, so I’ll give it my best shot.

About sixteen years ago Brené Brown told her husband she wanted to start a global conversation about shame and vulnerability. This is the beginning of that conversation, the beginning of the Revolution. And I’m in it.

We are tired, aren’t we? We’re tired of all the masks and shields and armor and straight jackets and all the things that keep us from showing the world who we really are, that keep us from truly being seen. We are tired of being exhausted, and of wearing that exhaustion as a badge of honor. We are tired of being told we need to be fearful of the Latest Global Frightening Thing, and we are tired of always having to find someone to blame. We are tired of being tired.

In a world where people share ALL THE THINGS! ALL THE TIME!, the Wholehearted Revolution is about learning to set boundaries and share with the people who have earned the right to hear our stories; it’s learning to navigate the world with both boundaries and compassion. (Brené says the most compassionate people she’s met are also those with the firmest boundaries.)

It’s learning to let go of anxiety, and stay calm in a noisy world in which we don’t always have control.

It’s a willingness to be vulnerable and have difficult conversations with people who are important to us, in order to forge deeper, more meaningful relationships.

It’s understanding that courage changes the world, and committing to being brave, even when we are also afraid. (As Brené says, most of us are both afraid and brave at the same time, all day, every day.) And in being brave, we pave the way for others to do the same.

So, if we’re having a Wholehearted Revolution – and I’m telling you we are, if Brené and I have anything to do with it – then I’m all in. I’m in for a better world. I’m in for courage and compassion and connection. I’m in for opening up a discussion about vulnerability and shame and fear. I’m in for gratitude and joy; I’m in for creativity and meaningful work; I’m in for laughter, dance, song, and play. I’m in for being worthy without prerequisites, for being authentic and for being seen, and for being imperfect and enough exactly as I am.

If you’re interested in being a part of the global conversation, too, you don’t have to wait for an invitation: This is it. Check out Brené’s resources, share them, and start having these important, powerful, life-changing discussions with the people you love.

And a note to Brené: Thank you for starting the Revolution.


(If you know of other great resources – I know there are so many! – let me know in the comments!)

Brené’s first TED Talk (see video above or this link)

Brené’s 2012 TED Talk, Listening to Shame

Brené’s 2014 talk in Seattle with Chase Jarvis

Brené’s 6-CD The Power of Vulnerability audio book. (I’ve given these to several friends, and every single one of those friends has listened and then shared them with someone else (and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on…) – trust me, these are amazing and so valuable!)

Brené’s other books and CDs, including the fabulous Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and more.

Brené’s website.

Brené on Twitter.

Brené on Facebook.

Join the global conversation. Commence the Wholehearted Revolution!

P.S. While you’re here, check out my books! 🙂 There’s the Wishing Rock series (wit, wisdom, and recipes), and the Pam on the Map travelogue series! Something for everyone.


Brene Brown gifts of imperfection quotes with border

3 thoughts on “The Wholehearted Revolution”

  1. Great blog Pam & a fantastic summary of the wholehearted journey. I support childless women & honestly I wouldn’t be doing it if I hadn’t been inspired by Brene’s work. Her quote in Daring Greatly about standing outside my life & not having the courage to show up & be seen really inspired my & so I’m in too & looking forward to continuing to grow with you. Lesley x

  2. Thank you, Lesley! I’m excited for what we’ve learned, and I am confident we can use it to change the world! 🙂 Wishing you all the best!! Pam

  3. Googling “brene brown wholehearted revolution,” your post is the top hit! Great stuff. Thought you might be a good person to share this with, something I just posted/asked on Facebook: “I’d like there to be a sort of emotional intelligence version of Mensa. Not exactly, because I don’t think such an organization should limit membership to some tiny fraction of the most superlatively emotionally intelligent people. It’s problematic even to measure EQ rigorously, and a lot of the point of such a group would be to cultivate/practice EQ. Earnestly wanting that would be far more the point than already excelling. Googling hasn’t turned anything up. Brené Brown? Daniel Goleman? Anyone?”

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