Dance like nobody is watching.
You only live once.
What’s inspiring to one person may read like an empty platitude to another, but we all have moments in our lives that call for a little encouragement.
At a time when we are collectively experiencing so much uncertainty and upheaval, we’ve found a lot of wisdom and comfort from Brené Brown, a research professor whose bestselling books and viral TED Talks spare no truths and get us to reexamine the way we show up in the world.
While it’s hard to whittle down her expansive work into a neat little list of quotes, we chose 31 of our favorites for you to save for that next rainy day when you need a gentle reminder that you’re not alone in this bizarre, at times brutal, and yet, beautiful life.
1. I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage, or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.
2. Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.
3. I now see that owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.
4. The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.
5. You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
6. Our culture teaches us about shame—it dictates what is acceptable and what is not. We weren’t born craving perfect bodies. We weren’t born afraid to tell our stories. We weren’t born with a fear of getting too old to feel valuable. We weren’t born with a Pottery Barn catalog in one hand and heartbreaking debt in the other. Shame comes from outside of us—from the messages and expectations of our culture. What comes from the inside of us is a very human need to belong, to relate.
7. Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.
8. Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences—good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.
9. Here's what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now, not if, not when, we're worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.
10. One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow, we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.
11. Hope is a function of struggle.
12. Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.
13. We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.
14. Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.
15. Act II: The middle space. The part of the story where the main character is lost and struggling. S/he tries to find the way forward by taking every path except the one that requires vulnerability. The struggle continues until s/he finally realizes that the only way home is through uncertainty and total vulnerability. Into the dark. I hate Act II. I love Act II. The middle is messy. But it's where the magic happens. We live in the rumble.
16. You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure—hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.
17. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
18. True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
19. So much of what we hear today about courage is inflated and empty rhetoric that camouflages personal fears about one’s likability, ratings and ability to maintain a level of comfort and status. We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment and regret—people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values and keep showing up.
20. I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.
21. The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough. Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world.
22. Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They're compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.
23. Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
24. Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.
25. It wasn’t always a choice; we were born curious. But over time, we learn that curiosity, like vulnerability, can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting—choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning.
26. Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.
27. Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
28. Boundaries are simply our lists of what’s OK and what’s not OK. In fact, this is the working definition I use for boundaries today. It’s so straightforward and it makes sense for all ages in all situations. When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change. Yes, there will be people who violate our boundaries, and this will require that we continue to hold those people accountable. But when we’re living in our integrity, we’re strengthened by the self-respect that comes from the honoring of our boundaries, rather than being flattened by disappointment and resentment.
29. When I let go of trying to be everything to everyone, I had much more time, attention, love, and connection for the important people in my life.
30. We are complex beings who wake up every day and fight against being labeled and diminished with stereotypes and characterizations that don’t reflect our fullness. Yet when we don’t risk standing on our own and speaking out, when the options laid before us force us into the very categories we resist, we perpetuate our own disconnection and loneliness. When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even becoming our own wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most.
31. A crisis highlights all of our fault lines. We can pretend that we have nothing to learn, or we can take this opportunity to own the truth and make a better future for ourselves and others.