In Their Prime

*Note: We loved this post from our partners at Experience Life so much we just had to share it here. Be sure to check out the 3 bonus portraits at the bottom to see one of our EWLive faves!

Think beauty fades after 40? These nine honest, beautiful portraits will make you think again.

The incomparable Bette Davis once said, “Old age is no place for sissies.”

She wasn’t kidding. Aging gracefully in a youth-obsessed culture requires mental toughness, especially for women.

We’re told over and over that time steals our beauty. We’re bombarded with “anti-aging” messages entreating us to erase every spot, pore, wrinkle, and gray hair.

We’re basically threatened with a grim life of loneliness if we don’t spend half our income trying to look younger, and we’re led to believe that if we look old, only our grandchildren will love us — and maybe not even they will.

No wonder we’re anxious about aging.

When was the last time you heard the aging process described as honorable or fascinating? Beautiful, even? It’s about time for a broader perspective.

Happily, the women featured in veteran celebrity photographer Peter Freed’s collection of portraits — now compiled in a book titled Prime — provide exactly that.

Freed’s project profiles more than 120 women — all over the age of 35 — who boldly faced his lens without makeup or artifice. Each unretouched image is accompanied by thoughts from the subject about her life.

You’ll meet nine of Freed’s Prime subjects and hear some of their thoughts on living and aging well. They make it clear that older does not mean duller, that beauty and vivacity and love all span time, that it is possible to embrace the signs of age as evidence of a hero’s journey.

As these women tell it, aging is not a subtraction, but an accumulation of experiences that make life richer. If that kind of experience shows on our faces, then so much the better.

Here’s to each of us wearing our own experiences proudly.

Christy Turlington

Christy Turlington

Age: 46

Profession: Model, humanitarian

ON EMBRACING AGE: I always wanted to be more experienced, more worldly. I couldn’t wait to be 30 when I was 20. I thought that would mean I’m a woman and I’ve earned the right to have an opinion and interests that matter and make a difference in the world. I felt like that’s when you begin the real good stuff.

ON BEING HERE NOW: It’s not that I’m realized or have perfect balance, but I do feel like there’s not a lot I’d want to change. I feel excited about what’s ahead, and I’m not in a place to rush through everything like I once was.

ON LOOKING FORWARD: Life is exciting where I am, and I like the unfolding of it. I’m interested in aging in that sense:

  • What will I look like?
  • What will I be?
  • Who will I become?

Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller

Age: 46

Profession: Author of the memoirs Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, and Leaving Before the Rains Come, among others

ON LOOKING OLDER:  I’m not going to outsource my face and my expression so that I look like everyone else or don’t look like I have had the life I’ve lived. I’ve smoked my body weight in cigarettes, I’ve lived through war, I’ve cried and been joyful — I’m supposed to look a little haggard. There’s something so powerful about unapologetically walking around in your own body and face.

ON AGING ENTHUSIASTICALLY: It’s such a brilliant thing, getting older consciously. Even the language shifts. I’m not “shrill” anymore; I’m strident. I think young women need models on how to age unapologetically.

Cindy Joseph

Cindy Joseph

Age: 64

Profession: Model, makeup artist, founder and CEO of BOOM! by Cindy Joseph (a pro-aging cosmetics company)

ON BECOMING A PRO-AGING ADVOCATE: I decided to launch a movement — the “pro-age revolution” — because I wanted to share the good news: Life gets better. It really does. As I get older, I am getting better, happier, sexier. But when we see people who are older, we often see people who are covering their signs of age instead of wearing them proudly. We could be excited about getting there, too, if we saw more of our elders celebrating their age.

ON THE POWER OF WORDS: We need to pay attention to our language and how we commit ageism. Let’s say “vital” instead of “young.” When we say, “Oh my God, she looks so old,” we could be saying, “She looks unhealthy, tired, or depressed.” But we say the word “old.” Yet you can have miserable, closed-minded, sickly people who are young. It’s not the age that creates those characteristics; it’s more lifestyle and attitude.

Ellen Fisher Turk

Ellen Fish Turk

Age: 70

Profession: Special educator, photographer

ON STAYING INVESTED: When I was in my late 60s, I started getting very sad and wondering if I was approaching the last stage of my life. And once I approached 70 I was free, because I had my life and my life was getting bigger and bigger. So I wasn’t resigning or retiring or relieved to leave anything. I was invested in my life.

ON BEAUTY: I have a bumpy nose, and curly, gray hair that doesn’t make any pretense. That sculptured, craggy carved look is what I like now. I’m wearing my hair pulled back and so there’s nothing but my face. I love it these days. I often see people who’ve had cosmetic surgery and how the surgery fights with their face. I wouldn’t want that.

Karen Walrond

Karen Walrond

Age: 48

Profession: Writer, photographer

ON BEING AT EASE:  I’m comfortable in my own skin. I like the lines that are coming. I actually like my face better now than 20 years ago. I’m not going to hide it. I don’t know if growing up in Trinidad gave me a different perspective on aging, but it did on beauty. Everyone wears tank tops and bikinis in Trinidad — all shapes and sizes. When I went back as an adult, that really struck me.

ON NOSTALGIA: Being 10 was a great age, but I have no desire to be 10 again! My 30s were an adventure — seeing what was out there for me. My 40s have been grounding. I can’t imagine how it can get better, but every decade has been better than the last one. I come from a line of long-livers. It’s not unrealistic to think that I will live to 100. That means I have an entire lifetime ahead. That’s thrilling. Some day, perhaps, I will have to slow down. But who’s to say I won’t be ready?

M. Joy Rose

M. Joy Rose

Age: 58

Profession: Educator, activist

ON THE FIRE OF PURPOSE: My friend Pam donated her kidney to me 15 years ago. I was a decent person or she wouldn’t have given me a kidney — but her generosity shifted my priorities. I became fiercely committed to having a life that benefited not just me but other people. We can’t always change the body; I know that intimately from being ill. But we can feed the flames of life, passion, and purpose.

ON CELEBRATING REALITY: I love myself, and I have to tell myself that every day. If I didn’t, society might tell me I need a facelift or I’m too old. Or that I should be wearing heels or be 20 pounds lighter or that I shouldn’t have pink hair. That I should get some injections. The antidote to that is literally to tell myself, I love me. Then I surround myself with people who will celebrate me, and I will celebrate them.

Shiva Rose

Shiva Rose

Age: 45

Profession: Holistic lifestyle expert, blogger, activist

ON GETTING BETTER WITH AGE: I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I have more energy, and I feel alive creatively. I feel like I’m a little bit more fearless, maybe because I’m older. I’m taking chances, and doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do, because I realize how precious life is. Yet I’m young enough to still enjoy it.

ON SELF-CARE: I’ve been doing kundalini yoga seriously, and it has helped me tune in to my intuition. I have a morning ritual of drinking living tea and sitting in meditative silence. It has helped me not be dictated to by what the media is telling me, and instead I’m listening to what’s real and true for myself. I think if you have self-love, you appreciate what your body has been through. Like scars — look at them as warrior marks.

Mihea Kim

Mihea Kim

Age: 48

Profession: Attorney

ON OVERCOMING ILLNESS: There were years that I lay in bed with pain everywhere from arthritis and constant fevers from lupus. Doctors told me there was nothing they could do. But a close brush with death woke me up. Time passed, my body responded to my efforts to train it and regain strength. I started to run a little, holding small weights in each hand. Fast-forward 10 years to today — I’m a runner. My body and mind are awake, pain-free, strong, and alive.

ON THE VALUE OF SUFFERING: The Buddha speaks of “meaningful suffering,” a state of consciousness where one’s suffering has value. It is a state of reflection, a serious consideration of one’s experience of pain. Being sick is part of my story. I am the phoenix that rose out of the ashes.

Elizabeth Lesser

Elizabeth Lesser

Age: 63

Profession: Author of Broken Open, cofounder of Omega Institute and the Omega Women’s Leadership Center

ON AGE AND AGELESSNESS: My first job was being a midwife. I delivered enough babies to know that every one of us comes into this world in possession of a radiant, pure, ageless self. It taught me that we all have an eternal soul we come in with and that leaves with us. So on that level, there is no such thing as aging. But I am also quite attached to my body, my life here on Earth, the people in my life. I live in both of those realities — the eternal soul and the vulnerable human self.

ON THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF AGING: My spiritual life helps me choose the good parts of aging and shrug off the scary parts. The good parts are the wisdom gained from years of living, the way I no longer need to prove myself, the sense of humor I have about my own foibles, the acceptance of others, the joy in the simplest acts of being alive.

THREE BONUS PORTRAITS

Juliette Branker

Juliette Branker

Current age: 59

Profession: Retail manager, model

On maintaining perspective: I don’t focus on looks, to be very honest. I feel like I’m lucky that I look the way I look, but it’s not a concern for me. I am from Barbados. I am the seventh of eight children. I was born in a house. If you went the hospital, you went there to die.

On the gift of time: I think aging is a beautiful process. I’m happy to be here. I don’t want to die young. I want to be here as long as I can. It was a huge loss when my soulmate died. I went to Argentina to get myself together, where I knew no one, where I didn’t speak the language…. Someone snatched a necklace from me. It was a present from him, but I had to let it go. It freed me. I let go of my past. I started to tango. I let the dead be dead and live life.

Mireille Guiliano

Mireille Guiliano

Age: 69

Profession: Author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women Don’t Get Facelifts

On mental age: I’ve met people in their 30s who look old inside and outside, and people in their 70s who look and feel young. Age is in your head. Right now, I can be 20 or 30 in a minute — or at least my spirit can be which is what matters, isn’t it? I don’t look at myself in the mirror often enough to spot my facial wrinkles — a true sign of the kind of life I lead…lots of kissing and laughing, so, yes, wrinkles around the eyes and mouth — and most of the time I feel physically well, and certainly happier and stronger than at 20 or 30. And so much love to give.

The happy surprises of aging: That I would love more time for solitude. That silence would become the height of luxury. That I would be even more sensitive than I have been all my life to the beauty of the universe and to real friendship. That I would meet so many new and interesting people. That age is about why and how we live.

Brené Brown

Brene Brown

Age: 49

Profession: author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, among other books, professor at University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, speaker

The problem of shame: If I had one career goal, it would be to spark a global discussion about vulnerability and shame and the dark emotions — the things that get in the way of us leading truly joyful lives from a place of worthiness, a place of “I am enough. I am imperfect, I’m vulnerable, I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time… but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m brave and worthy of love and belonging and joy.”

On opening up: The irony of being an adult is that in order to be the partner and parent and person we want to be, all of the windows we’ve closed, the doors we’ve shut, the walls we’ve built in our lives, have to come down and open up. I think that is the work of midlife.

Photography by Peter Freed

We are proud to have Experience Life‘s support as a sponsor of Emerging Women Live 2017. Join us in Denver, Oct. 5-8th, for the one-of-a-kind, intimate and interactive event!


Brené Brown, Kris Carr, and Jensine Larsen: Keeping Our Feminine Fires Stoked

When we ask our Emerging Women Live speakers what the number one thing women can do to stoke the flames of feminine leadership, the answers are distinct in perspective, but very similar at the core.

The real Power-with-a-capital-P seems to boil down to one thing: deep connection with like-minded women in a safe space. It supercharges everyone’s efforts to lead in a way that feels uniquely nourishing. Don’t you agree?

Brené Brown – author of Rising Strong and Daring Greatly

Kris Carr – author of Crazy Sexy Cancer and Crazy Sexy Diet

Jensine Larsen – founder of World Pulse 

We need to support each other. We need to speak our visions so we can be supported.

Power Circles are an ideal way to both share your vision and get the support you need to move your vision toward your reality.

The Circles are an opportunity to connect regularly with women who inspire you, to get clear about what you really want, and to be in a sisterhood that believes in your capacity for leadership and impact.

The more we meet, the stronger we get, and the further our waves of emboldenment and compassion will spread into the world. And that’s a world worth creating!

Learn more about the transformative power of Power Circles HERE.


Q: What do disco, a capella, Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert have in common?

A: This amazing spontaneous karaoke moment from Emerging Women Live 2015, proving that business leadership, personal growth, and straight up FUN are not mutually exclusive terms.

After two of our favorite authors shared the details of their super-supportive and hilariously honest friendship on stage, Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown led the crowd in an impromptu a cappella version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, “dedicated to Shame and Scarcity.”

We love this community of women and the real sense of intimate connection that courses through the entire event. These power women, from audience and stage alike, become our peers – our sisters in revolutionary change.

If you want to feel the energy up close and in person for yourself, tickets go on sale today for the 4th Annual Emerging Women Live conference, October 13-16 in San Francisco, CA. Give yourself a truly transformative gift this holiday season. Get registered HERE.

Top Six Keynote Quotes from Emerging Women Live 2015

Wisdom to inspire, calm, motivate and guide you.

Hundreds of women gathered in San Francisco over the weekend for 4 days of inspiration, authentic connection, feminine leadership training and more. Our lineup of keynote speakers was as influential as ever, including Dr. Jane Goodall, Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, TEDTalk sensation Esther Perel, Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing and Dr. Tererai Trent.

We selected some of the most powerful insights from Emerging Women Live 2015 keynotes to share with you here. Feel free to comment, share, tweet and post your faves, too.

Be sure to catch these brilliant women on the live stream archive, which will be available for replay until Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015.

1. Dr. Jane Goodall (Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace)

“The tribe is like an eagle and the eagle will only fly true and high when the wings are equal,” American Indian Proverb via Dr. Jane Goodall, speaking on gender equality.”twitter

Dr Goodall

 

2. Brené Brown (Research Professor, University of Houston and Author of Rising Strong)

“There is nothing more threatening to the critics than a woman who is willing to fall because she knows how to rise.”twitter

 

 

3. Elizabeth Gilbert (Bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and newly-released book, Big Magic)

“I don’t believe in fearlessness…there’s always an instance where fear saved us. Show some appreciation and respect for that. And then figure out how to work around it.” twitter

 

LIz-Gilbert

 

4. Kim Jordan (Co-Founder and CEO of New Belgium Brewing)

“Leaders need to make choices that are consistent with what matters.”twitter

 

Kim-Jordon

 

 

5. Esther Perel (Psychotherapist and Consultant to Fortune 500 Companies) 

“Desire needs a space to thrive. It needs separateness. Psychological distance. It needs mystery and an unknown.” twitter
 

esther perel

 

6. Dr. Tererai Trent (Founder/President Tererai Trent International)

“I define myself. I create my own destiny.”twitter

dr-trent

Brené and Liz – On Stage Together for EWLive15

Big news, Emerging Women –

Brené Brown. Elizabeth Gilbert. Talk about real feminine power. They’ve unfogged the lens through which I see the world, opening me up to the magic of curiosity and power of vulnerability. They are both insightful and hilarious, genius and genuine, and they bravely embrace their true selves as they model the journey to authenticity and meaning. In short, these women are my heroes!

If you feel the same way, set down your drink and get ready to flip out… cause we’ve got BIG NEWS.

We’re reuniting this dream duo for an intimate on-stage conversation at Emerging Women Live 2015 in San Francisco!

You may remember that Brené and Liz met for the first time at the innaugural Emerging Women Live in Boulder, CO. The connection was immediate, and there was air-karate to prove it. Their bond had a ripple effect that amplified the already intense “these are my people” feeling that bubbled in the room. And we want to be a part of that again.

So on Oct. 8-11, 2015 in San Francisco, Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert will not only each share a fresh keynote talk with the tribe, they will also come together for a conversation that I WOULD NOT MISS FOR THE WORLD. Would you?

Tickets are on sale now, at a steal of an Early Bird price. Now’s the time to reserve your seat – the line-up is only going to get more phenomenal! I can’t wait to get the goosebumps of deep resonance with Brené, Liz, and every one of you.

Big Love,

Chantal Pierrat

PS – A ticket to Emerging Women Live 2015 is the IDEAL holiday present for a changemaking woman in your life. Just register with your information and send an e-mail to [email protected] explaining that the ticket is a gift. The most amazing. gift. ever.

Are You Stuck in the Waiting Room? – #EmergingNow

Dear Friends,

We’ve all experienced loss, whether through trauma, adversarial conditions, or transformation in our lives. Often times we get so stunned by the transition that we become stuck in what today’s podcast guest Christina Rasmussen calls “The Waiting Room.” And while the Waiting Room is a wonderful place for processing, we don’t want to stay there too long.

It helps if we can remember that periods of challenge and loss are also periods of opportunity: to see the world in a way we’ve never seen it before, to re-create ourselves and our lives. That’s what Christina helps people remember through her work – that we can raise the bar of life after loss, not lower it.

I feel that women in general have been “stuck in the waiting room,” for a long time now, especially in the business world. And with events like Emerging Women Live, I want to help women take action, leave the waiting room behind, and start to re-envision the way we can live, work and thrive in this new era of feminine power. Are you on board? Continue reading “Are You Stuck in the Waiting Room? – #EmergingNow”

Impact & Inspiration from the Women We Love

As we get ready for EWlive14, it’s wonderful to remember how inspired and transformed we were by the inaugural EWlive in Boulder, CO.

That’s why we loved re-reading this blog post from Rose Caiola, founder of Rewire Me and Power Party New York speaker, recapping the many “a-ha” moments we experienced at that gathering. Check out the quotes and speakers that left a lasting impact on her here:

Emerging Women: 10 Women Who Rocked My Weekend.

Were you at EWlive13? Did you join us via Livestream? Add to the excitement for this year’s event by telling us who made your top 10 list in the comments below.

Just TWO MORE WEEKS, ladies! See you soon!

5 Reasons to Get Yourself to NYC for EWlive14 – #EmergingNow

Dear Friends,

With three weeks to go before Emerging Women Live 2014, we are crazy busy! But in the midst of the chaos of planning a huge event, we find ourselves drawing on the values we’ve learned from this amazing community. What would we do without it?!

When we are overwhelmed, we practice vulnerability and allow our team the opportunity to give us strength and courage. When we face challenges, we face them together, pooling our resources to come up with collaborative solutions that often turn out even better than the original plan. We share our successes and laugh/cry together over our stumblings. There is no way we could do any of this without the wisdom so many phenomenal women are bringing to this tribe. Continue reading “5 Reasons to Get Yourself to NYC for EWlive14 – #EmergingNow”

Win a free trip to EWlive14!

We are thrilled to present this awesome opportunity for you to connect with over 500 visionary leaders at the transformative Emerging Women Live 2014 event in New York City.

Announcing the Connect for Change Contest, your chance to win an all-expenses-paid ticket to join Brené Brown, Arianna Huffington, Eve Ensler, Danielle LaPorte and more, October 9-12th at the Times Square Sheraton Hotel!

Entering the contest is easy…

Just click like on the Connect for Change Contest Facebook page to be entered to win weekly prizes from our generous sisters at Threads Worldwide.

You’ll be invited to enter Round 2, to let your true self shine and win tickets to the conference… or the fabulous Grand Prize of an all-expenses paid trip to New York for an unforgettable weekend with the women who are changing the world!

Emerging Women ignites and inspires visionary, revolutionary women who are ready to rock the business sphere with their conscious feminine leadership and alignment. Threads provides sustainable income opportunities for women worldwide because empowering women is the most effective way to strengthen families and build thriving communities.

TOGETHER, we are changing the world, and you can, too. Join us!

Wholehearted Visionaries – Emerging Now

Dear Emerging Women,

There is one question I have been asking myself over and over as we get closer to Emerging Women Live: What is my true desire for this event?

Sometimes chaos and changing circumstances can force me into the “doing” and the details at a time when I really need to be thinking about the meta principles of why I started Emerging Women in the first place: the desire to connect deeply with others, to share moments and milestones in relationship and alongside others who are also committed to living a full and meaningful life. YES.

But here’s the thing: we cannot truly connect with others if we are hiding parts of ourselves or we are making decisions in our lives that don’t align with our inner truths. Naming and committing to our inner truths takes immense courage – and I don’t believe it can be achieved alone. It requires risk, vulnerability, and the desire for alignment over fantasy, and we need the witnessing and reflection from others to fully step into this bravery.

I have fought against being vulnerable my whole life, and as a result my capacity for intimacy was stunted, hampering all of my relationships – business, personal and otherwise. When I practiced vulnerability – over and over again – I realized how defended I was, how much I was holding back, how much I was keeping from myself and the world. It was hard – it is still hard – and yet with people around me also committed to this path, I have found the courage to make this the only place from which I move forward into the world.

This is why I love Brené Brown and why I am beyond honored to have her as our opening keynote for Emerging Women Live 2014. Join me and find out first hand how the daring work of vulnerability and authenticity is creating a new breed of impactful and conscious leaders, and together we can blaze trails for future generations of wholehearted visionaries.

Big love,

Chantal Pierrat

Founder, Emerging Women

Brené Brown to Deliver Opening Keynote at EWlive14!

>>Like what you’re hearing? Join me at Emerging Women Live 2014 in NYC this October for a truly unforgettable weekend of dialogue and connection.

Brené Brown to Deliver Opening Keynote at EWlive14

We are thrilled to announce to you today that the one, the only, Brené Brown will be speaking at Emerging Women Live 2014 in New York City, Oct 9-12th.

Those of you who saw her at EWlive13 know what a tremendous blessing it is to have her back again this year. Brené’s has reshaped the way we think about our strengths with her groundbreaking research on shame, gratitude, authenticity and vulnerability. Her insight and compassion is evident in this conversation we had in 2013 for Origin Magazine. Soak up some classic Brené wisdom and humor, and then sign up to join us all in NYC to see what revelations she has for us this year!

Interview from Origin Magazine, photography from EWlive13 in Boulder, CO.

Chantal Pierrat: I want to start by saying thank you for being so real. Your work gives people permission to be themselves, and that’s probably the greatest gift that anybody could give.

Brene Brown: Thank you, that means a lot. We teach what we have to learn. It’s been an extraordinary journey that I couldn’t have done with not only the research participants but the community, the tribe that we’ve built of people who are also on this journey.

CP: Does community help with the work of vulnerability? Does it help us to become more vulnerable?

BB: I can’t even think of the right word, but it’s not “help.” It’s more like a prerequisite. I think connection is why we’re here, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and belonging is in our DNA. And so “tribe” and “belonging” are irreducible needs, like love.

“I think connection is why we’re here, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and belonging is in our DNA.”twitter

CP: You started as a researcher. At what point did the researcher become the guinea pig, and how did that change your work, if at all?

BB: I’m still a researcher. The best way to explain it is that I trusted myself deeply as a professional, but I did not have a lot of self-trust personally. When I started learning all of these things about the value and the importance of belonging, vulnerability, connection, self-kindness and self-compassion, I trusted what I was learning—again, I know I’m a good researcher. When those things and wholeheartedness started to emerge with all these different properties, I knew I had to listen. I’d heard these messages before personally but I didn’t trust myself there.

I wasn’t really testing it on myself as much as I was learning from other people about what it meant to live and love with your whole heart, and then thinking, oh my god, I’m not doing that. Everything that these folks are saying that they’re trying to move away from, like comparison, perfectionism, judgement, and exhaustion as a status symbol—that all describes my life. It was more like a medical researcher studying a disease and figuring out he or she has it.

CP: You’ve got the credibility of your research, yet there’s something in your delivery that’s really opening people up.

BB: I love how you frame that, because it’s helping me understand myself better. Someone asked me very recently why I have 8 million views on TED —”your work resonates, what are you doing?” What I think my contribution is, what I do well, is I name experiences that are very universal that no one really talks about. That’s the researcher in me; that’s really part of being a grounded theory researcher—putting names to concepts and experiences that people have. Then I tell my own story. The two things that people really need to transform is language to understand their experience and to know they’re not alone. It’s the combination of the researcher-storyteller part.

“The two things that people really need to transform is language to understand their experience and to know they’re not alone.”twitter-logo-ew

CP: For people that are new to the concept of authenticity and playing around with vulnerability and courage, actually being themselves—is it something that can be practiced?

BB: It has to be practiced. It’s a practice for me every day, sometimes every hour of every day. It is an absolute practice. When I went into the research, I really thought that there are authentic people and inauthentic people, period. What I found is, there people who practice authenticity and people who don’t. The people who practice authenticity work their ass off at it.

“…there people who practice authenticity and people who don’t. The people who practice authenticity work their ass off at it.”twitter

It was so scary to me. Oh my god, that’s going to be a lot of work. I thought, You either have the gene or you don’t. It was scary. But it was so liberating: I thought, This is not predetermined—I get to choose. There are some days where I have to choose five times in a day. I had to make a choice when you called and the phone rang, whether I’m going to show up and be me, or whether I’m going to say what I think I’m supposed to say and get off the phone.

I had to choose this morning, when I could tell my husband was in kind of a rotten mood, whether I was just going to ignore it because I’m tired and it’s Friday and I’m packing lunches and getting kids to school and doing all this, or if I’m going to put everything down, start breakfast, and look at him and say, “Hey, something is going on. I want to hear about it.” It’s a practice. It’s about showing up. And sometimes I don’t do it. I almost always regret it, but sometimes I don’t do it. Sometimes I walk into a situation where I’m intimidated and I want to be liked and I want to fit in, and I don’t choose authenticity. And it’s always pretty miserable.

brene brown speaking

CP: What about the idea that we need to protect ourselves or have boundaries?

BB: Huge. One of the most painfully inauthentic ways we show up in our lives sometimes is saying “yes” when we mean “no,” and saying “no” when we mean “hell yes.” I’m the oldest of four, a people-pleaser—that’s the good girl straitjacket that I wear sometimes. I spent a lot of my life saying yes all the time and then being pissed off and resentful.

One of the things I talk a lot about in my work that I try to practice—which is really hard–is in those moments where we’re being asked to do things or asked to take over or asked to take care of something, we have to have the courage to choose discomfort over resentment. And to me, a huge part of my authenticity practice has been choosing discomfort and saying no.

“…we have to have the courage to choose discomfort over resentment.”twitter

On the flip side, I’ve also had to struggle with saying “yes.” Before I did this research and before I had my own breakdown and spiritual awakening around this work, my motto was, “Don’t do anything that you’re already not great at doing.” Which I think is the way the majority of adults in our culture live. Authenticity is also about the courage and the vulnerability to say, “Yeah, I’ll try it. I feel pretty uncomfortable and I feel a little vulnerable, but I’ll try it!”

CP: You’re talking about risk.

BB: That’s the whole idea behind Daring Greatly. That whole phrase, “daring greatly,” is from the Theodore Roosevelt quote that goes back to your original question of, what about the critics? And when I read his quote it was life-changing. “It’s not the critic who counts; it’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done the better. The credit belongs to those of us who are actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. We strive valiantly and sometimes there’s the triumph of achievement but at the worst, we fail, but at least we fail while daring greatly.” That has really changed my life. Profoundly changed my life.

“We strive valiantly and sometimes there’s the triumph of achievement but at the worst, we fail, but at least we fail while daring greatly.” ~Theodore Roosevelttwitter

CP: Now it’s changing the lives of others.

BB: I think a lot of us are looking for the same thing. I feel very lucky to have a definitive moment where I know everything shifted in me, and it was the moment I read that quote. Because I thought, A. That’s everything I know about vulnerability. It’s not winning, it’s not losing, it’s showing up and being seen. B. That’s who I want to be. Courage is a value. My faith is the organizing principle in my life and what underpins my faith is courage and love, and so I have to be in the arena if I’m going to live in alignment with my values.

And the last thing is, I can’t be paralyzed anymore by the critics. My new mantra is, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, then I’m not interested in your feedback. You don’t get to sit in the cheat seat and criticize my appearance or my work with mean-spiritedness if you’re also not in the arena. Now, if you’re also in the arena and you’re putting your ideas out and you’re owning them and you’re saying “I disagree with you about this and that, I think you’ve got this wrong”—then not only do I invite that, I freaking love that. I love that. I’m an academic. I’m hardwired for a good debate.

CP: How would the world be different if we all learned to really embrace vulnerability and authenticity?

BB: We would solve a lot of huge problems that are causing massive suffering. Poverty, violence, homophobia, heterosexism, racism, the environment—all these things that are crippling us. We need big, bold, dangerous, crazy ideas to solve these problems. When failure is not an option, innovation and creativity are not options. In a highly critical, scarcity-based world, everyone’s afraid to fail. As long as we’re afraid to fail, we’ll never come up with the big, bold ideas we need to solve these problems.

“Poverty, violence, homophobia, heterosexism, racism, the environment—all these things that are crippling us. We need big, bold, dangerous, crazy ideas to solve these problems.”[inline]twitter

We have become this very fear-based culture, especially post-9/11. Fear is the opposite of love, in my opinion. I think there would be more love in the world. I’m not talking about rainbows and unicorns and ‘70s Coca-Cola commercials. I’m talking about gritty, dangerous, wild-eyed love. Radical acceptance of people. Belonging. A good, goofy kind of love.

CP: You’re on fire!

BB: [laughing] I’m having a passionate Friday, can you tell?

CP: You’re really funny – you make people laugh. I’m curious: how do you think humor fits into your work?

BB: I’m a huge fan of the poet Billy Collins. I heard him say, “Humor is the door to the serious.” I think that shame is a universal, paralyzing, painful emotion. The only universal language I know of that wraps up joy and gratitude and love is laughter. And so I believe in the healing power of laughter. I believe laughter forces us to breathe. I think laughter between people is a holy form of connection, of communion. It’s the way you and I look at each other and without words, say, I get exactly what you’re saying. And so, it’s important to me.

“The only universal language I know of that wraps up joy and gratitude and love is laughter. And so I believe in the healing power of laughter.”twitter

CP: It’s also disarming.

BB: I agree. The laughter that happens when people are truth-telling and showing up and being real – I call that “knowing laughter.” That’s what happens between people when we recognize the absurdity of the belief that we’re alone in anything. If there’s a feeling you have, other people have it. If there’s something weird about your life, other people have lived it. If there’s something kooky about your body, other people have that, too. We’re not alone. There’s some kind of tremendous relief in that and I think it can only be expressed in belly laughter. This tremendous relief that happens the millisecond we realize, it’s not just me. That’s what good laughter is about. It’s about knowing that you’re not alone.

>> Ready to laugh, cry and get mad goosebumps and inspired ideas together? Join us at Emerging Women Live 2014 in New York City, October 9-12th. Register now for savings!

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