Brené Brown: The Call to Courage (Netflix)
I know I've missed the Brené Brown bandwagon when the audience gives her a standing ovation at the start of her Netflix special. One guy is doing that thing I've only ever seen in movies, where you clap and shake your head at the same time. A woman is clutching her friend's arm in a way that suggests one of them could fall over if they're not extremely careful.
I'd never heard the name Brené Brown before it popped up on Netflix the other week – now it feels like I see it everywhere. Who is this woman and what does she want from us?
The first part of that question is easy enough. Brené Brown (PhD) is an American academic who has not one but three social work degrees. For the past 20 years she has been studying courage, vulnerability, shame (feel like my whole life has been a study in shame, but okay) and empathy.
In 2007 she published her first book and in 2010 did her first TED talk. It's the TED talk, on vulnerability (why it's good and important), that made her famous. She's written five books around the same theme since and all have been #1 New York Times bestsellers.
So she's Kind of a Big Deal. Most recently she had a cameo in Wine Country, where Amy Poehler and all the other wine ladies mobbed her in a restaurant.
Her hour-long talk "The Call to Courage" feels like it could be a stand-up routine, only there are hard-won pearls of wisdom where the punchlines should be. On top of being highly qualified she also is funny and warm and relatable, which is probably why her message lands so strongly with so many.
She feels like your friend, or your friend's mum who you always ended up having deep and meaningfuls with when she let you drink at her house. She looks like the classic "I want to speak to the manager" archetype but you know when the manager comes out, all she's going to say is: "I just want you to know you're doing a great job, honey."
Still, it's natural and probably wise to be sceptical of any self-help guru with a Netflix special. Remember when Marie Kondo told us to throw out all our stuff and we all just went along with it? She doesn't even have a degree, just OCD.
I'm definitely sceptical when one of the first things Brené Brown says, on stage, to a crowd of hundreds, is "how many of y'all know that I'm super introverted?!" I mean, come on. But maybe this is it – what does she know that I don't?
Where do I start? Basically, what Brené Brown wants from us is for us to be brave – to get out of bed every morning and say "today I will choose courage over comfort". And to do this we have to be vulnerable, because courage and vulnerability are the same things.
It's a bit harder than tidying your house. But if you actually do it, the results are probably more worthwhile.