Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can speak about vulnerability, shame, introspection, self-awareness and emotional intelligence at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.


Full Video Transcript:

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about vulnerability and shame. Wow, this is going to be a fun video.

So look, there’s a brilliant TED talk that was given by a woman by the name of Brené Brown. She lives in Houston. It’s an outstanding TED talk. Actually, it was a TEDx talk first, and then she spoke at TED as well. I’m going to put a link to her video right up here. If you haven’t watched this video already, I highly recommend you do either before or after watching this video, but the two of them relate to each other.

Now, just a real quick summary. What we’re talking about with vulnerability and shame is it’s insecurity in a sense but there’s a critical distinction between “I have a problem” and “I am the problem.” What we’re talking about here is the second one, “I am the problem,” vulnerability and shame. You’re ashamed. You’re not good enough. You’re not tall enough, not smart enough, not rich enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not muscular enough – you’re not enough. The problems in your life are caused because of you. It’s your deficiency. That’s vulnerability and shame.

Now, Brené Brown did a lot of research in this area and determined that the people who are living wholehearted lives, in other words, the people who are truly happy in their lives, are people who embrace vulnerability and shame and share it with people who they’re close to. That doesn’t mean sharing it with a million people you don’t know – it means sharing it with one or two or three or four people in your life. But being willing to share those vulnerability and shame elements, those insecurities with other people allow them to feel more wholehearted and happy and content in life because there’s a very deep connection.

But I want to add to her research because I live with this in my own life and I’ve thought about this for probably hundreds if not thousands of hours, just because I am very clearly in one of these categories. So here’s the deal: There are people who have vulnerability and shame. They have it and they want to talk about it. It is their native experience they want to live in this space, they want to share, it’s natural to them, and they’re happier when they share it.

Secondly, there are people who have vulnerability and shame and they don’t want to talk about it. It’s there. It’s a burden for them. We’re talking about those little voices in your head that say, “You’re not worthy of this. You’re not good enough to do this. You’re going to fail. You’re not going to succeed. You’re not good enough.” It’s those little voices.

So these people have it. These people have it but they don’t want to talk about it. It is not their native experience. They would like to avoid it and they feel uncomfortable when they’re forced to confront it. And when they do confront it, they quite often have like a meltdown and really are very upset about being forced to confront these issues in their lives.

But the third category is people who don’t have this. Their mind does not work that way. Some people believe that everyone has this and some people are just better at hiding it than others – I disagree. I’m not a researcher, I’m not a scientist, I haven’t done any studies, but I’ve lived my life and I have met people where there just isn’t anything there. There’s nothing that bugs, there are no voices in their head saying, “You’re not good enough.” They don’t have that daily burden of insecurity in their life. It doesn’t exist.

Now, they can look back on their life kind of very academically and be like, “Well, sure there are things that I’m not good at and I’m maybe even embarrassed about some things that I’ve done in the past,” but it doesn’t represent a burden today. It’s just a clinical acknowledgement that yeah, this is something that happened. It’s almost like reading a story of someone that’s not even themselves. They’re like, “Yeah, it happened. I mean, I get it,” but whatever, it doesn’t bother them. They don’t have that insecurity in their day-to-day interaction.

I believe Brené Brown is in the middle category. I don’t know her, I’ve never met her, but I believe, and even the way she describes it in her TED talks, she has vulnerability and shame in her life but she never really acknowledged it or was forced to confront it face-to-face. Instead, she was just a doer and a very high-producing individual that just focused on getting things done as so many of us do, and then when she came and when she saw this in her research, she started to go to a therapist I think herself and was essentially forced to confront some of these vulnerabilities and shame, and had like a breakdown and really struggled with it. This is her words, not mine. You can watch the video. Like I put the link up there a second ago, and see that for yourself.

But the point is that someone like me, like I have plenty of vulnerabilities and insecurities, believe me, and I live with them every day. That’s just who I am. And it allows me to connect and relate to people on an extraordinarily deep level. In other words, the idea that this is a quality you would not want to have is not necessarily accurate. There’s no judgment: Not having it or having it – it’s not better or worse. The people who don’t have it make great salespeople, they make great CEOs, they make very good cheerleader, move-forward types of people because they’re not held back with any insecurities. They’re just no-fear, confident alpha people who go out there and just achieve, achieve, achieve.

So that’s a good quality to have. But meanwhile, they don’t have the depth. They think they do. I have friends like this. I just had this conversation last night actually, which is why I’m making this video today. I had the idea to make this video last night in this conversation. And a friend of mine, she just doesn’t have this.

Now, in general—these are broad generalizations—more women tend to have introspective vulnerability/shame/insecurity than men on average. Men tend to be a little more alpha. They don’t think about their emotions as much as. So if you drew the bell curve, they’re not on top of each other. The men are a little less emotional and women tend to be a little more emotional.

I tend to be actually a little bit more on this side. Like I’m very the emotions and the thinking, the introspective. I’m like hyper-introspective. But it allows me to do what I do. It allows me to do this video to try and communicate with people in a way that hopefully they understand. And when I speak in front of audiences, that empathy and that understanding of their situation as an entrepreneur, small business owner or even as CEO of a larger corporation, when I do events for larger, higher up the food chain, like midsized companies or even Fortune 500 companies, that empathy comes through. It helps me as a speaker and it allows me to connect on a very, very deep level with people in my life.

The other people, they can’t do that. It’s just their life is all about just the news, like what’s going on. Hey, what’s going on today? And they talk about what’s going on and, “Hey, this is going on, that’s going on,” and they talk about different things, but there’s never that human experience of life of like, “Oh, I know what that feels like. I’ve gone through that myself. Here’s what happened to me. What are you going to do? How do you feel about it?” It’s not always about solving the problem right away – it’s about digging into the problem and analyzing it and being introspective and your experience and my experience and different ways of approaching it, and you explore it. It’s something that can be an extraordinarily fulfilling process.

So the people who don’t have it at all, they believe that vulnerability is weakness. You are being weak by being vulnerable. And they have no burden in their life. These people also see it as weakness. They see vulnerability as weakness. They have it in their lives. These people don’t, really. These people do. So these two people are very different but they both see vulnerability and shame as being weakness.

But this third category, I’m categorically in this category here, I live in this space and I believe it’s my greatest strength. I believe it’s my greatest strength. It’s the way that I relate to people and I form these unbelievable connections with people, very, very deep connections where there’s some real loyalty and understanding and compassion between myself and whoever it is. So I would never want to give that up, and frankly, I don’t believe my speaking career would be a success if I didn’t have that quality.

So again, it’s not better or worse. The people over here would never want to be in my shoes, but I’m over on this side and I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes either. It’s important to note by the way that these people over here – they think I’m crazy. And if you’re this way, if you have vulnerability and shame in your life, they think you’re crazy. They think you’re crazy. They think that you’re irrational and absolutely don’t understand, and when you voice a problem they just immediately want to solve the problem.

And that’s not what you want. What you want is to dig into it and understand it and have like a real dialogue about that issue. Because if someone just solves it, you’ve gotten no validation whatsoever. They’ve just dismissed your problem like you shouldn’t even—“Number one, it’s not a problem, and number two, you certainly shouldn’t be upset about it.” So both of those are condescending towards you. They say, “What are you so worried about?” That’s not what you want. It’s the exact opposite of that. You want someone to say, “I get that. I understand why you’re upset about this. I’ve had a similar situation myself. Here’s what I did.” And a dialogue begins, and then there’s a very deep connection there. It’s validating and it’s very fulfilling to have those sorts of dialogues.

So again, Brené Brown did a brilliant job with her video. I highly recommend you watch it. I think she’s in the middle category and she is now learning about vulnerability and shame in a very clinical way, she’s being guided through the process, but it’s not her native behavior. It’s not something that she would naturally do. She’s putting herself through it because she’s learned about it, and so academically she’s learning how to express that vulnerability and shame. She has models about it.

So if you’re in this space, I think she’s got some brilliant research to help you understand how to function and how to share that vulnerability, and it can add a lot to your life. But if you’re in this category like me, you just live in this space. You don’t need any training. You’re good to go. When I meet people, I can tell within five minutes if they get it. If they’re introspective the way I am, I can tell immediately. And if you’re the same way that I am, you can tell too. I’ve met people like you, and you’ve probably met people like me and it’s a quick connection, the sorts of relationships that get started very, very quick and become very strong bonds. Sometimes within a day or two you can be very, very tight with each other.

So anyway, understand that there are different types of people. I would love to know if Brené Brown knows the percentages of these three people. I would love to know the percentage breakdown. Like am I in 30%? Is it roughly one-third of the population? Is it half or is it like 10%? I have no idea. I really have no idea. I am tempted to believe it’s probably 30 or 40%, but who knows? I really don’t know the answer. If you do, include it in the comments, or if you have a resource that might have information about this, I would love to hear it. So put it in the comments. I’d love to hear that.

Either way, I appreciate you watching this video. I encourage you to share it with other people who might need to hear this message to help them understand either themselves or maybe someone in their lives. Either way, I appreciate you watching. My name is Patrick, encouraging you to think bigger about your business, think bigger about your life.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.