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I Thought It Was Just Me


Interviews & Videos Brené Brown in Video, Audio, and Print

  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
  • Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    by Harriet Lerner
  • Rhythm And Repose
    Rhythm And Repose

    Tender and beautiful. 

  • Boys & Girls
    Boys & Girls
    by Alabama Shakes

    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

  • City of Refuge
    City of Refuge
    by Abigail Washburn

    Pure magic!

  • Some Nights
    Some Nights
    by Fun.
  • She Ain't Me
    She Ain't Me
    by Carrie Rodriguez

    I'm such a fan. 

  • I'm Your Man
    I'm Your Man
    by Leonard Cohen

    Take this Waltz is on my top ten list of all songs!

  • Babel
    by Mumford & Sons
  • Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
    Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)

    So totally addicted to this series! Absolutely amazing!

  • Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    starring Rufus Sewell

    Based on your recommendations from a recent blog post! It's another wonderful BBC mystery series! 

  • The Good Wife: The First Season
    The Good Wife: The First Season
    starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi

    One of the best shows on TV. Juiliana Marguiles is incredible. 

  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice

believing is seeing

In high school, I was voted least likely to fly across the country and spend 3 days with 12 artists and writers whom I've never met.  

When this Oregon LoveBomb/retreat/vacation/soul-camp was first mentioned, I thought, “Wow. I can’t believe it. Sounds amazing. I’ll be there!” As my departure day drew near, my anxiety increased. By the beginning of August I was trying on different excuses and apologies for having to cancel.

First of all, almost all of these women have spent time together (real, in person time). Many of them are good friends. I didn’t know anyone. Second, these are photographers and artists and heart n’ soul writers. Those people scare me a little. Third, I’d be sharing beds, bathrooms, and possibly secrets with people. I don’t like sharing beds. It might surprise you, but I’m not as low-maintenance and laid back as you might imagine. I need sleep and healthy food. I'm a little lactose intolerant and I don't drink. I cuss too much and clutter makes me crazy. 

I eventually pushed through the exhaustion, fear, and anxiety, and landed in Oregon on Sunday morning. It was so strange to physically see and feel people from the blog world. Everyone looked exactly the same and totally different. On several occasions I had to stop myself from saying, "You look just like someone I know from the Internet."

My prayer before I left was, “Please let me be open-minded and open-hearted during this experience.”  I think I was. I listened and shared. There were moments when being open-minded/hearted was easy and moments when I really struggled against the desire to be guarded and closed.

As you can imagine, there were lots of cameras and lots of laptops. Every time you turned around someone was taking your picture or uploading your picture or showing you your picture. For some reason, even with all of the picture taking, I couldn’t put on a stitch of make-up or even brush my hair. I just washed my face and pulled my hair back with a headband. I wanted to be a bit more glamorous for the paparazzi, but it was like my hands were made out of lead. I’d stand in front of the mirror with a brush or some make-up and I just couldn’t do it.

Karen, who has an absolute gift for capturing the real essence of people, took two portrait pictures of me during the course of the weekend. When she showed them to me, I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. They made me incredibly uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why, but I couldn’t really even look at them.

On Tuesday, Andrea led us through a coaching exercise about core values. Not corporate-mission-statement type values, but real “live or die” values. I was partnered with the irrepressible Jen Lee.

Normally, I would be a little tentative about an exercise like this. I've done this kind of work for so long, I rarely stumble upon any groundbreaking information. This time was different. There is something so incredibly generous and honest about Andrea. I trusted her completely. After an hour of writing and talking and honing, I came up with my list of five values. As others spoke of their experiences and what they learned, I felt a little disappointed about my list. There wasn’t anything really new.

I left Oregon knowing that I had made new friends. I knew I had learned and shared. I also knew that I had stayed true to my open-heart/mind commitment.

I did NOT know what this would mean today. 

I never cried in Oregon. I cried today.

I pulled up the two pictures that Karen shot and I pulled out my list from Andrea’s exercise.

In one heartbeat it came to me.

My list of five broad values collapsed into two piercing mandates and Karen's pictures told the story. I must live authentically and soulfully. These are my values and these are what Karen captured in my photos.

Live authentically.

Live soulfully.

I went to Oregon vowing to be open-hearted and open-minded, but something much bigger happened.

I let myself be seen.

« trying to be brave | Main | imperfect parenting - have hope »

Reader Comments (40)

Wow - that is awesome and awe-inspiring beyond words. My class in Taos two weeks ago and the first class of my quarter last night held a little of the same. It's gut wrenching and wildly exhilarating - all at the same time - and it changes you forever.

Ease yourself into re-entry into life. Take the time you need, amidst this back to school rush, to ponder all that the time meant and will mean. Go slowly and love deeply - even yourself. I can feel the magic....
08.14.2008 | Unregistered CommenterRenae C
Oh Brene... I've got goosebumps.

I saw you.

and I liked what I saw.
08.14.2008 | Unregistered Commenterandrea
me too! i saw you. and i love you...authentic and soulful which is exactly who you are.
08.14.2008 | Unregistered Commentertracey
I really loved the photos of you for they seem to capture two different aspects of your personality,both reflective and fun. I like how you packed some extra baggage to take with you, your anxieties and fears, but were able to strip down, even sans make up, to your essense--soulful and authentic. I love those qualities and would like to be able to claim them as my own one day. It is a real privilege to watch (lurk?) and observe as you bare face and soul. My reaction in response is a range of emotions--joy, excitement, envy (ouch!), and feeling inspired. Thanks for sharing your journey.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly
oh yes, you said it best.
you were who you were. we saw that. we loved that.

just as karen has a special talent for capturing our essence in her photos, you have the same talent - not with photos, but with insightful words that hear, listen, and see.

thank you for that.
and i can't wait to do it again :)
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelly rae
brene, the moment you spoke your words out loud on tuesday, I immediately thought of karen's images. particularly the second one because karen and I had been talking about it, how great it was but I knew you were uncomfortable with it. and I know how that feels. (I spend time behind the camera so I don't have to be in front of it). but these images of you, they are such direct representations of your words. and I am cheering for you here, knowing how hard it must have been for you to post them. I'm thankful to have met you, friend. I really am.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenterandrea
"I let myself be seen." This is, in my opinion, the most beautiful thing we as humans can experience. I feel fiercely about this. I know, from what I read here on your blog, that you feel fiercely about it, too.

I'm glad you had this experience. Sounds truly marvelous and soul-awakening. Most of all, I'm glad you let yourself be seen. I believe the girls who said above that what they saw was beautiful . . . IS beautiful.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristianne
I also got goosebumps. Those pictures are amazing, as are you! You are such an inspiration to me.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristiane
beautiful pictures!
what a wonderful and true smile!
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenterabbeyh
Your words really moved me. How wonderful to see how you found what you were looking for. Wonderful.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLu
this post struck a note inside of me (a first-time reader of your site) and i'm sitting here in my soon-to-be-not-mine cubicle feeling the hum and buzz of the words and images singing in my heart and i just want to say thank you for posting it.

now i'm going to go have a cry in the women's bathroom for a minute, for the freedom that's just around the corner--the freedom to live authentically and soulfully that i am finally, finally allowing myself after so many years of thinking i had to wait my turn.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelly
Beautiful! I wish we could see what others see (the good stuff) .... what God sees and loves.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Amazing. I keep crying every time I read the blog posts from any of you amazing women that attended that retreat. I know there is something really big coming in my life and I know it is going to be life changing... I just don't know what yet. I'm letting go and letting it come. I'm so thankful that you all are sharing your experiences and sharing your true selves with the rest of us.

Much love,

08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen
oh brene, you are beautiful inside & out. thank you.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commentermati rose
Sigh. I saw you too.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterAli
Wonderful! Thank you for sharing. Sounds like an amazing experience for you. If you haven't done a Woman Within weekend, I HIGHLY recommend doing it! You probably have friends from the community already (many work at the center). I did my weekend in October 2004 and it was live-changing!
You are such an inspiration to so many of us!
Bless you,
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenterjoan
Wow--I can't believe you posted those! That's HUGE! The first time I saw the first one, I remember thinking that I could look into those eyes all day; that I could trust them with the darkest corners of my soul. Thanks for never stopping with the words, but for showing us all the way into authenticity and soulfulness with your living.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen Lee
Came across this blog through Ali's link. Read your blog, really looked at your pictures and thought they were beautiful. Just wanted to share.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterTami W.
Brene! Thank you for sharing yourself so openly and honestly. I have been reading your blog from the beginning, and I always find it so refreshing. I often do the same thing - pray for my heart and mind to stay open - raw courage. The photos of you are amazing. Truly. They seem to capture a beautiful vulnerability that shows your authenticity and your soulfulness. They are REAL. Thanks for leading by your values.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenn Hains
Reading this brought tears to my eyes. It was truly authentic and soulful ......Thank you for being such an inspiration.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
oh wow--what a blessed experience. I'm so proud/pleased for you.
08.15.2008 | Unregistered Commenteramanda
WOW! My first time reading your blog and I have to say you gave me goosebumps. I love your words and your pictures are beautiful! I can't wait to read more!!
08.15.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichele H.
I came to this site through a link from ali's website. I am so moved by what you wrote - and how brave and strong you are. Authenticity and soulfulness. Allowing yourself to be seen. Wow. I want to copy this entire post and put it on my wall so that I can reread it every day. Thank you.
08.16.2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
if i were you, i would have a big crush on myself. :)
thank you for sharing a few summer days with me.
you are seen and you are loved long time,
every little bit.
jen gray
08.16.2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen gray
Truly... I am fighting back tears as I read your post. I am dying for an experience like that. An authentic experience with authentic and soulful people...friends...SOULFUL people. You are so blessed to have had this time--to re-discover yourself and how wonderful you are.

I love this quote from Jen Lee's post "Shine"--

"I feel surrounded right now by people with keen sight and kind words, who are rubbing, scrubbing and polishing away all the things that dim my light–the self-doubt, the fear, the disempowering narratives of times past–until all that’s left for me to do is shine."

That scripture is my life verse...Matthew 5:16..."let your light shine before men..."

I so need to do away with all those things and people who dim my light.

Until all that is left for me to do is shine.

Time for a tissue now.

08.17.2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen A.
I know both faces well and love them both. I am proud of you...
08.18.2008 | Unregistered Commenterdawnfh
Both photos really capture the essence of who you are ... alive, genuine, vulnerable ... lovely!
08.18.2008 | Unregistered CommenterRonda
Brene, I just had an "ah ha" moment!

I've never actually checked out your other website (only your blog). Just, literally two minutes ago, I went to your other website and saw the gorgeous picture of you. It really, truly is a great picture of you. But I was left feeling like, 'wow, this woman really has it all together.' And I totally turned off. I started reading your write up, and I kept being drawn into the picture, thinking, 'this is not the Brene I read about on her blog. She's not this perfect person who I couldn't ever connect with. But why does this picture make me think she is?' I just kind of turned off.

... and then the 'ah ha' moment!!! I just about screamed out loud! But my whole family is asleep, so I thought .... I have to tell her. Zoom ... over to your blog .. to this post ... with these *authentic*, *courageous*, *real*, *imperfect*, beautiful, beautiful, *transparent* pictures.

And BINGO ... immediate *c o n n e c t i o n*.

These pictures ... *these* pictures are the 'loving kindness' pictures. These are the pictures that go along with all you've taught me. These pictures draw me into you and your words. These pictures make me want to love (in a strange cyberspacey way). These pictures make you believable.

Does that make sense?

Please, please, please don't think I don't like the 'perfect' picture. Because frankly, if it was me, I'd put that one up on my blog too. If I had to choose. But it just hit me, like a semi truck, that I don't connect with the 'perfect' picture. I connect with the real, transparent, authentic picture.

Am I making sense? I think you probably have this all worked out already and it's what this post is all about, but I just had to tell you ... I get it. And what a really, really great and moving visual to go along with your words.
08.23.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Hi, Brene. I've read your Blog before, but I don't read it frequently. And I'm not even sure how I found it or why I bookmarked it previously. I stumbled across it this morning and felt compelled to comment.I started with the post about your return to work then followed the Love Bomb link after thinking, "What the heck is a love bomb?"

I'm not big on analysis and introspection. And sharing? Forget it.

I was touched by the openness and honesty of your post. I was already touched after reading your post, but Andrea's comment (I saw you and liked what I saw) is what finally made me well up. It sounds like a wonderful weekend. Nothing like a group of girlfriends to rejuvenate you! None of my friends are quite that deep. Or maybe just not that open.

Anyway, my philosophy in life is simple. If people in the corporate/academic world don't like who you are, what they see, how you act, and insist on back-stabbing, gossip, etc., F-U-K-M (f$#k them). Just say the letters slowly to yourself, F-U-K-M. And move on.

You know who you are and what your values are. You seem to have an amazing group of friends who all think you are beautiful. Don't let people at work bring you down. Letting the jerks get to you empowers them. Instead, pity them (just don't waste a lot of time doing it). They're probably just jealous anyway!

08.25.2008 | Unregistered Commentertoadmama
WOw... you are beautiful! LOVE the pictures of you... particularly the laughing one!

I just linked to your blog somehow (don't recall from who, blurfing gets crazy...) and I am looking for your book. NOt at or the local barnes and noble or the library. May have to order it! Thanks for sharing yourself with us!
09.3.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
I want to live an authentic, soulful life, too. I don't know where or how to proceed. Reading your blog posts give me hope that there is a way to have it all -- peace, love, authenticity.

There seem to be more and more people longing for the same things. I feel there's a shift going on in the world. I love finding people who undrestand what I'm talking about. I wish I could have joined you guys on your retreat!!!
09.14.2008 | Unregistered CommenterGlad Doggett
I stumbled upon your blog..isn't that how it always goes. LOVE IT!

Such a gorgeous blog post. Blogging is funny. It's soulfully open, yet tucked away.

I grew up and lived in Oregon all my life and I am glad that you were able to experience beauty there. I think that your story is a real one that many of us can relate that many times we push push push things away..go..and then get hit over the head with what we needed to realise...but at the time weren't ready for.

I look forward to reading more of your blog. It's fab!

09.6.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Lots of people talk about this issue but you said some true words.
12.11.2009 | Unregistered CommenterUnselusly
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04.5.2010 | Unregistered Commentertimmymanson
Hi, I go on your site daily and love it!!. I love to read anything about handbags or related topics. I have a quick question. I am torn between two Louis Vuitton handbags. I am interested in the Neverfull MM and the Speedy 35. I am going with the Damier version. I am looking long term and would be interested in everyone's opinion. I am more traditional than not and I am a stay at home mom. I did purchase a Chanel handbag over Christmas. I got the cranberry color. It really is beautiful. Also, I am 40 years old. I want it to be age appropriate. Thanks so much for any suggestions.
05.21.2010 | Unregistered CommenterprepaicsKep
I'm sitting here crying. My gut reaction to this post, and your UP talk:
Here's someone who would love me and not hurt me.
And as I examined that, I realized that it was about my mother, who I always felt never loved me.
05.28.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrece
First of all, I'm new to you Brene. And I'm inspired. Your pics are beautiful!!! In all your authenticness. Your Ted talk has inspired me to go back to my own Trust research and look at it again. I work with executives in the area of building trust and authentic relationships. I work with sales teams and customer service types to talk about having authentic conversations. And I talk about being The Real Executive.

Thanks for your work. I know that trust and vulnerability are kissing cousins- or feuding cousins. And building trust is about stripping away the veneer, being real, acknowledging your fear. And realizing that you're not in control of anybody. We can only influence and suggest. People will only listen if we're selfless
11.11.2010 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah nixon
Wow...I have a deep appreciation of the gifts you have and share through your work. I am struggling to find words that describe how I feel as I look at your essence in it's realness captured in those photos. My heart longs for what I'll call "majestic freedom" that appears to be found in unbidden authenticity. I am a witness to your path and others' paths shared. I feel alive with wonder and hope for I am excited to realize that I have been looking for a way to identify what I've felt was missing in my life since I can remember. I thought it was my mother, who died when I was very little, and now realize that it was me that I've been searching for and that she is part of me and I can stop looking and start living. I am enough right where I am...start from here. Thank-you Brene and everyone else for sharing your authentic selves!
02.9.2011 | Unregistered Commenteralex
I searched your blog for the word "disappoint" in need of some inspiration. What resulted was blog posts on embracing imperfection, practicing hope, and this one - let myself be seen. I think I'm starting to get the message. ;)
06.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

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