People who are best able to deal with discomfort learn the most from failure, according Brené Brown, best selling author and professor at the University of Houston, Texas. In an interview with TIME about her new book Rising Strong, the Oprah favorite says that failure has to hurt, or it’s not failure.
“If you cannot manage discomfort, that sends you barreling into perfectionism, excuse making, blame, rationalizing, fixing it, cleaning it up without taking away the key learnings from a failure or a disappointment, or even a heartbreak.”
Not all failure is equal, notes Brown. The ones that hurt the most are those where people haven’t stayed true to their values and compromised their aims in order to succeed. “When I look back on the failures in my life where my attempts were half assed, and I tried to hedge my bets by not showing up fully, thinking it would hurt less if I lost—those are the most painful for sure.”
Brown says that her success as the nation’s foremost authority on vulnerability and shame has made failure even more of a specter for her. “There’s definitely a new vulnerability that comes with having some success and having wind at your back a little bit,” she says. “I didn’t fear failure as much after I was coming off of failure because I anticipated it.”
But because failure tends to evoke shame, Brown says talking about is crucial. “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: Secrecy, silence, and judgment,” she says. “But you start talking about it and you start talking about the emotional landscape of failure, then you’ve got change.”
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