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On this episode of Unlocking Us

I am back with my sisters, Ashley and Barrett, to do a follow-up on the Summer Sister Series on The Gifts of Imperfection. We received a lot of questions in the comments after the six-episode series, so I’ve pulled my sisters back in to seek some answers. We are also knee-deep in life stuff right now, so we open up about our own struggles with some of the topics in question, including running away, setting and managing boundaries, polling others over listening to ourselves, and living in authenticity. Join us as we seek A’s to all the Q’s from social media.

About the guests

Ashley Brown Ruiz headshot

Ashley Brown Ruiz

Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker certified by the State of Texas. She received a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Early Childhood Education from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Fueling a passion from working over a decade in a Title 1 school in Houston ISD, Ashley pursued a Master of Social Work from the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. As part of her role as Senior Director of The Daring Way, she leads The Daring Way Internship Program with students seeking a master’s degree in Social Work. Ashley works with the interns to run therapy groups at different agencies around the Houston area. Her experience comes from working with women in residential recovery, adolescents in recovery, and middle school girls. Ashley’s ability to model and teach vulnerability and courage allows her to help clients pull together all the pieces of their lives to help them move toward the life they hope to create. She is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Barrett Guillen headshot

Barrett Guillen

Barrett Guillen is (OFFICIALLY) Chief of Staff for Brené Brown Education and Research Group and (UNOFFICIALLY) the boss of Brené. With her team, Barrett supports both Brené and the organization by helping to prioritize competing demands, managing relationships, and building connective tissue and strategy across all business initiatives. Barrett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Houston. After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to the Houston area to join the BBEARG team in making the world a braver place.  Having the opportunity to work with her sisters everyday has been one of the great joys of her life. Outside the office, you can find Barrett spending time with her family (immediate and extended), enjoying her daughter’s games, eating her husband’s famous burgers, floating in the water (any water!), or on the pickle ball court.

Show notes

The Gifts of Imperfection 10th-anniversary edition in paperback

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

For over a decade, Brené Brown has found a special place in our hearts as a gifted mapmaker and a fellow traveler. She is both a social scientist and a kitchen-table friend whom you can always count on to tell the truth, make you laugh, and, on occasion, cry with you. And what’s now become a movement all started with The Gifts of Imperfection, which has sold more than two million copies in thirty-five different languages across the globe.

What transforms this book from words on a page to effective daily practices are the ten guideposts to wholehearted living. The guideposts not only help us understand the practices that will allow us to change our lives and families, they also walk us through the unattainable and sabotaging expectations that get in the way.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone. I’m Brené Brown and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: And guess who I have with me this week. Y’all say hi.

Barrett Guillen: We’re back.

Ashley Brown Ruiz: Hello.


BB: My sisters are here. [chuckle] Yay! We are coming back to do a follow-up to the “Summer Sister Series” on The Gifts of Imperfection because we got a lot of questions in the comments on social media, and so we’re going to try to answer as many as we can. Before we jump in, let me just tell you… Let me remind you about Ashley and Barrett.


BG: And how our lives have changed since the podcast.


BB: Yeah, right? I will tell you, this is probably a warning. You know we’re cussy to begin with, but holy shit. We are ass-high in taking care of kids in massive transitions right now, and we are really knee-deep in some parent caregiving. How are y’all feeling?

ABR: I’m tired.

BG: Ashley was going to retake the wholehearted inventory so she could just see how it changed from the summer and she didn’t get through it.


ABR: I was like, “50%, 50%, 50%.”


BB: Yeah, I know. We’re in a… I don’t know. We’re in a tough spot. Let me tell you a little bit about Ashley and Barrett before we get started. Ashley, when she was five, came downstairs from… and this is… I’m not reading the bio, I’m just telling y’all the story.


ABR: I don’t even know where we’re going.

BB: Ashley, when she was five and when Barrett was five, obviously, identical twins, came down the stairs for their first morning of kindergarten. And Barrett had on cut-offs, and tube socks, and a flannel, and two braids, and high-top tennis shoes, getting ready to take the court. She was a baller, still a baller, my pickleball partner, so she’s total baller. Ashley came downstairs with her hair loose in locks, a hat, a dress, patent-leather shoes and, in case the weather turned, she was carrying a parasol.


BB: This is because my mom in all her infinite wisdom read Twins and Supertwins when she was pregnant with Ashley and Barrett about the dangers of…


BB: Little did they know. Little did she know at the time.

BG: Do you think the book is really described, “The dangers of twins?”


BB: Yes. As an older sister, I would say that this is…

ABR: Chapter One.


BB: The subtitle is, “Twins and Super Twins: The Danger of Twins.”


BG: Oh, I’ll google that.

BB: The genetic anomaly that reeks havoc. No, no, no, I’m kidding. I’m just kind of kidding. But it was just… That’s how different they were and how funny it was. But my mom was really careful that they could dress themselves and they had each of their own personalities and… When did she start separating y’all in classes?

BG: I don’t think we were ever allowed to be in the same class. So I think it was from the beginning. She always asked for us to be in different classes.

BB: What about the… Don’t listen for a minute, shhh. What about the episode of “this sucks”?

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BG: Oh yeah. Well, that was in middle school. I think by then, it was just whatever the schedule said. That’s what we did.

BB: Yeah. This is the story where the teacher handed out a test…

ABR: That I had been studying for it for a long time, because if I got an A on this test, I got an A in the class.

BB: So Ashley had really been pouring herself into this test. And the mimeograph was bad and barely legible. And Ashley says…

ABR: “This sucks.”

BB: And then what happened?

ABR: I got sent to the principal’s office.


BB: She got sent to the principal’s office. And Barrett, in response, took a marker and wrote a big zero on her test and took it up and turned it in to the teacher without taking it and followed Ashley out the door.


BG: Said, “No, you suck.”


BG: Actually, I think what I did is, I was holding my pencil and I put a ruler on the top of it. And I just sat in my chair and I was spinning the ruler on my pencil until she excused me.


BB: You got yourself kicked out?

BG: Yeah. So then we were both down in the office…

BB: But together.

BG: Together. [chuckle]

ABR: Oh, my gosh. I still remember her name.

BG: Oh, yeah.

ABR: Well, we won’t mention it on here.

BB: The name of the teacher?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: No, no.

ABR: No, I won’t.

BB: Whisper it to me in Igpay Atinlay.


BB: No, don’t do it.


BB: Okay. So Ashley and Barrett’s serious bio. Ashley is an LCSW, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

ABR: Finally, that license got updated by the state.



BB: The clinical license. You get your MSW, Masters in Social Work, and then you’re a licensed Master’s in Social Worker, then you have to go do a jillion hours of therapy and then sit for a monster exam. Then you pass that, and then the state has to actually do it on their record. So congratulations on your LCSW being final. She has a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization Early Childhood Education from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Favorite restaurant in San Marcos?

ABR: Gilbert’s.

BB: Okay. Oh, I like this sentence. Fueling a passion. Let’s do it from the movie thing.


BB: In a world where she is fueled by a passion from working over a decade in Title-1 schools in HISD, Houston Independent School District, Ashley pursued a Master of Social Work from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Go Cougs.

BG: Go Cougs!

BB: Whose house?

BG: Coug’s house!

BB: Okay. People are going to be like… People are going to see you walking right now, either laughing or rolling your eyes and be like, “What is that person listening to?” She is a senior director of The Daring Way. She leads The Daring Way Internship Program. That’s our program for clinicians and therapists and counselors. She also oversees our internship program with MSW students who get trained in our work and they deliver the work at different therapy groups around Houston. It’s incredible. Oh, Barrett’s telling Ashley, get close to the… Why don’t you pull the microphone towards you? And you have to…

ABR: Can I just hold it and dance?

BB: Yes.

ABR: Dancing queen.


BB: That’s my ringer for Ashley when she calls, “Dancing Queen.” Barrett’s is “Brown-Eyed Girl,” just too much information. Shit, man, we’re not even through the bio’s yet. Okay.


BB: Barrett, in a world where I’m always losing my mind, Barrett Guillen is chief of staff for Brené Brown Education Research Group. With her team, Barrett runs a big team, Barrett supports both me and the organization by helping prioritize competing demands, managing relationships, and building connective tissue and strategy across all the business initiatives. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Houston. Whose house?

BG: Coug’s house!

BB: After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to Houston. What do we say about that, Ashley? Hell, yeah.

ABR: Whoo-hoo. About time.

BB: Yeah, come on back. To join our team and help make the world a braver place. You can find her most of the time with her family, us and her immediate family, and the big extended family, enjoying her daughter’s games. It’s not unusual when she texts me on Saturday morning saying, “Can’t talk, have two soccer games, softball game, and something else.” I don’t know, basketball. Frankie, her husband, makes great burgers, and she likes to float in water, any water, mostly it’s a bath tub. No.


BB: Do you take a bath?

BG: No.

BB: Are you bather?

ABR: I’m not a bather.

BB: Oh, me neither. We were raised like, “Don’t be in that dirty water.” Like, we’re just… Are you? Do you like to take a…

ABR: No, I don’t like baths.

BG: If I do take a bath, I have to take a shower after.


BB: And she’s my pickleball partner, did I mention that?


BB: Okay. Let’s get started. Alright, questions. Number one.

BG: Well, so we found these questions from the “Sister Series” over the summer in social media, right?

BB: Yeah, did I not say that?


BG: I don’t think you have.

BB: I did.

BG: Oh, you did?

BB: I did. In the beginning.

ABR: I don’t remember.


BG: New phone. Who dis?


BB: Oh, man, y’all. I’m telling you, we’re at the end of… Like, if you’re out there, let’s just do this, like a little solidarity. No one will know what you’re doing. If you’re out there and you’re taking care of kids, and parents, just stop wherever you are for a second, even if you’re walking, driving, cleaning your house, and just reach over and pat yourself on the back a couple of times. Come on, Ashley and Barrett, just… Yeah. And then take the heel of your hand and knock it really hard up against your forehead.


BG: That’s more like it.

BB: Yeah. We are really… And we’re having a specific…


BB: We’re having a… You can leave that in there. They know my name. By now it’s not good over here right now. We’re having a specifically hard day right now, right?

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. We’ve got Gabby, Barrett’s daughter in a new school?

BG: Yes.

BB: And we’re dealing with new parent health issues that are tough.

BG: Yes.

BB: Yeah. So if you’re doing all that stuff, too, we feel you. Alright, let’s jump into this first question that we received from the “Summer Sister” series.

ABR: On social media.

BB: On social media.


BB: Okay, number one, you really want our advice?


BB: That’s what I would say right now. Okay, number one. What do you do when you’re not a perfectionist, but you’re always looking for that something else, to be happy?

BG: Oh, man, I’m so terrible at that.

BB: Pass. [laughter]

ABR: Not it. Just go ahead, Barrett.


BB: We’re all doing the nose goes, and we’re all big card players, so we’re looking at each other like, pass.

ABR: Yep.


BG: Because, we’re all bad at it. We all do this.

BB: Yeah. I can tell you that, I don’t think you have to struggle with perfectionism to always be looking for that panacea or that thing that’s going to make everything better. And so I guess we can collectively talk about what our therapists have told us.


BB: Yeah, pass that along. I’ll give you their names and you can Venmo them after this is over.


BB: I know that I’m always looking for that something. I look for that when I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to turn toward my life to understand what’s not going well. Because normally, it’s not that my life is not joyful, or it’s unhappy, it’s something is going on that I want to numb or replace. Like I think, “Oh, if I just redid my office,” or, “If I got a new car,” or, “If I change my hair,” or… It’s usually because I’m running from something, not towards something.

BG: Totally.

BB: So you can never find the thing that will make you happier because you’re not actually running towards something intentional, you’re running from something you don’t want to dig into. That’s my experience. What about y’all?

ABR: I would totally agree. Usually, if I’m finding myself struggling with perfectionism, it’s because I need to stop and say, “What’s happening in my life right now that I’m not dealing with, and why am I trying to numb it?”

BB: Yeah, what is it that I can’t control that’s scaring me right now?

ABR: Yes.

BB: That I can’t make perfect, that I can’t get into order, that I can’t put in the bento box? What is it that I can’t control right now that’s driving these behaviors?

ABR: And sometimes it’s not perfectionism, sometimes it’s foreboding joy. I mean, it’s all under the armor, but it’s like all of those things for me. If I am trying to find something else that can make me happy instead of just finding the gratitude in the daily moments, or overall, it’s because I’m armored up for some reason.

BB: Same. Barrett?

BG: Yeah, same. I would do the same thing and I can just be like laying… I don’t know if y’all do this. So if you don’t, just say you do so I’m not alone in this.


ABR: So you want us to lie?

BB: Yeah. We got you.

BG: Like, I don’t know if y’all do this, but sometimes I’m making up a workout routine in my head for a bit, like when I’m laying in bed, I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m going to start doing this. I’m going to start doing it Monday” and then Monday comes, and I have a little cough or something, I’m like, “I’m really sick this time, so I have to wait until next Monday.”


BB: I don’t know what you’re talking about.


BG: Always waiting for that something else is like, I don’t know what’s getting in the way, but it’s usually not the little sniffle. [chuckle]

BB: I do the same thing. There is nothing better for me, especially when I’m thinking about healthy eating, and not dieting or restrictive, but just healthy eating. There’s nothing better for me than the meal that you eat between the commitment to change your eating habits…

BG: Yes.


BB: And then the start date.

BG: Yes.

BB: That meal, that chicken fried steak…

BG: Best ever.

BB: Best mashed potatoes, cream gravy?

ABR: Best.

BB: Cornbread or roll?

BG: Roll.

ABR: With that meal, roll.

BB: I’m roll too. But butter, right?

BG: Yeah, because you have to have it for the gravy.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: Totally.

BB: Butter on the roll, butter on the mashed potatoes.

BG: But while we’re at it, we should just go ahead and plan the next night to have chili with cornbread, since you brought it up.


BB: Yeah, I think running towards something with intention is sometimes okay. But running away from something and toward whatever will grab you out there to make that thing that you’re running from better, that’s why I think the emptiness. Yeah.

BG: And I think you really touched on something because the emotional bandwidth sometimes, for me it’s about discipline, and I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve just felt so exhausted for the last six months. And so especially right now, it’s even harder, I think.

BB: For me, it’s been since COVID. I haven’t been my full… Yeah. I don’t think people understand the physical toll that emotional labor takes.

BG: Geez, yeah.

ABR: And the small moments that fill you back up after you go to hard places have been non-existent for a lot of people. So for a lot of people, it could be laughing about a TV show at the kitchen bar with all your friends at work. Well, we haven’t been in the office since March of 2020, so those little, small moments that can fill us back up and bring us joy have kind of been nonexistent through COVID and the pandemic.

BB: It’s been hard, and I think when you’re in something really hard, like caregiving for parents, you just keep doing the next right thing. But I think if you pulled out of it and thought, “Wow, let me observe what’s happening,” you’d be like, “Oh, I can’t believe they’re still standing right now.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: And I think you don’t have that luxury when you’re in it, because you just got to keep…

ABR: Yeah. It doesn’t stop coming at you. Yeah.

BB: It doesn’t stop. It’s unrelenting. Yeah. And it’s emotionally painful and physically painful, so I think… Yeah, I get running towards… What is it, just out of curiosity? What kind of things do y’all run toward? What is this something else that you look for sometimes to make you happy?

BG: For me, it’s either organizing, redecorating, or some type of activity, even if it’s like, “We’re going to have a family walk the dog every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.” Some type of movement.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: I would say it’s definitely planning or organizing. I’m going to plan and organize because those are some things that I have control over, and whether or not I follow through, at least putting that down on paper. I have a Trello board for my house and every board, different room, is organized. You cannot even believe it.

BG: Me, too.

ABR: None of them really say complete. [chuckle]

BG: And it’s so hard because you have a beautiful Trello board, a beautiful Pinterest board, and a shit ton of things in your shopping cart, but that’s it.


BB: Yeah. Oh, my God. Do y’all know over the last 10 years, I bet I’ve bought $5000 worth of scrapbooking materials?

BG: Yeah, I do, because Gabby has those now.


BB: Great. Then I don’t feel bad about it at all.

BG: Yep.

BB: And one time I was so sure that I was going to do it, I bought y’all stuff, remember?

ABR: Yes.

BB: And we were all going to do it together?

BG: Yeah, we even had our own little mini printers.

BB: Yeah. When I say I go in, I go in hard.


BB: But I’ve never made a scrapbook, but that’s alright. Okay.

ABR: Those memories are in your head.

BB: Yeah, look how happy Gabby is with all my equipment.


BG: Totally.

BB: Okay, “How do you manage upset responses from others after choosing discomfort over resentment?” Fuck you. No…


ABR: I was going to say, “Resentment?”


BB: Oh boy, you caught us on a bad raw day.


BB: No, really, how do you…

BG: It is like you muster up the courage to really stand your ground and be in your boundaries, and then they’re shitty in response, it’s like, “No, sir. Not today. Sit down.”

BB: “Sit down.” Alright, so if we break down this question, “How do you manage upset responses from others after choosing discomfort over resentment?” So for those of you new to the “Choose discomfort over resentment,” that’s kind of our boundary line. So when we have to set a boundary, it’s really hard. And a lot of times when we choose not to set a boundary, it’s because we’re choosing to betray ourselves over being disliked or disappointing someone else. So our motto is, “Just choose discomfort over resentment.” So it’s a minute or five minutes of discomfort over what ends up, I think cumulatively, being a lifetime of resentment. Right?

BG: Yeah.

BB: And so this question is, when you say, “You know what? I appreciate you asking. I can’t do that.” And then they come back with something that’s crappy, how do you handle that? And I think for me, it happens to me all the time, because you see… Barrett, especially, in the work, you see me set boundaries all the time, and people will come back and be shitty about it, and I’ll just say, “I understand that you’re disappointed or upset. I’m not able to do that.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: “Thanks.” I’m really pretty good at it.

BG: And when you’re trying on boundaries for the first time, and people aren’t used to you being boundaried, the people around you, it can be really difficult for them to understand where you’re coming from, so they can be crappy.

BB: Yes, because so many of us have set up relationships where we have convinced ourselves that the value that we bring is saying yes to everything. And then entire systems, family systems, partner systems, work systems are set up around us being the yes person. And let me tell you something, you don’t, in a system… Throwing it back to systems theory, Ashley, from social work school.


ABR: Do it.

BB: When you are in a system and you change who you are and you start choosing self-respect and self-love over taking care of other people when you don’t want to, the whole system reverberates. That’s why in social work, we study systems theory. One move shakes the whole thing. So Barrett, that’s a really good point. When you start setting boundaries, a lot of people can be like, “Wow, who do you think you are?” Or, “Where does that come from?” I’ll tell you that, I can remember the people involved, so Ellen must had been in middle school maybe, but I was asked to do something for the school and I was standing with a couple of other parents, I think these happened to all be moms, and the principal asked me if I would do something and I said, “You know, I really can’t take that on right now. My plate’s really full. But please ask again.” And the principal said… She was great, she was like, “Oh, great, thanks. I’m glad you said no because that means I’ll ask again, if I know that if you can’t do it, or if it doesn’t work, you’ll say no. Which is just something that people don’t think about. Like, I’m much more comfortable asking people for things if I know they’ll say no if they can’t do it.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: And when I walked away, the two women I was standing with were like, “Oh my God.” Like, as if I weren’t there. They were just talking about me to each other, “She just said, ‘No.’ like, she said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.'” And it was shocking to them. And they were so just… They didn’t even… It was like, I made up that they didn’t even know that was in the consideration set. It’s hard and let me tell you, in your family, too.

BG: Talk a little bit about being a boundary bully, just give us the two-minute rundown on the boundary bully.

BB: Oh, yeah, when I first started trying out on boundaries, I was awful, like I swung way too far the other way.


BB: Someone would say… Oh, this is great. This is a good story. We were pretty strict around violence on television with my kids growing up. Do you want me to just tell you this as an aside? Do you know that Ellen, who’s now 22 in graduate school. Do you know that Ellen tells me that there’s a meme? An entire club of people who are identified by not being able to watch SpongeBob growing up?

BG: Oh, no.

BB: No, they made… That’s like a joke.

ABR: Wow.

BB: Were you or were you not dividing into two groups of people in college? Those who could watch SpongeBob and those who could not?

BG: Yeah. I did not know that.

BB: Yeah, my kids could not watch SpongeBob.

BG: Same.

ABR: Same.

BB: Is that because I didn’t let mine? I’m the oldest.

BG: Probably.

ABR: Probably.


ABr: Thank you for that.

BB: Sorry to my sweet nieces.

ABR: No, we thank you for that.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yeah, I just… We were… And so that’s…

BG: Is it scary? No.

BB: That’s not violence. But so Charlie and Ellen watched calmer movies until they got older. And this was actually, it was Charlie. Charlie ended up going to a friend’s house for a playdate and he was probably in third grade. And the mom called and said, “Listen, I just wanted to let you know… ” I’m conflating two stories. Hold on, let me tell both. First, it’s Ellen. She’s going to a sleepover. The mom calls and says, “Hey, we’re just going to do pizza, a movie, and then cotton candy or something.” And I said, “Great.” And she said, “I think we’re going to watch this movie.” And I was like, “Oh, you know what? We’re really cautious and thoughtful about what our kids can watch. And we like to use Common Sense Media, and we just really feel like that’s super inappropriate.” Like, I was like, shaming her and being judgy McJudge Judge, which is like… It was just a boundary bully. Look at me, I’m so thoughtful and then you think you’re, blah, blah.

BG: In return, that means you are not.

BB: Yeah, in turn that means you’re not being thoughtful, as opposed to saying, “You know what? That’s probably over Ellen’s head. Would you mind doing another film? Another movie?”

ABR: Yeah.

BB: But that’s healthy boundaries. But at first you can be a boundary bully, like…

ABR: Yes.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yes. “Like hands on your hips, your boundary cape flying in the wind.”

BG: Don’t mess with me. I got boundaries galore.


BB: Yeah. No the other one was actually a good one. This was another kind of cool lesson. I always think about kids making the transition from compliance to commitment. So when they’re little, they have to comply with your rules. And then as they get older, what you’re looking for is commitment so that they follow the values of your family, even when there’s no one watching. And I remember Charlie going over to a friend’s house in third grade. And the momma said, “You want to come pick them up? Or I’ll send them down the street.” And I said, “Sure.” And she said, “I just want to let you know that we are watching Jurassic Park.” And Charlie said, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to watch that. Can we watch something else?” And she said, “I just thought that was really great.” She’s said “I was a little concerned because like my three year old and my kindergartener, were watching it, too.”


BB: And then that’s when I knew I wasn’t… And I was like, you know what? It’s probably great for some people but for us, he hasn’t seen anything like that. And so probably better that he watches the first time with us. Have ya’ll been boundary bullies before?


BG: 100%

ABR: Oh, Yeah.

BB: Yeah.

ABR: I can’t think of any specific examples, but I think I even came to you and I was like, “Whoa! I am out of control.” And you were like, “Let me tell you the story about boundary bullies.” and I was like, “That’s where I’m at right now.”


BB: You know? I think it’s when boundaries have self-righteousness attached to it.

BG: Mm-hmm. It’s hard to try them on, though. I mean, it’s hard because I definitely fall in the camp of finding value and being the take care of everything, can say yes to everything. So trying on boundaries is hard.

BB: But let’s talk about that because I have value in being the yes person and not disappointing anybody either. But then I do disappoint people because I can’t deliver or I’m late or I cancel at the last minute.

BG: Yeah. And disappoint yourself.

BB: And disappoint yourself and have to choose commitments at work that I said yes to over my family and then there’s grief attached to that and rage. And so I think pretending that we can deliver on things that we actually can’t deliver on because we’re afraid to say, “I need help” or “I can’t do this” ends up hurting a lot of people, not just ourselves.

ABR: It’s really hard, too, because like the work that I do. There’s so many people in the world that might not have places where they can go and ask for help. So when I heard you saying that, I mean, like, the first thing that came to my head was, I feel so lucky to be in the opportunity where I can ask for help or I can stop and say, “Oh, my God, Brené, I’m like, out of control,” and to be able to talk about it or to call Barrett and so one of the things that I see is like this real struggle of what do I… Even this question, “What do I do when people are upset or hurt? And where can I go?” So, so many people don’t have that. And I love the idea of talking about how we can cultivate new friendships or relationships around being… I don’t know if it’s an accountability partner, or maybe just someone I can check in with about it. So I was just thinking that when you said that. All of that came into my mind when you said that.

BB: Yeah, no, because I’m thinking about a lot of the clients that you run groups with that don’t have a safe place to try on or say, “Wow, that shit didn’t work today.”


ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: And the consequences are huge sometimes.

ABR: Yep.

BB: If they make the wrong call. Yeah.

ABR: Yeah. So to be able to practice them even maybe before you put them into place, or a lot of the times when I think about this question, I think about Living BIG and this idea of the grief that can come with it. So we set boundaries, but when we set boundaries, there can be this really hard, sad grief part around the boundaries because sometimes we lose people if that boundary isn’t met. In a personal relationship, family, stuff like that and so just to be able to have someone to check in with and look about, around what that looks like.

BB: Yeah, because there is a reality and we’ve all lived it where you say, “You know what? This behavior is not okay, I’m not going to subject myself to it.” And that person says, “You know, then see you later.”

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And that leaves you in a really painful…

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Can be really painful, especially with people you care about and love.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And then you have to think. Wow, if that’s the case, if I’m making a reasonable request about how we show up with each other and that request is met with, “Then fuck you, this relationship’s over,” then what were the terms and conditions of that relationship to begin with?

ABR: Yes, yeah.

BB: Do you know what I mean?

ABR: Totally.

BB: It’s really tough. Boundaries are really hard. Prentis Hemphill is a therapist and embodiment coach and they have the most incredible definition of boundaries that I just keep going to often. Often I actually write about it in “Atlas of the Heart” that boundaries is the closest distance at which I can love both you and myself.

ABR: That kind of just felt like a little punch in the gut.

BB: The closest distance at which I can love both you and myself.

ABR: Sometimes it’s so much harder to love ourselves than it is to love other people and so to get to a place where you can do that is really cool.

BB: Wow. Yeah.

ABR: Powerful.

BB: Yeah. Ashley mentioned Living BIG, that’s from… Is that from “Rising Strong”?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: And it’s something that we try to practice what boundaries need to be in place for us to be in our integrity and be generous toward others. I think, we’ll… Let’s do a sister series on just “Living BIG”.

ABR: Can we list people that we have to do it with?


ABR: That math teacher is still in my head.


BB: No, we cannot list anybody.

ABR: No, I love that session.

BB: Yeah, let’s do… We’ll do a “Living BIG”…

ABR: Yeah.

BB: It’s one of the toughest things we teach. People just go get pissed.

BG: It’s hard.

BB: It’s hard. We’ll do it…

ABR: That’s one of my favorites.

BB: We all went Texas, “It’s hard, hard, weird.”


BB: Okay. How can you tell the difference between polling and genuinely seeking advice from people who matter?

ABR: We did this actually on “The Sister Series” because I don’t know if y’all remember but we were talking about polling and I said, “Oh, I was totally polling because I was like, guys, which middle school should Amaya go to?” And then we started talking about what the difference was between… That that wasn’t really polling. That that was actually seeking advice from people that I trusted and meant a lot to me and so I think that we could give some really good examples around this one.

BB: Go for it.


BG: I’ve always like, when I’m polling, I like… I’m polling, I know I’m polling. And it really doesn’t matter what your opinion is because I already know. I just want to know what everyone else thinks.

ABR: And I want you to know that I’m struggling. [chuckle]

BB: So for me, it’s neither of those. [chuckle] It’s not that I want you to know I’m struggling and I don’t want to know what your opinion is because I really usually don’t give a shit. It’s just if things go bad, it’s your fault, too.


BB: Yeah, I need… Misery doesn’t love company, it demands it.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Another great saying brought to you by the 12-Step Rooms.


BB: But it’s true. I just want to be like, “Well, I mean, I talked to, I don’t remember her name then, I don’t know who she is exactly, but I saw her at the bus stop and she said… “Yeah, I want backup. I want backup in case things go wrong. I want to be able to share the blame.

ABR: I think for me, it is totally about my own struggle around using my voice when I should be using my voice and instead I’m going around and polling and saying, “That was hurtful, right? I should be upset about that, right?” Instead of just coming up and saying “That was hurtful, and I can’t believe it happened.” I can start polling and making sure that I am okay in my thoughts about feeling hurt.

BB: So self-trust? It’s validating…

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Yeah, it’s about self-trust for you?

ABR: It totally can be because one of the things that I work on with my therapist, which I think we talked about last time, too, is just using my voice instead of sitting in the resentment and so I think for me that that’s really when I can start polling.

BB: That’s really insightful. When do you poll?

ABR: And hurtful to say out loud to be honest. Because I would rather use my voice.

BB: Yeah, and if it hurts you and it was hard for you, does it matter if five people say, “No, I don’t think it was a big deal”?

ABR: No, because then I will hate them, too.


ABR: Well, They don’t know let me phrase it a different way.

BB: Yeah. Sit down. Barrett, when do you poll?

BG: I don’t know, I think I poll when I want people to know that I have been struggling with a decision but I’m not really care what you have to say about it.

BB: Yeah.

BG: I just want know that it’s hard and it’s out there.

BB: As someone, I seek a lot of advice. I did it earlier today. I really will call people whose opinions really matter to me and say, “Can I run something by you? I’ve got a gut on it but I want to see if I’m missing any… If I’m not zoomed out enough to see something or if I’m missing any data points or if you’ve got some questions that I need to be thinking about that I haven’t answered yet.” So as someone who seeks a lot of advice and mentoring and coaching and therapy, I really respect that. And people… You could see in the comments when I posted something about this that people got it confused between polling and asking for advice. But polling is when you’re looking for an answer that only you can give yourself. It’s really about self-trust. It’s really about self-trust. And when I’m asking a coach or a mentor or a colleague for advice, my asking is not a reflection of my absence of self-trust. My asking that specific person is a reflection and a function of my self-trust.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Totally.

BB: Does that make sense?

BG: Yeah.

ABR: Totally.

BB: So I think maybe the core, and I’m just coming to this as we’re talking, is that asking for advice or seeking counsel or mentoring will feel good when it’s a function of self-trust. When it’s because I don’t trust myself, that becomes polling.

BG: Yeah.

BB: That’s a good one.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Alright, last question. How do you be authentic with people who are absolutely not authentic?

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BG: I mean it just disguises itself in so many different ways.

BB: The lack of authenticity?

BG: Yes.

BB: And first of all, I don’t know that there are authentic people and nonauthentic people, so maybe we’ll reframe the question… Yeah.

BG: Everyday, I can be both.

BB: Yeah, let’s reframe the question as, “How do you practice authenticity with someone who’s not practicing authenticity?” In that way refrain from dividing people into authentic and not. Because we know from the data that authenticity is a choice that we make every day, sometimes every hour. And we can all chameleon out very quickly, right? Raise your hand if you can. That’s all three of us have hands up. So I have to say that, and y’all check me on it, I’m giving y’all permission to call me out on the lying on the podcast.

BG: Yeah.


BB: I think I’m pretty authentic most of the time.

BG: I agree.

ABR: I agree.

BB: Yeah. Like maybe it’s just age, I don’t know, but it’s…


BG: No I’m so tired. I’m like, “This is just what you get.”

BB: This is what you get, yeah. So I don’t think I… I think I’m pretty authentic all the time, and I have a lot of privilege to be able to do that because I’m successful, and I have influence in some areas, and so I get to be who I want to be and really and if you don’t like it, tough shit. In 99% of the places I’m in, really tough shit, if you don’t like it. I will say that I didn’t get here by being inauthentic. I think I used to be really inauthentic. I could be pretty much, I mean, just to survive growing up, I think in our family, I could be anything or anyone you needed me to be on a drop of a dime, and I could read people very quickly and be that wild girl, good girl, you know?

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BG: Country girl.

BB: Beer drinking, pot smoking, country girl, whatever and what I needed to be I could do it. But I think that the ability to do that did not lead to my success, but really when I look back at the hard work I’ve had to do and the biggest threats to myself, my marriage, my integrity as a parent, the biggest threats to myself and my success have been, being inauthentic. That’s really led to almost every failure, major failure I’ve had. The failure of my first book, could go back to two types of armor that I can almost not be around these days, which is hustling and proving.

BG: Tough for me, too.

BB: Tough for you too? Like when people are constantly hustling for their worth and validation of their importance, and they’re constantly proving and being knowers instead of learners.

ABR: Mm-hmm.

BB: I don’t think that it was actually my armor. My armor was more of the good girl, say what I’m supposed to say to make you feel good about yourself. I was always really curious and a learner, but I was a prover. I would take on way more than I could handle, I mean y’all have witnessed that probably for a solid, at least decade. Barrett’s looking at me like, “That shit’s not over yet.”


BG: I did not.

BB: She kind of did. I’m getting better at it.

BG: Yeah.


ABR: There’s no eye contact being made right now y’all.


BB: Everybody’s looking at their mic. Yeah, I can slip into it, for sure. I don’t like to disappoint people.

BG: I’m having these thoughts right now about how being authentic relates to trust. Here is my question.

BB: Good question. That’s a good linkage.

BG: Yes. Because it’s like, If I have trust in you or I think I have trust in you, and I think I see exactly who you are and you’re being authentic, but then all of a sudden, you’re actually not asking for what you need and you’re not doing what you say you’re going to do, then are you really being authentic? Does that make sense?

BB: Mm-hmm.

ABR: It reminds me of Daring Greatly, where you talk about if you’re not also in the arena getting your ass kicked and I’m not really interested in your feedback, it reminds me of that a little bit like… It’s not like people just wake up every day and say, “Oh, it’s so easy to be authentic.” I mean, people work at it, it’s hard, it can be a struggle, and to show up authentically and be around people that aren’t, it reminds me of that. I’m not interested in being around you if you can’t also do the work in being authentic. Sometimes we don’t have a choice, but when we do, it would be a great idea if we could get to a place where we didn’t surround ourselves with people that showed up like that. But when we are at a work thing or something, or have partnered up with somebody through business or whatever, and we have to be around them, then I could see that trust coming in for sure around what you were just saying, Barrett.

BB: Yeah. I’m really thinking about such an interesting connection y’all are making, I think you think about BRAVING, boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, nonjudgment and generosity. I don’t think… when I’m not authentic, I’m not in my integrity.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: And I’m also not reliable because you don’t know who you’re dealing with.

BG: Yes. Yeah.

BB: Let’s say it’s me and we work together and I’m not being authentic, I’m proving and knowing and I’m going to handle everything. I’m not being reliable, actually. I think I’m being super uber reliable, but I’m being negative reliable because you know those plates are going to fall.

ABR: Oh, yeah.

BG: Yeah.

ABR: It’s going to be a big-ass collision.

BB: It’s going to be a big-ass collision, and so I do think authenticity is a prerequisite for trust. What’s interesting to me, Ashley, about what you said is not everybody can be. So think about this, we’ve all worked in a lot of organizations, and Barrett, you and I have been into a 100 where they ask for authenticity and they want people to be real, and yet they’ve built cultures where real is White, male, buttoned-up, and anything that doesn’t look like that is not, “Oh, Brené’s being authentic, this is who she is. And let’s celebrate that”. It’s “Brené’s bossy. Brené’s pushing. Brené’s asking too many questions. Brené doesn’t know her place,” and then all of a sudden, if you expect authenticity, whether you’re leading the company or you’re a friend, then I think you better expect discomfort. And if you’re not willing to expect discomfort and you’re not willing to look at your part in how you quash authenticity on people’s part, you shouldn’t ask for it.

BB: Very much about the podcast we did about, “Stop Telling Women They Have Impostor Syndrome.” Don’t tell me I don’t belong here, and then when I’m like, “Shit man, I don’t think I belong here,” say, “Aw, do you have impostor syndrome?” You should listen to this podcast on Dare to Lead. It’s incredible. I learned so much about that. It’s on Dare to Lead, and it’s with Ruchika Tulshyan, and Jodi-Ann Burey, and it’s just, they both work in the equity, inclusion, belonging space, and it’s just really good, so this is what this reminds me of.

BG: Yeah. It really resonated with me, the authenticity integrity piece for BRAVING.

ABR: Yeah same.

BG: I thought that was really… Yeah, really helpful. And being in their arena, because it’s almost like… Let me ask y’all a question. What’s the number one trust earning behavior for leaders?

BB: Asking for help.

ABR: I ask for help a lot, I feel like.

BB: Yeah, no, but you know what? I ask for help a lot, too.

ABR: Yeah, I agree.

BB: Yeah.

BG: But I think we’ve all really gotten better about asking for what we need, too.

ABR: For sure.

BB: Yeah. Even with each other, and we’ll just come full circle, even with taking care of parents.

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: We have… So you did it today?

BG: I sure did.

BB: We were in the middle of a minor crisis.

BG: If I’m going to have to ask for what I need here, if you want to do this podcast today, I’m going to have to let you go. [laughter]

BB: Yeah I’m like, yeah, great.


BB: And then I’ll just text. I’ll be like, “No bandwidth. Not me. Tag you’re it.”

ABR: Yeah.

BG: Yes. I’m really grateful for that.

ABR: Same.

BB: Me too. I appreciate y’all for that, and we have to acknowledge, too, there’s a lot of people that don’t have a tag.

ABR: Yeah.

BB: God dang, tough.

ABR: Tough.

BB: Really tough. Alright, thank y’all for being on the podcast again.

BG: Oh, invite us back.

ABR: We’ll be back with “Living BIG.”

BB: Oh yeah, we’ll do “Living BIG” for sure. Y’all will love that. That is such a crispy, crunchy, aggravating topic. It’s so hard.


ABR: I always love Brené’s accent around it too, because she’s always like, “Hell, no.”


BB: Yeah, that’s a bad story. That’s a whole “Living BIG” story, it’s based on the icing swiper. More to come. You ever heard? Yeah.


ABR: Icing swiper. Swiper, no swiper.

BB: Swiper, no swiping.

BG: Swiping.

BB: Yeah, come on. They were allowed to watch…

ABR: Dora.

BB: Dora. Yeah. Miguel and…

ABR: Diego?

BB: Jesus, no. Maya and Miguel.

ABR: Oh, I don’t know them. I do love The Backyardigans.


BB: Oh, wait. Me, too.

BG: Have y’all seen it on TikTok? I don’t know. We’re newer to TikTok, at least Ashley and I are, and now we’re in this rabbit hole of TikTok, but it’s like all the people get together and they sing the intro to The Backyardigans. Have y’all seen it?

BB: Oh yes.

ABR: I have not.

BG: It’s so cute.

BB: It’s a total thing going around TikTok about six months ago.

BG: I’m behind.

ABR: I used the word “cheugy” in front of Brené and Brené looked at Amaya and said, “Isn’t cheugy, cheugy?”


ABR: I was like “Oh, whatever, y’all”


BB: I don’t like cheugy. I think it could be shaming.

ABR: Well, we could just have a story. We could have a podcast about cheugy.

BB: Yeah, because does that mean like that’s out of style?

ABR: Yeah.

BB: Think about all the people who said, “My clogs were cheugy.” And what’s the key to the clogs? You just don’t ever stop wearing them from the 70s.

ABR: They’re back.

BB: They never were out, if you ask my feet. [chuckle]

ABR: If you ask my feet.

ABR: Right now, I just saw this article about the shoes you should get for the fall, and there they were.

BB: And who’s been wearing them every fall since fourth grade?

ABR: Brené Brown.



BB: Alright y’all, thank you for joining us on Unlocking Us. There’s no information to give you here. Call your local mental health professionals if it’s been too much for you. [laughter] We’re here on Spotify and join us in staying awkward, brave, and kind. You can see that’s a genetic trait, all three of those. We’ll be back soon. Thanks.


BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, October 13). Brené, Ashley, and Barrett on Perfectionism, Numbing, Boundaries, Polling, and Authenticity: A Summer Sister Series Follow-Up. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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