Brené Brown’s Map to Vulnerability

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  • Brené Brown is known for her bestselling books like “Daring Greatly” and “Braving the Wilderness.”
  • I read her latest self-help book “Atlas of the Heart” and it helped me better connect with others.
  • The book is a roadmap to exploring 87 human emotions and how language shapes them.

Do you ever find yourself lost in a sea of ​​feelings, unable to tell them apart? Or do you sometimes struggle to understand other people’s anger or anxiety, especially if they’re not great at communicating their thoughts?

While some emotions can feel nebulous and hard to describe, there are concrete ways we can all make ours clearer — both for ourselves and for other people.

In my quest to learn more about human connection, I came across “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience,” the latest book by Brené Brown, a psychology research professor and author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers like “Daring Greatly” and “Braving the Wilderness.”

Like her other self-help books, “Atlas of the Heart” teaches us to tap into our inner selves to embrace our emotions, honor our experiences, and use meaningful language to build deeper connections with others. Using science-backed facts and research, Brown thoughtfully explores over 87 human emotions and offers us tools for expressing and understanding them — both for ourselves and for others.

If you want to understand emotions and how to improve your connection with yourself and others, this book is worth checking out.

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3 things I loved about “Atlas of the Heart”:

Instead of resorting to broad cliches, Brown encourages you to get really specific in describing your emotions.

brene brown atlas of the heart book image anger wheel

An image describing the emotions underneath anger.

Random House


I loved that the book is thoughtfully organized like a map, with each chapter named after a particular group of emotions as a specific “place” to go.

For instance, the first chapter is titled “Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much: Stress, Overwhelm, Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear, Vulnerability.” It’s normal to experience an array of emotions at once, and Brown insightfully highlights common situations where we may do so, such as a job interview or studying for an exam.

She also points out how emotions are often associated with very broad definitions — for instance, many of us have heard that empathy is “walking in someone else’s shoes,” which can feel vague and unhelpful.

Instead, she defines empathy as actively listening to someone else’s story and how they tell it, believing them even if it doesn’t match our own experiences.

The book emphasizes being your most authentic self — starting with your most casual friendships.

brene brown atlas of the heart belonging vs fitting in

One thing I really related to was when Brown addressed the difference between belonging and just fitting in.

Random House


According to Brown, true belonging is only felt when we have the courage to share our most authentic selves with other people. It made me realize that I’ve been in social settings where I felt like I was fitting in (participating in an activity just because everyone else was doing it) which only made me more disconnected from myself and the group.

Sometimes, we may feel embarrassed or ashamed of certain feelings, which makes it harder to truly connect with others. Brown encourages us to embrace experiences that may be uncomfortable — in my case, it can be speaking up when I don’t understand something in a group project instead of silently trying to figure it out on my own.

After reading this book, I’ve realized that vulnerability is not my weakness, but rather my greatest measure of courage. By openly admitting my lack of knowledge, I’m paving the way for learning and improving my understanding.

Now, when forming new relationships, I always ask myself, “Am I being present without sacrificing who I am?” to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Brown inspires change by offering actionable tips on expressing your feelings through language.

brene brown atlas of the heart narrative tap out

In her book, a few graphic comics emphasize examples of meaningful connection alongside “narrative tap-out,” which is when we shut people down instead of listening to them.

Random House


Thoughtful language is instrumental in helping us understand and communicate our emotions. When done right, it can have a transformative impact on how we connect with others, according to Brown.

One personal example from Brown that resonated with me was her showing her kids how to sit with discomfort when they experience suffering. While it may be painful, it allows them to develop a shared sense of humanity.

Similarly, when a friend is in pain, I personally find it helpful to tell them that it’s okay to be feeling this way to let them process the emotions. One of my close friends recently lost a pet that she had for seven years. After the incident, I encouraged her to just feel her grief and let the tears flow instead of trapping it all in, which could cause greater suffering. I recognized how her opening up and embracing her emotion honored this incident of grief in her life.

The bottom line

If you’re having a tough time understanding or communicating your emotions, this book can help you better identify and express even really complicated feelings.

It can also help you connect emotionally with others and build a space to thoughtfully support them, no matter how they’re feeling. Emotions are part of the human experience, and this book validates that you’re not going through it alone.

Whenever you feel lost and untethered in a sea of ​​emotions, the hope is to find ground within yourself and name the feelings you know. This book can help you recognize those feelings and bring you back to shore.

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