What kind of name is “Brené”?
Growing up, every time we drove from San Antonio to Houston, going to Stuckey’s—all these places where you buy monogrammed shirts and glasses—I was so put out because there was never a “Brené.” So I think I made up in my head that it was French. And then I hitchhiked across Europe after high school and I got to France and I was like, “Je suis Brené!” And they were like, “What kind of name is that?” They’d never heard of it. My parents just made it up. I had a whole narrative in high school—“When I bust out of this suburban Spring, Texas, high school I’m going to go back to France where my people are!” But, no, it’s not French—it’s south side San Antonio.
Can you tell me a bit about your family history in Texas?
Very German. I think my great-grandparents had the first beer garden in San Antonio. I’m not so sure that’s a great claim to fame. I’m a San Antonian, born and raised, and then I went to high school in, I guess it’s called Klein now—it was Spring when I was growing up, but now it’s Klein. I got my hair cut at the same place as Lyle Lovett—maybe also not another claim to fame. Then I came to Houston to go to graduate school and my husband did his residency in Houston.
So you’re a deep, dyed-in-the-wool Texan. Are those classic Texas virtues of stoicism and self-reliance in tension with a willingness to be vulnerable, which is what your book is about?
Yes. I think the reason why my TED talk has gone viral is because I don’t come to the subject of vulnerability with an open embrace. It goes against the way I was raised. Our family motto was “Lock and load.” Vulnerability isn’t something I come by easily, it’s something that I have to wrestle with; when I feel vulnerable my first reaction is to punch somebody in the face. But growing up being a Texan is also the source of my resilience. I’m very resolute in