Home » Blog » Brené Brown on Vulnerability: Who Sits in Your Arena?

Brené Brown on Vulnerability: Who Sits in Your Arena?

Ohio StadiumIf there’s anything more fun than a beautiful fall afternoon spent watching my Ohio State Buckeyes play football, I have yet to discover it. I think about it all year long! And my excitement spikes off the charts when it comes to a game against “That Team Up North.”

There must be a wide range of emotions among those young men who line up in the Ohio Stadium tunnel and burst onto the field ready to play in front of 105,000 people. Confidence, happiness, excitement, jitters, fear, loyalty and even love – I’m sure they’re all there.

But athletes aren’t the only ones.

In ‘The Daring Way,’ Brené Brown says we all step into an arena every day.

One of my favorite things about being a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator is digging deeply into Brené Brown’s thinking and sharing her work. A concept that really resonates with me is what she calls the “arena” metaphor. Brené uses it to talk about vulnerability and identifying the people, messages and expectations that go along with being in our own lives.

Anyone who has been a coaching or group client of mine is familiar with its power. I use it in every facet of my coaching business.

Let’s explore your arena.

Close your eyes for a minute and visualize a huge arena – one you have visited or would like to visit. Then shift your vision and think of that arena as some aspect of your life. It doesn’t have to be huge; it can be a meeting, a new job, a challenging conversation.

Take a minute to consider: What does this arena look like? How do you want to show up here? How do you want to be seen?

Next, imagine you are putting your hand on the door handle to enter the arena. Where do you focus your attention? What do you see in the seats? What messages come at you as you enter?

Brené Brown suggests there are four sections you should know about:

1.) The Cheap Seats – This is where we find the anonymous critics who pass judgment on us but are not connected to us day-to-day. Going back to our football scenario, the Cheap Seats are occupied by the naysayers and maybe even the opposing team and its fans.

2.) The Box Seats – These seats hold the people who built the arena and give us the messages about the expectations we must meet.  For my Buckeyes, these would be the alumni, the fund-raisers, the coaches, athletic director and the university administration. So many people sit in the box seats!

3.) The Critics’ Section – These are the people who give us the messages of shame, comparison and scarcity. At Ohio Stadium, you could compare this section to the national and local football media – reporters, announcers, analysts and pundits who weigh in with slanted views and negative opinions.

4.) The Support Section – These are the people who have empathy for us and show us compassion.  That OSU athlete who’s sacrificing his body for a win has to love the front-row people – the students, the television fans, parents, cheerleaders, alumni, teammates and all other fans (and sometimes coaches) – who cheer him on.

Where do you sit in your arena?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Where do you sit in your own arena seats?
  • How do you occupy any or all of those seats?
  • How do you sit in your Critic Section? In your own Box Seats? In your Support Section?
  • What messages do you hear from each section?

Brené believes the Support Section – the source of empathy and self-compassion – holds the most important seats. This is where we go for sustenance and the energy to carry on while we’re in the arena. Answer these questions to figure out who occupies the front row of your Support Section:

  • To whom do we turn when we’re getting beaten down in our arena?
  • Who lifts us up, dusts us off and sends us back in to fight?
  • Who cheers us on and is proud to be there?
  • Do we cheer for ourselves? Or do we give ourselves messages about what we should have done or said instead?

I’ll never be a football player facing thousands of people in Ohio Stadium, but I regularly do face tasks that make me feel vulnerable. At those times, I focus on the “front row” people in my Support Section and make a point to sit in my own self-compassion and empathy seats.

I’ve found it’s my best defense against the messages from the Cheap Seats, Critics’ Section and Box Seats that derail me from pursuing my goals or taking a new risk. For me, it’s the best way to score a “W.”

Have you ever thought about who sits in your arena? Where do you sit? Add your comments below and join the conversation.

Would you like to dig deeper and take a guided journey through Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”? Click here to find out more about my “Daring Greatly™” Coaching Group starting March 19.

One comment

  1. Mary Miller says:

    I love love love Brene’s “arena” metaphor and how you challenged your readers to apply it to their own arena. This article is timely as I am on the cusp of launching my first book. For one it’s my first book and for 2 it is a very different type of book. I will keep the visuals of these seats in the forefront of my mind. And thank you once again my sister from a another mother for always being in my Support Section 🙂 Si denote: to anyone been a part of one of Rhonda’s Daring Greatly group’s there is no time like the present!

Comments are closed.