Parenting: Can Vulnerability Be a Good Thing?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In the first episode of a special two-part series, Tana Amen is joined by her daughter Chloe Amen to discuss the role vulnerability plays in a young person’s development. Letting other people control how you feel will only hold you back, but when you tell yourself that being vulnerable is being bold, you’ll open yourself up to the opportunities that are only available when you let go of that fear.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.

Welcome back to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast and live chat. We are ... I'm here, I actually have the pleasure of having my daughter, Chloe, here today.

#ChloeAmen : Hi.

Tana Amen: Daniel is not with us again. He is still finishing his book. I have something really special I wanted to talk to Chloe about. I walked in a couple of weeks ago and saw her reading a book that sort of blew my mind, because I read it in my 40's and you read it when you were 14. It was Brené Brown's book, Daring Greatly. If you have not read that book, you should read it. Well, I shouldn't say should. You might want to check it out. If you have read it, you know why I thought it was so amazing that my 14-year old was reading it, because being vulnerable, it's about vulnerability, the power of vulnerability, and that is not something I was ever good at.

It's really powerful.

Chloe Amen: Yeah.

Tana Amen: Before we start, I want to actually read what the dictionary says about vulnerability. The dictionary defines vulnerability as this: capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt as by a weapon. Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation. Open to assault, difficult to defend. Well, no wonder we don't want to be vulnerable, right? Physically, when I think about being vulnerable, I have this thing about safety and security, right, like the NSA has got nothing on me. I've got cameras and security systems. IVe got two different types of camera systems in case one goes down, and I mean, I'm not joking.

Chloe Amen: She's throwing it out there.

Tana Amen: Yeah, so, I don't like the idea of feeling unsafe.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: We've attached this idea of being unsafe to being vulnerable.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Then we wonder why we're so afraid ...

Chloe Amen: Yeah.

Tana Amen: ... to show ourselves or our underbelly.

Chloe Amen: Yeah.

Tana Amen: Right?

Chloe Amen: Yeah. One of the reasons that I was kind of inspired to read Daring Greatly was because, especially with my age and the career that I want to go into, being vulnerable is a key part of it. It's just a big part of it. We see stars on TV. We see them on social media now, and we're like, "Gosh, they're so perfect. I wish I could be them," and what's not to love about their life? It's a lot hard than we think it is. Putting yourself out there, putting what you create out there, is not easy no matter who you are, whether you're a star or not. Doing anything is hard and exposing yourself is really hard. I was kind of inspired to read the book because that's part of myself that I wanted to benefit, and I wanted to grow. I thought that was really important.

Tana Amen: I love that.

Chloe Amen: I enjoyed her book a lot.

Tana Amen: It's really a great book.

Chloe Amen: It's a really great book.

Tana Amen: One thing I love is her definition. What she says about vulnerability is, let's see. Brene says that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: It's the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.

Chloe Amen: Yep.

Tana Amen: I know authenticity is one of your primary ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... values.

Chloe Amen: Authenticity is definitely one of my top values. That's why I wanted to improve on being vulnerable, because I think it's really important to be able to show who you are fully, if you're going to be authentic.

Tana Amen: What's the worst thing that could happen if someone knows you, and they know some of the things about you that you're afraid to show, and they laugh, or they criticize you? What's the worst thing that can happen?

Chloe Amen: They laugh and they criticize you. They don't like you. They disapprove of you, but that's one person. Letting one person dictate what you do is one of the issues with vulnerability, because we're so scared of what people think and what they're going to think. But it's, you ultimately decide what you do and where you go. I think that letting people dictate what you do and disapprove of you only holds you back. That's something that I think is really important, and that I want to learn how to do better, how to not let people dictate what I do, because I'm afraid of them disapproving.

Tana Amen: We see this, like you pointed out ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... with stars all the time. I think a perfect example are child stars.

Chloe Amen: Of course.

Tana Amen: I mean, they're so afraid of being judged, and so they act like punks, because they don't want people to see what's really going on with them.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: They're not mature not. I mean, that's part of it, they're brains aren't developed. But I think a great example was Justin Bieber. He, you know, for a while, he was acting like this one way, and like, never really showed people who he was.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: But as he changed and matured, and he began to show people this, like, underbelly, the soft side of who he was ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... and he began to go, "Yep, I'm not perfect."

Chloe Amen: This is who I am.

Tana Amen: This is who I am.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: "I'm just not perfect, but I'm really trying to be better," and all of a sudden, people started to go, "Wait, what? Wait. Hold on."

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: "I can't be mad at him if he's really working on being a better person."

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: It's a scary thing to do.

Chloe Amen: Right. I think an interesting pattern with people like that, is when you show who you are, and you're open to being vulnerable no matter how terrifying it is, once you do it, people can still go, "I disapprove of you. I don't like what you stand for. I don't like what you're doing," but it's really hard to not respect somebody who's willing to put themselves out there. It's just a matter of respect. Whether you like what they do or not, it's like, that's hard to do and everybody knows it. Everybody knows it's a hard thing to do.

Tana Amen: Oh, yeah. No, you're right. There are a lot of people ...

Chloe Amen: You owe them respect.

Tana Amen: There are many people who's ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... values I don't agree with.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: But if they hold themselves with dignity, and they stand for what they believe in, if they're doing it in a dignified way, it's like, alright, I don't agree with you, but I can understand you.

Chloe Amen: But I can respect you.

Tana Amen: I can respect your right to say it ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... and your right to believe that.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: But adverse is someone who sort of does it in an underhanded way.

Chloe Amen: Or wishy-washy.

Tana Amen: Or is hiding. Right, or is not really authentic about it. That's very different. Then it's much easier to go, "hmm, that's not- Yeah, I'm not buying it," right?

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: It's much easier to do that and to criticize it, if you know they're not being authentic, so, if they say one thing and do another thing.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: That's much easier, so I actually like that. How is it that you, at 14, because 14, I think, is an age where teenagers are terrified of peer pressure and being criticized, how is it that you are not so afraid of that? How did you become more able, like, what are some things that you do ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... to ground yourself?

Chloe Amen: Okay, so I'm still actually working on it now, in this moment. It's still not an easy thing to do. It takes a while, and like anything, like sports, anything, it takes practice. It takes continuing to do it and put yourself out there to grow, and then eventually it just becomes easy. A couple of things that I do, one thing that I kind of taught myself that caught on for me, I think it's different for everyone, because some things work for other people and other things don't, but one thing that I kind of figured out for myself is, instead of telling myself to be vulnerable, because automatically I've noticed that when I tell myself to be vulnerable, I'm like, "No, that's a bad idea. Don't do that." Like, that's scary.

Tana Amen: Scary. Right.

Chloe Amen: Don't do that, right?

Tana Amen: Scary.

Chloe Amen: Instead of doing that, if I'm in a situation where it's like, I need to show who I am right now. I need to be who I am and I need to stand for what I believe in, instead of telling myself, "Be vulnerable," I tell myself to be bold, because automatically in my brain, I associate bold with being brave, with being strong, with being somebody who's tall, metaphorically, right?

Tana Amen: She's not tall.

Chloe Amen: I'm not tall physically, so all I have is being tall metaphorically.

Tana Amen: That's really cute.

Chloe Amen: I tell myself to be bold instead of being vulnerable, because it's all about what you associate it with. I associate being vulnerable with, "That's scary. I don't want to do it," but being bold is, "Wow! She's cool. She's strong, right? She knows what she wants." I tell myself, "Be bold," when I'm in situations where I need to be vulnerable.

Tana Amen: I actually like that. My word is, be a warrior.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Because I grew up feeling terrified, like there's a white tiger around every corner. I grew up in chaos.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Warriors are people who get stuff done, right? Warriors are people who ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... and like, even like thinking about it now almost makes me want to cry, because I felt so the opposite of that growing up. I was always scared. Well, warriors, maybe they're scared but they have answers. They have solutions. They have skills. They have like, they just get it done. I'm like, I'm going to identify with the warrior.

Chloe Amen: Yeah.

Tana Amen: That's why I practice martial arts. I remember one time being on stage, it's actually when I read her book, was because I was on stage speaking and I have, like I have a tendency to have a pretty strong presence and I like that. I worked really hard on building walls on having a strong presence.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: But it crumbled and I wasn't expecting it. I was on stage one time, and I'm in front of like, a couple thousand doctors. I was invited to speak to a couple thousand doctors, which doesn't usually happen anyways, like, it was a rare sort of gift that it happened.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: I'm speaking and something happened and I started to cry on stage. I was telling my story and I started to shake and cry, and all of a sudden I felt really small. I felt like the little girl that was ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... scared and terrified. I'm like, "What is happening to me? I'm not like this. I'm a warrior. Like, what is happening to me? I don't know what's happening right now," and I wanted to run off stage. I didn't know what to do, and I just stood there shaking like a little girl. I felt like a little girl, but I just fought through it, and I told the story, shaking. It's actually still on YouTube, but anyways, at the end of it, they started applauding. Then, when it was over, I had a heart surgeon run up to me. He goes, "No one makes me cry. You made me cry," and I was like, "Uh." I wasn't quite sure how to take it, but I realized something. It was the power of being authentic ...

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: ... of letting your wall down.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Then someone recommended that book to me.

Chloe Amen: Right. I think we rely so much on these walls that we build up, but really, they're temporary, because what happens when you don't have those walls anymore? What do you do? Do you know what I mean? Do you let it like, defeat you, or do you do something about it? Yeah, I have four things that I do to practice vulnerability, that make it a little bit easier for me. The first thing is to tell myself to be bold. The second thing is to talk about it. I have people in my life that I talk about things with, that I wouldn't necessarily want to talk to other people about, because it's scary, or it's like, it feels too vulnerable. I talk to, one of them is you.

Tana Amen: I'm so lucky.

Chloe Amen: Yeah, because I think that talking about it, the more ... One thing that I learned from the book actually is the less you talk about vulnerability, the more you have. The more shame you have ...

Tana Amen: Yes.

Chloe Amen: The more shame you have, you know, the less you talk about it.

Tana Amen: Like when you shine a light in the dark, it goes away.

Chloe Amen: Right. The less you talk about it, the more you have.

Tana Amen: I love that.

Chloe Amen: That's the other thing. The third thing is gratitude. I think that, well, at least for me, when I'm grateful and I have gratitude, it masks shame. It masks vulnerability. When I'm grateful for what I do have, what I am good at, what I know I'm capable of doing, it makes what I feel like I can't do in the moment, or what I'm afraid to do, a lot smaller.

Tana Amen: That's really good.

Chloe Amen: Right. What I know that I'm good at, and what I know that I have, so, not only in myself but in other people, so I know I have my family to fall back on. If this doesn't go well, I have my family still. If this doesn't go well, I still have my friends. It's okay. If this doesn't go well, I've still accomplished this, this, and this, and it's okay.

Tana Amen: You learned something.

Chloe Amen: Right, so having gratitude kind of reminds me that, look, you have something to fall back on. You don't - You know what I'm saying?

Tana Amen: In other words, it's how, again [crosstalk 00:13:13]

Chloe Amen: This isn't the end all, be all.

Tana Amen: Yes. It's not the end all.

Chloe Amen: Right. Right. I think that was the third one, right?

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Chloe Amen: Right, that was the third one. The fourth one is opportunity. I like to see vulnerability as an opportunity ...

Tana Amen: Oh, I like that.

Chloe Amen: ... rather than seeing it as like this big, scary failure, or an opportunity to fail. I see it as an opportunity to accomplish something. When you're vulnerable, you have the opportunity to achieve something, right, because when you're vulnerable, it's like, you have the opportunity to play in a big sports game. Or you have the opportunity to perform. You have the opportunity to write a book. You have the opportunity, and that's vulnerable, but it can be a big success still. It can still be a big accomplishment, right? That's how I kind of like to see it. It's all about, like, mindset, I guess, but ...

Tana Amen: Do you see why she amazes me? You're pretty awesome. I read the book in my '40s, and I'm like, "Wow!" If someone, like, the fact that you are getting such a head start on some of this amazing information, and some of these really important life skills and concepts, is just, it's fascinating to me. It's going to save you. You know, there's nothing that can save us from pain in life.

Chloe Amen: Of course.

Tana Amen: But there are things you can do to ...

Chloe Amen: Deal with it.

Tana Amen: ... just guide you through the pain.

Chloe Amen: Right. Deal with it.

Tana Amen: Help you grow instead of shrinking when you have pain in life.

Chloe Amen: Right.

Tana Amen: Help you pass it on and help other people.

Chloe Amen: Yeah.

Tana Amen: I'm so proud of you. You're so awesome. We'll be back with the Chloe show. I thought that was pretty amazing. Thank you so much.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free, signed copy of the Brain Warrior's Way and the Brain Warrior's Way cookbook we give away every month.