Brene Brown’s Recipe for Trust or Braving a Roll of Paper Towel

“What is trust? What do we talk about when we talk about trust? Trust is a big word, right? To hear ‘I trust you’ or ‘I don’t trust you’ I don’t even know what that means.  So I wanted to know what is the anatomy of trust. What does that mean?”

Brene Brown

I was at my boyfriend’s house yesterday and before I left to go home he handed me a bag. He was sending me home with two of my containers, returning them as I’d sent him home with leftovers a few nights earlier. But there was something else in the bag.

A roll of paper towel.

“So you don’t have to stop on your way home,” he said.

He’d noticed I was out earlier that morning.

I almost burst into tears.

This is what I know to be love at this age and stage.

“Can you believe that?” I told my best friend. “Who does that? It’s so sweet. It’s so him and it’s so nice.”

We didn’t need to detail the others and what they didn’t do or how they broke trust.

We didn’t have to relive the heartbreaks, the broken promises, the ones who didn’t keep their word or who weren’t able to be considerate.

We just celebrated knowing how simple it can be.

How conscious.

It was more than a moment of personal joy though I realized only later.

It’s trust.

I get that now that I’ve just watched gifted storyteller and researcher, Brene Brown who gave a talk entitled, “The Anatomy of Trust” on Oprah’s Super Soul TV.

It’s free, online and takes half as long as 50-minute therapy hour.

It’s going to improve my life by improving all of my relationships.

With others.

And myself.

It’s as good as the Ted Talk she gave on  vulnerability which eventually went viral. It’s as intimate, illuminating and engaging.

For me, Brene Brown is always best when on a stage. She’s a natural and clear storyteller speaker who makes hard subjects (shame, vulnerability and trust) easy to understand. She mixes personal stories with researched data. I love her but her written words don’t reach me the way her voice does.

With story and explanation she makes concepts that could be complicated, shame or vulnerability or trust, accessible and discussable and digestible.

She’s written the recipe for trust.

She gives the ingredients so we can learn to prepare, bake, make and feel quality trusting relationships.

With others.

With ourselves.

She’s not preaching or pushing her own agenda. She’s a warm Dr. Spock in a data download of sharing She’s reiterating what she’s researched, studied and learned from her parenting and from other researchers.

Trust isn’t only the It isn’t only the absence of lies, deceit or betrayal as I believed. It must be nurtured and built and protected.

For trust, what’s needing Brown says is “Braving” which consists of the following:

B = Boundaries

R = Reliability

A = Accountability

V = Vault

I = Integrity

N =Non Judgment

G  = Generosity

I won’t elaborate on them all as this is a must-see video from start to finish but I’ll give two examples.

V, “the valul” she says, “shook me to the core.” She said the vault isn’t only, “What I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me, I will hold in confidence” – though those are crucial too. It’s also seeing that you respect not only my story but the story of others in your life as well. I will notice how you treat others who trust you and that will shape the trust between us.

No one has put language to this before or the way we lose respect for people who gossip with us.


Integrity, she said, has three pieces:

  1. Choosing courage over comfort.
  2. Choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy.
  3. Practicing your values not just professing your values.

We can improve trust now with others in all our crucial relationships.

Not just with others but with ourselves.

I’m so grateful Brene Brown’s worlds are in the world and that there are words like bravery, courage, vulnerability and shame being discussed so openly and often.

it’s important.

But it’s also hard.

If you’ve been a fixer, rescuer and helper of others, and maybe even yourself, she will challenge you.

I always thought I was pretty freaking nice. It turns out I was something else.


It’s hard to see and admit. And it’s not like this is an accusation I’ve not heard before. I have. But I didn’t really understand it completely. Until she said this:

“We think that we’ve set up trusting relationships with people who really trust us because we’re always there to help them. But let me tell you this. If you can’t ask for help and they cannot reciprocate that – that is not a trusting relationship. Period. And when we assign value to needing help, when I think less of myself for needing help, whether you are conscious of it or not, when you offer help to someone you think less of them too. You cannot judge yourself for needing help but not judge others for needing your help.. And somewhere in there, if you’re like me, you’re getting value from being the helper in a relationship, you think that’s your worth. But real trust doesn’t exist unless help is reciprocal in non judgment.”





That’s going to mean a different approach. A different mind set. A different world view. A different way of being.

I’ve listened to this about 100 times. I wish I learned this decades earlier.

I’ve sucked at building trust. With myself. With others. Not everyone or all of the time. But often.

And it’s not always been graceful.

Which is a supreme understatement.

I’ve tried to fix and rescue others.

I’ve devoted myself to fixing and rescuing myself.

I’ve though it was noble work. Practically a calling.

I’ve judged and judged and judged my own needs and neediness and thought I was pretty open with others. Not possible. Not really.


Self-trust is vital too.

Non-negotiable. Necessary.

I’m pausing and stopping and replaying this. A lot.

Brene Brown explains trust as choices, a practice and the series of repeated actions.

Trust isn’t only the absence of cruelty but the presence of connection. She learned it from the work of John Gottman, PhD who has been studying love and betrayal for decades (and wrote a book on it as well). He said:

“To choose to not connect when the opportunity is there is a betrayal.”


Trust is not just about being present or giving to others either. It is about going to the funerals and wakes and taking the important phone calls and keeping our words. It’s all of that. Those are really important ways to build trust.

But it’s also knowing ourselves well enough to set limits, not to over promise or break trust by failing to keep our own word.

Those also build trust.

Or break trust.

We have to be reliable.



And yes, vulnerable too. We must trust and risk actual vulnerability.

We must be able to dare the words:  “I need help” as often as “What do you need?”

It’s not either or. It’s both.

And understanding the importance and significance of a roll of paper towel.

That too.

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