Not long ago my friend gave me an amazing book by Brene Brown called ‘Daring Greatly.’ When I read it the first time it didn’t hit me so hard. My friend said, “Here, you need it.” Well I read it, and thought, yes this book is fabulous. But I’m good at being vulnerable. I know this because I’m good at talking about it and letting it be out there. So I thought maybe I could share some of this stuff with my clients.
Recently I re-read it and my experience was completely different. I cried and cried. What had changed? I suspect that it might be that I really opened my heart to what vulnerability really means for all of us. It means so much more than “talking about” our problems to come up with solutions. Brene defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
Brene started bringing up some questions for me that I hadn’t really been asking myself – and now I will ask you:
How willing are you to let your flaws, your shame, your guilt, your fat, all hang out for everyone to see the real you, and how willing are you to see everyone else’s? How willing are you to not ‘airbrush’ your life and the lives of those around you?
In an age where social media is a cover for any real social interaction, how willing are you to call someone when you want to break up with them or ask them out on a date, as opposed to sending them a vague text?
How willing are you to really be honest with yourself or the people closest to you to say “I’m feeling insecure in this relationship but I don’t know where this is coming from” or “I’m know I’m acting like a complete jerk right now but I’m not sure how to stop” or “I’ve been in a job I hate for ten years, why I am I not dealing with this and how much pain will I have to deal with if I realized I wasted ten years of my life?”
Brene discusses common myths we are taught by society – such as “go it alone” and “don’t be weak.” Phrases like “I don’t know” are deemed unacceptable so you lie your way through a life you don’t want to live, hoping no one will find out that you aren’t perfect. True success now means sucking it up and getting on with it. Suppress as much as you can, and then manifest illness in your body because you haven’t dealt with any of it. But don’t worry, there’s always a pill you can take (or several) to numb that pain! Well how about collectively accepting that we all have crap to get through?
What drove home for me Brene’s question of whether or not I was willing to be vulnerable was her mention of the definition of vulnerability in the dictionary: “capable to be wounded” and “open to attack or damage”. That sounds pretty scary right? Who needs that? But what people don’t realize is that that’s where all the really good stuff is. If you can sit with your pain and expose your wounds, it gives others permission to do the same. And then you really start showing up for yourself and others in exquisitely beautiful ways. You’ll start to notice shifts when you finally start being real with yourself, and then being real with other people, and stating, “You know what, I really don’t know” or “this part of me hurts right now but I’m doing the best I can.” Suddenly a sense of relief will pervade the room. Suddenly others will start being more real with you in ways you would never have imagined. And then you’ll start living who you are in new and exciting ways because you will have a platform from where to start which is visible and real.
Brene says “To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.”
It’s from that beautiful place of vulnerability, you can ask yourself the question: “Am I willing to be hurt?” Because if you’re willing to be hurt then you’re willing to be vulnerable. And yes that means that you might be rejected – by that job you’ve always wanted, the person you have a crush on, the bank who might give you a loan to follow your dream. You might even be rejected by the shop owner who you decide you want to engage in friendly banter with. But it’s only when you are willing for all of those things to happen that your dreams can come true, that you can come out of your safety net and have truly remarkable things happen because you’re willing to take risks. It’s only from this place you can truly accept and be accepted by the person sitting right next to you. It’s from this place that you cultivate enough faith in yourself to know that no matter what happens you will be okay on the other side of the outcome. You’ll come to realize how extraordinary it is to become a person who can live with the ups and downs of life and be okay with both, rather than living in regret or fear or wonder. You’ll experience a deep sense of peace even when some things don’t work out, because you’ll know you had the courage to live your life authentically rather than on autopilot. And many times along the way you WILL experience the rewards of profound joy because you were willing to come clean with your pain and insecurities and take a risk anyway.
Brene starts her book Roosevelt’s speech, which is indeed very relevant:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the
man who points out how the strong man
stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could
have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually
In the arena, whose face is marred by dust and
Sweat and blood; who strives valiantly,
who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error
and shortcoming; but who does actually
strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm
the great devotions; who spends
himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”
Brene puts it beautifully when she says “Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” Use that as one of your mantras. Try implementing it. Chances are it will be difficult and daunting. But ultimately it will be awesome.