The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown
Deep down, I always knew I was meant to be a writer.
Growing up, I was always scribbling down something. A journal. A short story. A blog.
I’ve always felt the yearning to tell stories and share what I’ve learned with others.
Dreamed of writing inspiring books that would change people’s lives.
Until recently, I resisted my call. My Inner Mean Girl would tell me I wasn’t a good enough writer. That there’s no way a shy small town girl can publish a book. That even if I somehow managed to get my writing out there, I wouldn’t be able to make a living through it.
The truth is I was scared s***less.
Following your call, whether that’s writing a book, starting your own fashion line or becoming a painter, strips you bare. Leaves you exposed. Makes you vulnerable. To other people’s judgements. Criticisms. Trolling.
You pour your heart and soul into your art only to see it torn to pieces by those who don’t understand it.
It’s much safer to stay out of the arena. Let other people be torn to pieces. Reap the rewards in the end.
I don’t want to be torn to pieces, but staying outside of the arena isn’t safe anymore. It’s a slow death of the soul. Deprived of oxygen, your creativity and soul slowly suffocate. Life becomes just an endless list of duties, obligations and boredom.
It’s time. Time to be vulnerable. Time to step into the arena.
But I won’t be walking in there alone. I’ll be taking with me the teachings of Brene Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Here’s what her book Daring Greatly taught me about vulnerability and courage:
1. Vulnerability Is A Strength, Not A Weakness
I learned vulnerability was bad when I started school. I guess you did, too.
If you failed a test, your schoolmates would call you stupid.
If you were even a tiny little bit chubby, you were mercilessly taunted for your weight.
Now, if you make a mistake at work, you’re terrified someone will use it to put you in a bad light and get that promotion instead.
The message is clear: vulnerability is something to be avoided at all costs. Dare to show the tiniest flaw and you’ll be punished. Ridiculed. Taken advantage of.
When you reject vulnerability, you’re trying to protect yourself from negative feelings. But vulnerability isn’t only at the core of bad feelings.Vulnerability is at the core of all feelings. Including love, joy and happiness.
Can you imagine anything more vulnerable than falling in love? Telling someone you love him for the first time, putting your heart in his hands?
He could smash it into a million pieces. Hurt you more than words can say. Or he could be the one who walks through life by your side. Loves and supports you even in your darkest hours.
If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, you’ll never know which way it’ll go. If you’re not willing to risk the pain, you’ll never experience the joys of a romantic relationship.
It’s the same with your gifts. You can use them to make a difference in this world or you can keep them hidden for fear someone will criticise you.
You can tell yourself you aren’t good enough. That no one is interested. That even if you don’t give it a try, it won’t make any difference. But you know it’s a cop out.Vulnerability takes guts. Only the brave can do it. Vulnerability takes guts. Only the brave can do it.Click To Tweet
2. Shame Is The Root Of All Evil
When you failed that test, were called fat or made the mistake that cost you the promotion, you felt shame.
Your Inner Mean Girl told you that you are deeply flawed and unworthy of love. You believed her. You got scared you’ll never belong anywhere.
So, you became a perfectionist. You went on drastic diets that left you weak and triggered an eating disorder. You started lying and blaming others to cover up your mistakes.Shame is the root cause of every bad behaviour and decision you've ever made. It's the cancer that destroys the part of you who believes you can change and become a better person. It's the bully that challenges you to do the wrong thing and mercilessly punishes you when you go ahead and do it.
If you want someone to change a bad behaviour, shaming them is the worst thing you can. If you want to improve yourself, shaming yourself into doing it is the wrong path to take.
Shame makes us feel vulnerable. But real vulnerability has no time for shame. If you want to be vulnerable and connect with others on a deeper level, you have to become resilient to shame.
In the words of Brene Brown, “Shame resilience is the ability to say ‘This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.'”Shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy.
When you’ve come out of shame and are on the other side, you can engage with people authentically and without judgement. Let courage and self-love guide you there.
3. Embracing Vulnerability Doesn’t Mean Letting It All Hang Out
I’m a very private person. I’m trying to open up a bit more but I don’t like telling my private business to strangers.
I can’t stand when someone I’ve just met shares her pity life story with me. I have a total horror of reality TV. Heck, I even barely check FB because reading what you’ve been up to all day is TMI for me.
When I started blogging, I struggled with how much of my life I should share. I want to keep it real and share the hustle but should I really vlog about the endless hours I spend writing my articles and books or update my FB status every time my Inner Mean Girl raises her ugly head and makes me doubt myself?
Nope. Vulnerability isn’t about letting it all hang out.
“Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.” – Brene Brown
Whenever you feel like sharing something with someone, Brene suggests you ask yourself these questions first:
- Will this story help someone else?
- What did I learn from this experience?
- Am I still working through it? (If so I probably need to talk it through with someone who has deserved my trust before posting it on the internet)
- If I get positive comments will it affect the way I feel? If I get negative comments will it affect the way I feel?
I follow these rules before posting something on here. I willingly share my struggles to tame my Inner Mean Girl and my journey from depression to a career and life I love because I know it can help other women do the same.
But, there’s plenty of other stuff that I’m keeping under wraps because I’m still working through the pain and regrets. Airing dirty laundry in public for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone.
You just come across as an annoying attention seeker. No one likes those.
I’ll leave you with the quote by Theodore Roosevelt that inspired Brene Brown to write Daring Greatly:
Over to you, now. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about vulnerability? Was there a time in your life when you decided to be vulnerable and it paid off? Share your experience in the comments below.