Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Vulnerability as a strength - how can it look in our lives? And is it worth the risk?
I have just finished a book by the same name by an author called Brené Brown. You may have heard of her? She is a shame and vulnerability researcher and a well-known inspirational speaker and author.
The idea of vulnerability is often met with distaste in modern society; it’s not seen as a desirable quality in general, and especially in men. Brené Brown would argue that actually to make deep human connections and to live a life of full impact and fulfilment, vulnerability is not only desirable, but necessary. Vulnerability isn’t weakness or oversharing, it’s the ability to face emotional uncertainty; to show up and let ourselves be seen. Brené writes ‘the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement.’
We all have armour we put on to deal with this risk - we seek to shift responsibility onto other people, we labour under the idea of perfectionism, we numb ourselves (through alcohol, social media, being crazy-busy) from our emotions, or feel a sense of foreboding in every moment of joy (if we think the worst, we’re prepared for it). What struck me, when reading this and recognizing these armours in myself, was the sense of heaviness that came with them. There is no joy in using a shield to protect ourselves.
One thing I’ll be trying to put into practice as I endeavour to ‘dare greatly’ is cultivating an ‘I am enough’ mindset. How does this look? When I’m thinking the worst; latching onto something I am grateful for right now. You don’t arrive at happiness. Happiness is right there for the taking at every moment along the journey.
When I mess up; practising self-compassion. Every human suffers, fails and feels inadequate. I will accept and forgive myself for that. I will feel upset about it, but then move on. A lot of us are incredibly hard on ourselves; you don’t need to be. Tune into what you are telling yourself and put it into perspective, or have a conversation with a loved one which helps you put it into perspective. Failure is a necessary part of growth. And when I don't believe everything I have written above, I will repeat those things to myself over and over!
When I try and numb my emotions; being aware of the numbing behaviours and learning to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions. Part of this is setting boundaries in order to manage and soothe the anxiety or other painful feelings. I actually find setting some of these boundaries incredibly uncomfortable, especially when it involves boundaries around sharing my time and energy. Does anyone else feel the same?
Funnily enough, I am not going to try and do these all at once! But I am certainly grateful for this book and those take home messages - if you can get hold of a copy, I do recommend it as a read. They might be difficult to implement, but it’s a journey and we don’t need to be perfectly vulnerable! For me, cultivating vulnerability is definitely worth the risk - I want to live courageously and I want people to know I am showing up and being me. But I certainly don’t have all the answers about how to do it - what are your experiences of being vulnerable and daring greatly?