Honoring every experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.
Last quarter I had the profound pleasure of reading Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly“. For those who aren’t familiar with her work, she also has an amazing TED talk that has recently gone viral. 9 million views for an academic talk on vulnerability is nothing to sneeze at!
To give you a little bit of background, Brown is a research professor at the University of Huston Graduate School of Social Work. She has authored several books, been featured on PBS, NPR and TED (you can tell she’s made it when she’s got that many acronyms endorsing her!), and has managed to live in Huston without becoming a gun-toting republican.
In “Daring Greatly” her focus is on vulnerability, a topic she spent over 6 years researching. Like many of us who live in a culture that views vulnerability as a form of weakness, Brown was no friend to being emotional. What she never would have imagined is just how central it would be to living full, rich, productive lives. In “Daring Greatly”, Brown defines vulnerability as follows:
“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
What a beautiful message, and one that we need desperately in today’s society. She goes on to talk about how vulnerability is the key component to connection, and making the (absolutely right, in my opinion) assertion that connection is the reason we are here. Without connection, without interaction, we grow depressed and stale. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to support that child into adulthood. This culture seems to think that going it alone is resilient, strong, independent. What it isn’t saying is how these people who seem so strong are really dying inside.
There are so many reasons that people try and go it alone. Perhaps they are compensating for a childhood full of being told they would never amount to anything. Maybe they have internalized the belief that they aren’t worth anyone else’s love or attention. No matter what the message, Brown states that we disconnect because we no longer feel worthy. This is shame, and shame is one of the most poisonous emotions we can ever feel.
Yet there is hope! Despite our culture being awash in shaming techniques (in the home, in school, in the workplace), messages that we aren’t ever _____ enough (rich, smart, attractive, skinny, etc), by shining the light on the shame we can begin to reduce its power and reverse its damage. We do that by beginning to forge a sense of worthiness. For some amazing tips, I recommend picking up Brown’s book, or at the very least watching her TED talks. The next step is to develop those relationships with people that make you feel vulnerable. While some people may let you down, you have to keep reaching your hand out there. There is no greater source of strength and courage than having people stand by your side, and the only way you will ever find them is if you allow yourself to look!
So today I will be reaching out to those people with whom I have allowed myself to be vulnerable, and thank them for being there for me. It may not always be pretty, or graceful, but it will always be authentic and for that I could not be more grateful.