The courage of vulnerability
I think all of us have been guilty of getting hooked on something (or someone). I know, scary!. It's common to hear about someone not getting enough sleep because they stayed up watching some show and could not bring themselves to stop.
Yes, I think we have all been in that situation, with dark circles the next day and a huge cup of coffee to wake up. The same thing is happening to me right now but with videos and audios of Dr. Brené Brown. This last week I've used my commuting time (and every free time I've had) to listening to her interviews and conferences on YouTube, Spotify and her audiobook Daring Greatly.
Dr. Brown is a researcher and storyteller focused on studying courage, shame, empathy and vulnerability.
The main reason why I keep going back to her talks is because I want to understand her message. I want to listen carefully, understand her ideas and really internalize what she wants to convey. Her conclusions from twenty years of research on the topic of social development, emotions and their effects on people's lives are impressive.
If we're going to talk about Brené Brown's findings, we need to first mention the famous T. Roosevelt's quote:
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 enthusiasms, 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 the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have felt and will feel the terror of going into the arena. We will feel what is like to go after that we've always wanted. That thing that makes us fearful and/or makes us step outside our comfort zone.
Dr. Brown's research has revealed that when a person is about to step into the arena, the first voice we hear is shame. That voice that whispers "You're Not Enough". After that, if we are able to quiet that voice in our head, we go into the arena and the first critic we see when we look up is ourselves.
Shame tells us two messages:
1. You are not enough.
2. Who do you think you are?.
For a woman, shame comes from the feeling that we "have to": Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat. It is defined from a whole set of unattainable expectations imposed by today's society.
For a man, shame comes from his "mandate" to: Do not let them see you as weak.
So what can we do to prevent those internal whispers from limiting us in the moments when we want to try something and enter the arena?
The key is empathy. Become aware that in order to return to who we really are, vulnerability is the way. How can we do it?
1. Let your guard down.
Stop protecting yourself from the possibility of getting hurt since our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenheartedness. Each of us will be loved and will love as deeply as we are willing to be brokenhearted. That is, if you don't allow people to see you, to really see who you are. For example, your partner, co-worker or family member; how will they "see" your essence? Letting them see you opens the possibility of being brokenhearted; but that courage is worth more than any momentary suffering we may feel.
2. Embrace vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the ultimate expression of courage. It is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It is the willingness to show up and be seen without guarantees of the results.
Paradoxically, vulnerability is the first thing we want to see in people but the last thing I want to see in myself.
3. Live wholeheartedly.
In order to be one of those lucky people who lives their lives with all their hearts, we must allow ourselves to believe that we are worthy of a life with love and a sense of belonging. Believe it. Have the courage to be imperfect. Have compassion for yourself, your mistakes and the lessons you learn. Let go of the idea of the person you think you should be and be the person you truly are. Recognize that what makes you vulnerable is precisely what makes you beautiful.
If you want your life to be full of magical moments of true happiness, pride for trying what it feels impossible and for the lessons of failure, take three deep breaths and allow yourself to reflect on what I've mentioned.
I'd like to end this conversation with a quote from Oprah's book "The path made clear":
Fear is real. We have all experienced it. And it can be a powerful roadblock. The true meaning of courage is to be afraid - and then, with your knees knocking and your heart racing, take the leap anyway.
Here's one of Brené's most powerful videos, her first TEDx conference on the power of vulnerability:
Another great one is her talk on the importance of listening to shame:
Thank you Dr. Brown, for your courage to share your message with the world.