The Power of Vulnerability

“In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”- Dr. Brene Brown

On The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brene Brown identifies the ways in which vulnerability aids us in cultivating deeper connections with others by encouraging empathy, authenticity, and joy while ridiculing things such as shame, perfectionism and numbing.  There is a cultural myth regarding vulnerability that paints it as a weakness. However, this myth has been dispelled through years of research and social work conducted by Brown and vulnerability has been revealed to be the most accurate measure of courage. After listening to Brown’s audio course via Audible I began reassessing the way I feel about vulnerability, and how vulnerability makes room for other beautiful traits to take the place of the traits we have been conditioned to dislike about ourselves.

            Let’s look at shame, shall we? When you’re being shamed by someone (or shaming yourself) for something, you may resort to habits that aren’t progressive, but temporarily take the pain of shame away. You may immediately want to shrink and start thinking about the ways in which you have let yourself or other people down and think of ways to prevent it from happening again. I have learned through Dr. Brene Brown, though, that shame is not a catalyst for meaningful, adopting change. Brown argues that “Shame is a social construct. It happens between people, and it heals between people.” One of the ways she encourages people to combat shame is by talking to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. You could start by telling yourself ‘I know that I messed up this time, but it's okay. Whether or not I want to take it right now, I have another chance for improvement.’

            Talking to someone you love and letting them know that they aren’t alone in what they are being shamed for is another way of combating shame. “While self-empathy is an incredible place to start, we need to tell the story, and we need to be in a relationship with someone who can confirm that we are lovable.” Empathy says, ‘me too’ and ‘you are not alone’, but there is no room for empathy in a culture where people are afraid to be vulnerable. Being empathetic requires us to step into what the other person feels and make it known that you can see them where they are and relate to their issues wholeheartedly. Thus, making room for vulnerability.

            Giving yourself, and others, space to “show up and be seen” encourages authenticity as well as vulnerability. One of my favorite quotes from The Power of Vulnerability audio course is “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up. Stay in your sacred grounds.” It acts as a constant reminder for me to be my most authentic self—whatever that may look like— amidst all the shame, fear, and desire to be 'perfect'. It is the daily practice of letting go who we were supposed to be and embracing who we truly are.

            I have found so much joy in discovering complacency in vulnerability. Here is my challenge for all of you to soften in those moments, and embrace the courage it takes to be seen without shame