I recently read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brene defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”. She speaks about how vulnerability is the opposite of weakness it takes courage, trust, and inner strength and confidence to be vulnerable. After reading this book I began to pay attention to the people in my life who are daring greatly.
I realized that every day I see acts of courage and people taking the risk to be vulnerable. With those brave acts, I see the transformation and growth right before my eyes. One example was during a middle school yoga lesson. A young man, who is typically made fun of by his peers, bravely volunteered to lead his awkward peers through a yoga flow they learned just minutes before. With a shaking in his hands I gave him a head nod from the audience and he pushed through his discomfort and led. With a high five he confidently walked tall back to his mat. He took a risk, was uncertain of how he’d do, and exposed his emotions which transformed from nervousness to confidence and pride.
So, what holds us back from being vulnerable when the results can be positive and transformative? Brene Brown, talks a lot about shame and defines it as the “fear of disconnection- the fear that we’re unlovable and don’t belong….shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement”. Many of us, me included, are afraid to be vulnerable and this fear holds us back. We are afraid that if we take a risk we will make a mistake or fail. And when we make a mistake or fail in addition to shame we may feel embarrassment, guilt, and humiliation. When we feel these uncomfortable emotions we often want to withdraw from others because we don’t feel good enough. Who wants that? So, it makes sense that it is not as easy as one may think to be vulnerable.
However, it is important to remember our mistakes and failures do not define us or our self-worth, it is how we respond to them. We cannot experience success without failure. Most of us have heard Michael Jordan’s inspirational quote “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So, think about vulnerable situations or acts that you avoid; speaking out at work, volunteering to lead a project at work, joining a committee you’ve always wanted to join, creating a boundary with a family member, saying “no” to a friend, talking to your partner about a longstanding problem in your relationship. Whatever it is ground yourself in your strength and trust that your vulnerability will bring you closer to who you want to be. It may not go perfectly and may not bring about the results you want right away, so start small and feel empowered by your courage. It takes practice to be brave and be vulnerable, so be gentle with yourself.
“What we know matters, but who we are matters more.” – Brene Brown