October 23, 2014 In life

Learning to Embrace Vulnerability

Learning to Embrace Vulnerability

A few weeks ago, I picked up Daring Greatly by Brene Brown from my local library. I had no idea what to expect inside the cover and I was pleasantly surprised. Brene Brown is a vulnerability researcher and a professor at the University of Houston. For the last ten years, she’s studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. Daring Greatly is a book about the courage to be vulnerable and learning to embrace vulnerability.

Society feeds us 3 myths about vulnerability

1. Vulnerability is weakness.
2. “I don’t do vulnerability.”
3. Vulnerability is “letting it all hang out.”

An important part of Brown’s research was centred around shame. What is shame? Do we all feel it? Shame is the fear of disconnection and yes, we all feel it. It’s the idea we’ve fallen short, we are unlovable because we have not measured up. Shame is believing we are flawed, unworthy of love.

In fact, Brown says, as a culture we are “so desperate to get out of shame we constantly serve up people around us as prey.” We compare, we criticize, we rip down other people when we feel shame.

Why do we feel shame?

Scarcity. We live in a culture of what Brown calls, never enough.

Never rich enough.
Never productive enough.
Never organized enough.
Never skinny enough.
Never smart enough.
Never funny enough.
Never charming enough.

Fill in the blank. We all can.

Throughout Brown’s research, she stumbled upon people who seemed to embrace vulnerability and reject shame. She refers to these individuals as Wholehearted. Wholeheartedness is the opposite of scarcity. Every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity, we are called to “Dare Greatly.”

The core of wholeheartedness is vulnerability and worthiness. Wholehearted face uncertainty, vulnerable exposure and take emotional risks knowing, “Who I am is enough.”

3 Vulnerability Shields

1. Foreboding Joy: Joy turns into fear.
2. Perfectionism: We’re never good enough.
3. Numbing: We don’t want to feel.

Joy is hard to feel.

It sounds strange… but in a “never enough” culture, Brown calls this foreboding joy. When research participants were asked, “When do you feel most vulnerable?” the responses were enlightening. Most replied along the lines of, “While watching my kids sleep, when thinking about how much I love my partner, when I love my work, after I had my baby, when I fell in love,” etc.

Can you relate? Maybe it was the season of falling in love… have you ever felt so alive but so terrified? Like you wanted to run towards your partner and one second later, run away as fast as you could? We push away vulnerability because it’s scary. But when we push away vulnerability, we push away joy. I see this in my own life. An amazing moment with my husband Randy can make me think, “What would I do if I lost him?” I muddle joy with fear and ultimately, miss out.

So, how do we embrace vulnerability?

Practice gratitude. Acknowledge “there’s enough” and “I’m enough.” Feel your feelings. Stay mindful about habits you may have to “numb” vulnerability – overeating, overexercising, drinking, isolation or never being alone. Lean into discomfort of your emotions until you aren’t uncomfortable.

Did anything in this post resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below. Be sure to pick up Daring Greatly, too!

  • Catie Ronquillo

    I loved this book! So many great takeaways and it’s so true that society teaches us a that vulnerability is weakness, when in fact it’s usually when we are vulnerable that we are able to best connect with other people who share the experience. Love Brene’s Ted Talk as well.

  • gailwerner

    Oh gosh, I’ve heard SO MANY THINGS about this book that finally, after myself listening to Brene’s TED Talk on this (sidenote: you know who else has AWESOME TED Talks? Author Elizabeth Gilbert..on creativity–check ’em out!), I decided to purchase a copy because I knew it’d be one of those books I’d want to come back to! I purposefully just kind of skimmed this post because I want to dive in to the whole book myself, but another review of positivity (especially from someone I trust ;) ) is much appreciated!