What could be the best definition of vulnerability? What makes one feel vulnerable and what could be the possible negative or positive outcome of feeling vulnerable? Most of us would probably say vulnerability would lead to shame. But doesn’t vulnerability make us more human?
While striving to understand vulnerability and why most people (especially men), never want to consider themselves vulnerable, I came across a great speech by Brene Brown. In her speech, she tries to analyze vulnerability and why fighting the feeling of vulnerability is generally the cause of distress among individuals.
To begin with, she talks about her research on shame. Generally, shame is that fear of disconnection. She went ahead to discuss how vulnerability contributed to this feeling of shame and her statement is as follows:
“The things I can tell you about shame: It’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which, we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”
In her continued study, she analyzed the common characteristics of people with a strong sense of worthiness and here is what she found out. These individuals had a sense of courage. Courage is the ability to tell the story of who you are, with your whole heart. These folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we cannot practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last characteristic; they had connection. This was the hard part. As a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do, for that connection.
The other thing that they had in common was that they fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.
How many of us can stand and confess to having vulnerability issues and need to work on accepting it? Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness but clearly it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love. We also need to believe that we are enough. When we believe we are enough, we will start listening to ourselves and to others. We will be kinder and gentler to ourselves and the people around us. That is the beauty of owning who we are and the power of accepting our vulnerability. To read more posts bu Gertrude, click HERE