Riche recently shared this beautiful written and delivered TED talk with me on The Power of Vulnerability as shared by Brene Brown. He had listened to it and thought that it might be something that I would enjoy listening to. Aside from enjoying her delivery, I was even more impacted by the power of her words relating to the human connection – more specifically our ability to empathize, belong and love.
I’ve included a link to her video above as I highly recommend watching the full twenty minutes but for now I felt called to write about her thoughts on vulnerability and the concept of shame. The idea of a fear of disconnection. We hear so much on the news, on social media, in our social circles the concept of “shaming” – image shaming- beauty shaming – gender shaming – the list goes on and on. What a brutal cycle we have the potential to put ourselves into. Brene says it best as she described one of the overwhelming thoughts during her research:
And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: 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.
Excruciating vulnerability…. the idea that we have to not only allow ourselves to be seen…really be seen… but to also know that no matter someones response may be, that we are able to say, “I am enough!” “I am worthy!”
Brene touches on this when she talks about what makes people feel wholehearted and worthy. She found that one of the biggest common denominators amongst all of those people was the idea of courage.
Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, 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 can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — 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 that for connection.
Perhaps the most poignant and striking piece of her research when discussing the concept of feeling worthy and not allowing the shame spiral to swallow them dealt with vulnerability:
The other thing that they had in common was this: 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 — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. 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.
Brene goes on to discuss vulnerability in greater detail (which again I highly recommend watching) but it got me thinking about the idea of fully embracing this concept and how I’ve done that within my own life. Vulnerability can mean so many different things to different people. I found myself feeling vulnerable over the past month as I’ve gone through recovery from my surgery and needing to allow myself to ask for help. I’ve personally demonstrated my vulnerability over the past two years and my weight loss journey when I first started my barre3 practice and knowing that while I may not have been at the same level as some of the other practitioners in the room that I too had my own strengths to offer that would in turn allow me to learn from the strengths of those other amazing women around me. The times when I’ve taken those leaps of faith in friendships not knowing what might happen on the other side but instead enjoying the journey along the way. The vulnerability of waiting for results from my doctors for pathology reports and test results. Now don’t get me wrong! There have been moments (even within the examples I’ve listed above) where I maybe didn’t fully embrace that vulnerability and allowed some of the doubt and shame to creep back in but what power!!! What power in pushing that shame and doubt aside – not just by numbing those feelings- and truly believing that “I am enough” – “I am worthy”.
Brene leaves her audience with a beautiful message and that my friends is how I will leave you too this evening:
But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.