One of my favorite authors to follow (be it online, through her courses, or through her books) is Dr. Brené Brown. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, as well as the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Her work on wholehearted living and her amazing TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability have inspired me to look inward and truly understand how I have held myself away from connection.
She describes vulnerability as follows: “Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” In other words, three things I, and many of my peers, family, friends, generation, have an extremely hard time accepting.
Personally, I have spent most of my adult life trying to bury my emotions so deep down that they never see the light of day, often trying to deny their very existence to myself and thereby faking my outward happy demeanor to the people around me.
Risk, also terrifies me. If I take a risk, personally or professionally, then I might fail, and if I’ve failed, well, we won’t even go there because I get cold sweats just thinking about it.
Uncertainty does not play nicely with my Perfectionism, so once again, buried, hidden, and avoided at all costs in my life.
It wasn’t until very recently, while traveling along the spiritual journey of the last six months that I’ve begun allowing myself to not only feel, but express my feelings. And let me tell you, it scares the hell out of me.
Being vulnerable means showing someone the not so pretty, not so controlled and not so stable parts of you. Vulnerability means, telling someone how you feel and risking that they may not feel the same way. Vulnerability means we get hurt sometimes. Sometimes we get hurt and we cry our eyes out. Sometimes we put on the happy face or the stiff upper lip, but inside we’re falling apart and aren’t sure where to turn. Being vulnerable requires us to set our pride aside at times and tell someone we were wrong or we’re sorry. These are all uncomfortable situations that we’d rather do without.
But vulnerability has the most beautiful and amazing ability to truly connect us to other people. Until you’ve bared your soul and let someone in, something will always be missing. Until you let someone hold your hand an anchor you when all you want to do is hide or let someone know that you’re scared about your circumstances/future/etc, you have not truly connected. There is a deeper connection here that goes far beyond physical intimacy; when you allow someone to see your naked soul, is there anything more real? We sometimes forget or confuse the physical for the emotional, but the difference is huge.
We often fear our feelings and so we keep them quiet. But those things that make us scared to say out loud, the things we run through in our head, over and over and over again but eventually deciding not to say, those are the parts of us we have to show to the people we trust.
Anything less, and we’re just stuck in the superficial world of 500 of our closest “friends” competing in a game of life, never allowing our truest selves to shine or allowing ourselves to be supported and carried when we need a little help.
Life is not meant to be solitary race, because we are not solitary beings. We are not meant to carry all our burdens alone. We are meant to walk this Earth with others by our sides, that’s why we have friends, family, lovers, and partners.
When I say we can’t live with vulnerability and can’t live without it, I really mean that we don’t want to live with it, but we ABSOLUTELY must bring it into our lives. When we hide from our vulnerabilities, we can pretend everything is okay. We can carry on with a smile on our face, without a tear in our eye. We can let everything roll off of us like water off a duck. But truly, we cannot live without being vulnerable and letting people see the real us hiding underneath.
When was the last time you were nervous to say something out loud? When was the last time you let your emotions be seen by another person? How did that make you feel? Did you feel closer to that person afterward?
My challenge to you right now, don’t hold your feelings inside with the next person you are with. If there is something you are feeling and something you want to say, just say it. Those thoughts about what they might think or how they might react to your words, let it go and be true to yourself and your feelings.
I’ll leave you with this reminder by Bernard M. Baruch “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”