I got a lot of positive responses from readers. People tend to appreciate just how scary vulnerability can be and the courage it can take to go into that space. I agree it is scary. I had a recent opportunity to practice vulnerability. On a number of levels the actions I took were not successful (i.e. I ended up with what I was afraid of) and it left me feeling miserable (to put it mildly).
But I survived to tell the tale…
When you’re willing to be vulnerable you’re taking a risk – a serious risk – that what you want won’t be achieved (i.e. you fail), or you won’t be accepted or approved of. We can take risks big and small every day and not all of them require a whole lot of vulnerability. The things that tend to require the most vulnerability are those that we feel are really important to us, and those that we associate with our sense of worth. Then, if you take the risk and fail there is a huge sense of loss and it can be really painful.
There is another kind of pain also – the pain of never having tried. The pain of living a life wondering ‘what if’ because you never found the courage to find out. The pain of knowing in your heart that – in spite of all the reasons and excuses you can come up with – you are ultimately the only thing standing in your way. This is usually a more subtle pain than the rush of pain associated with loss but it is a pain always there, lurking in the shadows of your mind.
So while I had a lot of pain associated with the sense of loss, there was also a lot of strength drawn from being willing to face the fear. I am wiser and I am ultimately happier in spite of the loss because I don’t have to live with the regret of not doing what my heart called me to do.
I also learned more about my friends whose non-judgmental support was so necessary and so appreciated. When you take the risks you’re called to by your heart, people will support you in your efforts to be daring. We know that we can draw courage from the courage of others.
In her 2012 TED talk, Brene Brown said: “Even if you got as perfect as you could and bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see… We want for ourselves and the people we care about to dare greatly.”
While I’ve been a fan of Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability and shame (especially her book The Gifts of Imperfection) for a couple of years, it was one of my very supportive friends who gave me the poignant reminder about the courage it takes to be vulnerable by sending me the link to Brene’s TED talk. It was the reminder I needed while I doubted the wisdom of my willingness to be vulnerable and questioned whether my vulnerability had been a sign of courage or weakness.
“Vulnerability is not weakness.”
I came out the other side stronger and wiser and with another level of appreciation for all of the willingness of my clients to be vulnerable as they face their fears, dare to dream and commit to the work that is required to evolve the self. And it is work for which the strength and courage to undertake cannot be underestimated.
“Show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, I’ll show you a woman who’s done incredible work. You show me a man who can sit with a woman who’s just had it; she can’t do it all anymore… and he really listens. I’ll show you a guy who’s done a lot of work.”
Brene has done two TED talks, both which I love. I couldn’t decide which one to use in this article until I realised I didn’t have to choose…
“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”