I just had my mind blown wide open by a TED talk. Dr. Brené Brown, a researcher, storyteller and ‘magic pixie’ was talking about her experience researching vulnerability and shame. She concluded that vulnerability is the state from which our ability to feel joy, to create, to belong and to love originate. But since we want to bury our vulnerability, disguise, hide, or numb the feeling that we aren’t somehow bulletproof and perfect, we are also stunting our ability to feel the opposing, positive emotions. She attributes our nation’s problems with debt, obesity, addiction and over-medication to our collective obsession with burying the shame we feel when we equate weakness with vulnerability.
The truth is that it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable. To be yourself, to feel your feelings, to speak your truths and to know that no matter how the rest of the world reacts to that, you will survive it. Ironically, except for the most heinous sociopaths out there, people embrace those who are authentic, real, vulnerable, and feel strong and positive connections to them.
Shame, she says, is “the gremlin that says ‘you’re not good enough’” to achieve whatever it is you long to achieve, and should you happen to achieve those things, it’s the nagging voice that asks, “who do you think you are?!”
We all have a choice. We can continue our quest to be bulletproof and perfect—to “outsmart” our vulnerability—or to allow ourselves to deepen our connection to others by being honest about our imperfections, fears, and yearnings. We can shop, drink, eat or medicate our way around exposing our true, imperfect, tender selves. Or we can embrace the vulnerability that that makes us beautiful, makes us willing to do something important without any guarantees, and makes us breathe through the terrifying moments of awareness that an event or a piece of bad news might very possibly end our lives as we’ve known them, in the very next moment.
Dr. Brown says that wholehearted living requires us to be who we are, not who we think we should be, with the courage to be imperfect, the compassion to be kind to ourselves first, and the ability to connect by living our lives with authenticity.
See? I told you. Mind blowing.