On Vulnerability

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

If I had to choose one emotional state to experience for the rest of my life, vulnerability would not even cross my mind. It's not a good feeling, being vulnerable. It makes you feel small. At the same time, it's one of the most powerful states you could find yourself in. When you're vulnerable, you are open and susceptible to anything, and you can either interpret that as a risk to get hurt or as an opportunity for something great to happen.

Brené Brown's TED Talk on the power of vulnerability shifted my thinking from the former to the latter. It is a beautiful thing to listen to. I've watched the video four times. An emotional state that is so dreaded, that makes people feel so scared and weak, was found to be a crucial stepping stone in life. A necessity. Brown opens your eyes and your heart to the world and the people in it.

Yesterday was an important day for me. It was a symbol of growing up, moving on, getting through life itself. In a previous post, I touched on a time where a friendship ended with the people I considered myself closest to. (Every time I write that, I first type the people I was closest to and then re-write it as the people I considered myself closest to because since hindsight is 20/20, I now realize that you can't truly be close to people who you constantly feel you have to fight to win over.) Yesterday was 365 days since then.

I don't want to make this a sob story, because it's not. I started this post yesterday but put it on hold because I wanted to make sure it didn't sound like a petty plea for sympathy. I don't want sympathy, and I'm not trying to shine a huge negative spotlight on other people. That's not my intention. My intention is to take a time I felt vulnerable and analyze it. I also don't want to make this some sort of dramatized story of triumph, because it isn't that either. We've all been hurt in one way or another, likely multiple times. My situation is not special, it's just personal.

Upon being forced into a vulnerable state, I can tell you that I certainly didn't like it. If it's possible for the Grinch's heart to grow three sizes in one day, I think all of me shrunk that much in a few hours. Short term, I felt helpless; a lot was happening to me that I couldn't control. Long term, I was hesitant to open myself up to people. One year later, I still am, to a certain extent. I don't think vulnerability is something we ever escape. It's not something we can just get rid of or get over. We are always vulnerable; what changes is the degree of vulnerability and whether we choose to embrace it. Will we let it hold us back or push us forward?

"In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen – really seen."

It's essential for us to open ourselves up and reveal our true selves to other people in order to truly connect — and if you're only somewhat connecting with someone, what's the point? Often times we close ourselves off. We're guarded, and maybe rightfully so, but in the end, it won't get us anywhere. The media tends to glorify and romanticize this persona, painting those individuals as ~mysterious~ and intriguing. That's not how it works in the real world. In the real world, you don't come off as alluring, you come off as cold. And rude.

"The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection."

Hey, WE ARE ALL WORTHY OF CONNECTION. In her study, Brown looked at people who had a sense of worthiness and found that they all had "the courage to be imperfect."

"They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were." 
Remember this.

"They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful."
Embrace it. Being vulnerable will always be hard, but there are benefits. I became vulnerable because a friendship was lost. The beauty in this is that I now try to be more aware of how I treat people and how I'm treated in return. We can't appreciate the good without first experiencing the bad. I cherish the genuine friendships that I have today, and it's because I was vulnerable that I even have them.

Don't be afraid to be vulnerable. If you aren't, you're stuck in the same place.
"I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame 
and fear and our struggle
for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love."

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