A while back I came across Brené Brown’s TED-talks on vulnerability and shame on YouTube. Within the course of the 40-or-so minutes it takes to watch those videos I realized that I was standing in front of a major paradigm shift in how I would perceive myself from that moment on.
I have always regarded being vulnerable, and in particular my own vulnerability, as something that makes us humans weak, fragile and a little bit pathetic (sometimes a lot). That being said I have never really shunned away from potentially hurtful situations, although when things have not gone my way it has left me feeling weak, stupid and most importantly shameful. Shameful that I was not able to control myself better and that I should have been able to avoid going into a situation where I was not certain of a victorious outcome. My ego has thus far been quite successful at making me feel this way.
Then enter Brené Brown who after years of studying shame and vulnerability has a diametrically different take on it:
Vulnerability is not weakness. […] Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.
Investing in something you want where success is uncertain is not a sign of weakness. It is pure courage. My old self (read: ego) would say stupid, as you risk getting hurt, rejected or even humiliated. But why should we let fear of failure and rejection run our lives and limit our possibilities? Wouldn’t it be better if we all were brave enough to go after what we really want, trusting that we have what it takes to handle a possible failure? Are you confident enough to know that it is not your failures that define who you are, apart from helping you grow and evolve into something bigger, better, stronger than you were before?
Being vulnerable means giving a relationship your all even if you are uncertain of whether it will work out or not. It means having the guts to say “I love you” first even when you know the other person may not reciprocate. Being vulnerable is standing up for your convictions and ideas in circumstances where applause is far from certain. It is having the perseverance to be the stayer in situations where your for a prolonged period of time only can fly on instruments. Vulnerability is giving other people or situations the benefit of the doubt, when the ego in your head is screaming that this should not be trusted.
These situations are not about being weak. They are about finding the strength and courage to go the distance even when you are not certain that you will get there or what you will even find there. It is about following your dreams, and about trusting yourself, your instincts, and your strength and capabilities to handle whatever comes your way.
Going after something you want with zero risk is easy and doesn’t instil much growth. Going after what you want when there is a considerable chance you may end up getting hurt is transformative. It builds confidence and it reinforces the fact that we absolutely are able to create our own life experience.
But do not misunderstand me. Going after the girl you want when she has told you that she is not interested is not courage. It is stalking. Repeatedly trying to become the next big singer when no one except your mum has told you that you sing well is also not courage. It is being ignorant to the fact that your time and talents could be put to better use. Seeking out situations where you are likely to get hurt without any potential of a reward is also not being courageous. It is self-destructive.
I am talking about situations where the only thing separating you from making that leap of faith is your own doubt and fears. I am talking about situations where you keep wondering if this actually could work, even if it’s a long shot.
Brené Brown had discovered that the one thing distinguishing people whom she would classify as happy and sorted was that they accepted their own vulnerability. That doesn’t mean that we should relish the feeling of being vulnerable jackass-style. It means that we could have a lot to gain from viewing our own vulnerability as a natural side to life that shouldn’t be ignored or feared.
While most people are busy contemplating all the things that could go wrong, it is not the pitiful and weak ones you see out there in the arena fighting for what they want. They are the brave and courageous ones.
Don’t you want to be one of them?
Vulnerably and courageously yours,