In Brené Brown's new book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, she asks us to take the common view that vulnerability is a weakness and throw it in the trash. She asks us to consider instead that vulnerability is necessary. When we show up and allow ourselves to be seen and heard, we are being vulnerable. We are daring greatly.
"Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection." Page 2
Intellectually, I understand what Brown is saying -- you don't get picked unless you raise your hand. Emotionally, it's another story. Vulnerability is scary. When we expose ourselves we make ourselves open to rejection. Sometimes people try to shame us. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be a frightening endeavor.
I don't think I'm all by myself when I say I've always hated feeling vulnerable. I have a pretty well developed strategy of self-preservation and a lot of that is avoiding feeling vulnerable, at least in my personal relationships. I'm far more comfortable asking questions (even if they may be considered stupid) or offering up ideas (even if they may be rejected) at work. I've been lucky that I've worked places that encouraged me to ask questions.
Brown doesn't ignore the fear associated with being vulnerable. She's spent years examining fear and shame. She's open about how she's felt fear and how it has held her back at various points in her life -- both personally and professionally. She also, very rightly, points out that uncertainty and risks are part of life. We can't ignore them. Why shouldn't we face those fears straight on? What could we do if we were not afraid of failure?
Heidi, who blogs at Girl to Mom, recently saw Brené Brown on television speaking about vulnerability and what stuck with her is very much what stuck with me after reading the book:
You have to feel the uncomfortable feelings in order to fully feel all of the joy. It’s taken me a long time to begin to get this, that my feelings are a gift, because they mean I am fully alive.
To live fully, there are times when we need to take risks. There are times when we need to not only accept, but to embrace, vulnerability. There are times when we must dare greatly.
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