A few weeks ago, I saw someone posted a YouTube video on Facebook by Brené Brown, called “the Power of Vulnerability.” I didn’t click on it. A few weeks ago, during one of our meetings, one of my supervisees recommended I watch the same video. I didn’t watch it. Today, one of my clients brought it up in session, and told me about the impact it had for her. I finally watched it.
Isn’t it telling that I heard the word “vulnerability” and avoided it? I think so many of us do that. It’s a frightening word because we equate it with pain, hurt, weakness, risk. But is that what it truly means? Logically, I think we can understand that’s not the case, because when we are vulnerable, we are also connected, joyful, and faced with infinite possibilities. But we have practiced the idea that vulnerability is negative for so long, that it became so ingrained to point it is now our automatic and we don’t even notice when we avoid it. And we miss out.
This video was a reminder to me that if we shut down our vulnerability to avoid pain, we are also shutting down our vulnerability to create meaningful relationships (with others AND OURSELVES), fulfillment, enjoyment… And it’s as though there’s a part of us saying that avoiding pain has more value than living a fulfilling life. Think about that….
Avoiding pain has more value than living a fulfilling life
If that’s true, then it means we are merely surviving rather than living. I choose to give my life more meaning than survival. Survival implies that everyone and everything is out there to hurt us, that everything is a constant fight, and, as a result, we adopt a “me vs. the world” mentality. It breeds adversity and competition. That sounds absolutely exhausting to me. It makes me think of learning a new dance – I can try to perfectly perform a choreography and beat myself up every time I “mess up,” fight with and blame my dance partner, or I can surrender to the rhythm and flow with the music. Which one sounds more enjoyable?
Brené Brown talked about some ways in which we defend against vulnerability.
– We make the uncertain certain. She talked about how we approach religion and politics, as if our personal beliefs and feelings are facts. I will add to that and say that, when we do that, instead of sharing our identity and experiences with others, we are more concerned about being right. Beliefs are not facts. Feelings are not facts. Check in with your perceptions and see how they open you up to some possibilities and close you off to others. Use that information to make choices that grant you a fulfilling life.
– We undermine the impact we have on others. Sometimes we morph into bulldozers and can become very destructive to others. And the same is true on the positive end of the spectrum – we minimize the positive effect we have on others and might become less inspired to contribute. Everything you do affects something or someone. You always matter.
I love how she concluded that we have to raise the next generation with the mentality that humans are imperfect but that’s perfect in itself. We are perfect in our imperfections and we will always be “enough” and worthy of love.
I invite you to watch this TED talk and think about the relationship you have with yourself and see how it translates to your other relationships. Think about the personal meaning you give to vulnerability and practice that today. See how you shift and how your relationships shift, as well.
“When I am vulnerable, I am alive.”