The Tradeoff of Vulnerability
Following are my thoughts upon finishing Lesson 2 in Brené Brown’s Living Brave class.
Vulnerability is a taboo word in today’s society. Any mention of the word and voices are lowered, shifty eyes glance left and right, and you’re shushed with “I don’t do vulnerability.”
Per the world’s definition, being vulnerable is showing weakness in a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong survive. When we’re vulnerable, we associate it with fear, shame, failure, rejection, frailty, uncertainty, and exposure. All the things we don’t want to experience and what we’re taught not to be.
So why would we ever want to be vulnerable?
I have come to understand the greater side of vulnerability. The greater side, that if we never put ourselves in a position to be vulnerable, we’ll never experience it.
Vulnerability is the foundation of emotions like courage, love, trust, belonging, creativity, gratitude, and joy. We get so fixated on the uncomfortableness of vulnerability, and what we think the outcome will be, that we completely miss the potential.
Think about it for a minute… Think about a time in your life where you went first, you put yourself out there, you took a chance without knowing what the outcome would be. Your hands were sweaty. Your mouth felt dry. Your heart was beating right out of your chest. Your stomach was turning. Your mind was telling to you get back in your comfort zone. But you did it anyway and something amazing happened?!
The Inspired Tour was my time…
In late 2014, I had a big dream that landed me right in throws of vulnerability. My dream was to ride a motorcycle from New York City to San Francisco.
When I started planning this cross-country trip, thoughts of inadequacy came flooding in. I was feeling very vulnerable.
Physically, could I ride a motorcycle that far? Could I really handle it without my husband riding with me? I was afraid of the ‘what-if’ situations we might run into like getting lost, a flat tire, bad weather, entering a ‘bad part of town’, dropping a motorcycle, getting in an accident, surviving NYC traffic, fearing for my personal safety. There were going to be long, tiring days where I’m away from all the people I love. Am I prepared for the unknown? What if no one shows up to greet us? What if no one cares? What if I fail?
That’s it! I’m done! If this is what vulnerability feels like, then I don’t want any part of it!
Had I not matched vulnerability with courage and faith, I never would have experienced The Inspired Tour. Women like Jodi, Patricia, Suzanne, Anne, Maggie, Debbie, and Julee, who bravely shared their stories with us, would still be women I only dreamed of meeting. A deeper relationship wouldn’t have been forged with Kris, my fellow dreamer and cross-country companion. And the feelings of accomplishment and excitement, and the tears of joy as we rode into San Francisco, would’ve only been rays of hope in my mind… left for another ‘someday’.
I would’ve missed out on the most amazing, most rewarding 15 days, 4690 miles of my life.
Take a look at this list… these are situations when we’re vulnerable. Some are big life changes and some are everyday occurrences.
Note that there is strength and courage and bravery in each one of these things we name as vulnerability. Yes, we’re totally exposed and taking a risk when we’re vulnerable but there’s nothing weak about it.
As Brené Brown says “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never a weakness.”
We are not weak when we say ‘I love you’.
We are not weak when we quit our job or start a new business.
We are not weak when we go to counseling.
We are strong. We are brave.
We are standing in our truth knowing that we will be uncomfortable… that we will have pain and struggles… but we are not willing to miss something deep and meaningful in spite of it.
I’ll take the fear and risk the unknown because the real treasure of being vulnerable is knowing love, experiencing joy, feeling a sense of belonging, being in community, realizing deep connection, and fulfilling a dream.
Through reading chapter 2, Debunking the Vulnerability Myths, from Brené’s book, Daring Greatly, I’ve decided to change my mindset as it relates to vulnerability. It is not something to fear or shrink away from when we’re feeling it. It’s an opportunity for us to step into our greatness, show up, and be seen. For if we cower, retreat, and stay in our comfort zone… we will never grow into who we are supposed to be. We will never experience the joy of daring greatly!
What would you miss if you refuse to put yourself in a position of vulnerability? How does your definition of vulnerability need to change? Where is one area of your life that you need to be more brave? I invite you to share your comments below.
Oh… and enjoy a few photos of the amazing women from The Inspired Tour!