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Embrace Vulnerability

Posted November 26, 2017 by Tresa Clemmensen M.SC. CCC

Embrace Vulnerability Researcher and thought leader Brené Brown encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives. Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.

Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She explains that when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Daring greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.

Debunking the vulnerability myths.

Myth 1: “Vulnerability is weakness”- vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe that vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.

Myth 2: “I don’t do vulnerability”- when we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be.

Myth 3: “Vulnerability is letting it all hang out”- Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. It is an integral part of the trust building process. It is not over-sharing, purging, or celebrity style social media.

Myth 4: “We can go it alone”- No, we need support. We need people who will let us try on new ways of being without judging us. Staying busy and micro-managing things is a way of protecting ourselves and trying to go it alone. This gets exhausting. We can be loved for our vulnerabilities, not despite them. It is a waste of time to evaluate our worthiness by weighing the reactions of the people in the stands. The people that truly care about us, will be there no matter what the outcome is.

Shame is something that can hold us back from practicing being vulnerable. Brown discuses shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. When we experience shame, we feel disconnected and desperate for worthiness. There is a big difference between shame and guilt. Guilt = I did something bad (behaviors) and Shame = I am bad (who we are).

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. It grows through silence, secrecy and judgment. That’s why the eating disorder loves shame, as it works to prevent one from seeking out the support they desperately need.

If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. If we speak it, it begins to wither. If we can share our stories with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, or can cultivate empathy and self-compassion with ourselves, shame can’t survive.

Brown explains that when we spend our lives waiting until we are perfect before taking the risk, we sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squash our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, the unique contributions only we can make. Perfect does not exist in the human experience. She voices that we must walk into life, whether that be a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, a difficult conversation, or an intense class with a lot of sharing, with the courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and passing judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.