One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was about Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. I’d just come out of the blogging closet after writing a blog for over a year that I never told my friends and family about. I had graduated less than six months before and was facing all of the existential uncertainty that comes with major life changes. I was working at a job that I thought I needed, but made me miserable and I was getting ready to move out of the house I’d lived in throughout university. Nothing was certain or steady. I was feeling extremely vulnerable and I hated it.
I’m such a control freak and vulnerability feels like being out of control. As I wrote in that early post, I’ve spent a lot of my life doing anything I could to avoid being vulnerable. I’ve come a long way in the two years that I’ve been writing this blog. I’ve learned a lot about being kind to myself, asking for help when I need it, admitting when I’m not okay, and being true to my dreams.
But I still struggle to be vulnerable. To be my boldest, most authentic self for fear of being judged. To admit to and chase my wildest dreams for fear of failure. To fall head first into romantic relationships for fear of having my heart broken.
Reading Daring Greatly with the Self-Love Book Club this month was like a big hug that said, “You’re not alone. We all struggle with this. But you need to keep trying. Keep putting yourself out there.” What Brene clearly lays out in the book is that vulnerability really isn’t optional – the alternative is a kind of living death. “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad—it’s the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable,” she explains.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Brene was led to her research on vulnerability through her work as a shame researcher. Again and again she saw a pattern emerge as she identified a group of people she calls the ‘wholehearted.’ “There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough,” she says.
Throughout the book Brene weaves together the findings of her research, particular insights from her interviews, and stories of her own experiences with shame and vulnerability to share not only why it’s so important to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but how we can begin to live wholeheartedly in every aspect of our lives.
I appreciated this combination, as Brene’s tone was always warm and she avoided being technical, while still delivering a lot of substance. So many “self-help” or “personal development” books devolve into fluffy, ineffectual chatter.
I’d recommend this book to everyone, really. But most of all to my fellow control freaks and anyone who fears that they sometimes act small to avoid the great risks that vulnerability entails. Pick up a copy and take up Brene’s invitation to dare greatly.
(Images via Fashion Rogue. Originally published in Vogue US, May 2008).