I’ll be the first to tell you that I run from things I’m told I ‘ought’ to do. Tell me what I ‘should’ be thinking, feeling, or saying, and I’ll straight up run in the exact opposite direction — in every way possible, just to prove a point.
I know — super annoying (sorry, Hubby). I sometimes hate it, too.
But after some serious self-reflection, I truly believe it’s a knee-jerk reaction to a really rough time I went through in my teenage years.
Back then if you had said, “jump,” I would have asked, “How high?”
But my senior year of high school, a multitude of things flipped my world upside down, and as a defense mechanism, my worldview shifted. I truly lost faith in (my insanely small high-school sample of) humanity, and I shut a lot of the world — and all its potential pain — out.
I did the opposite of what everyone wanted from me, because I convinced myself that I didn’t care.
That I wasn’t hurting.
That I didn’t need anyone that could potentially just turn on me.
But now, more than eight years removed from that situation, having stuffed a lot of life into those years, I’ve missed some grand opportunities to do some good in the world.
Feeling connected to others
As Brené Brown has found from her years of study and famously details in her TED talk, “Connection is why we’re here; it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
Think of one of your most cherished memories with a loved one. Does it involve feeling truly understood as a unique person?
Don’t we all long for (or cherish) that best friend that just gets us?
Isn’t the best part of your day coming home to your dog’s unrelentingly excited greeting when you walk in the door?… Or is that just me?
That’s connection. That’s ‘I see you, human, and you matter.’ That’s cut-right-to-the-core and tear-my-heart-out kinda shiznit. And that stuff’s real.
But in order for that kind of true connection to happen, Brown says, “we have to let each other be truly seen.” ‘Truly’ being the operative word.
In other words, that connection is only real, when we’re our true, authentic selves.
Someone can’t truly know another if that person hides behind a smile. Or an Instagram-filter. Or a pile of cookies. Or an IDGAF attitude.
Being real means being vulnerable.
The power of vulnerability
Another nail-on-the-head moment for me from Brown’s TED talk hit on the dangerous cycle we can (and I personally did) fall into when we fight vulnerability.
“You can’t numb the bad stuff, without numbing everything,” Brown says.
In trying my best not to care and to numb my pain, I muted my joy. I numbed my happiness. I blocked real connection.
Brown’s speech also references the etymology of ‘courage,’ which means ‘to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.’
How beautiful is that?
It takes real courage to be vulnerable and to be authentically ‘you.’
And if we’re neurobiologically wired to want connection, we’re wired to be real, authentic, courageous — to share our hearts with the world and to recognize the truly human people all around us.
To recognize them by taking each as he or she truly is — imperfections intact.
When we’re vulnerable, we finally have the ability to genuinely feel joy, grief, pain. It’s not always fun — the pendulum swings both ways — but it’s real.
And when we’re real, we make those heart-to-heart, dog-greeting-equivalent connections, which in turn changes our hearts.
But isn’t vulnerability weakness?
What’s weak about being authentic and true to your values?
What’s inept about owning up to your faults and claiming areas of your life you want to improve?
What’s small about being able to truly look another in the eyes and understand him or her?
Being a Homo sapien doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out. And there’s strength in claiming you have room to grow.
So in a word, No. Vulnerability does not equate to weakness. Not in the workplace. Not in the home. Not on the street. Because, guess what — no matter where you are on this place we call Earth, you’re still human (for now, my husband would have me clarify), and you are enough.
In sharing and modeling our vulnerability for others, we attest to that.
We fully claim our imperfection and our capacity for growth. And that’s worthy of an Instagram post.