If you watched Brene Brown’s TEDTalk I posted on Wednesday, you might have picked up on the theme that finding connection (to your Self and to others) is the result of embracing vulnerability. I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability and connection lately and looking for both every day…opportunities to break down a wall, learn something about myself, and be more open to really connecting beyond a superficial level. I love what Brown has to say about the people she dubbed “whole-hearted”:
“They believed what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful…They talked about the willingness to say I love you first. The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. The willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental”
I’ve learned a lot about all of these situations this year, through my own experiences and those of the people closest to me. If you asked me in the moment if I was being vulnerable, I probably would have said “no way – I’m being strong and true to myself and my life. I’m not weak, I’m not vulnerable”. Being vulnerable gets a really bad rap. In the thesaurus, vulnerable has synonyms like defenseless, exposed, sucker, susceptible, unprotected, unsafe, weak. YIKES. Why would you want to be those things? I was raised to be strong, independent, self-sufficient and successful. Vulnerable was never on my list of qualities I aspired to.
But what I didn’t realize, is that it’s really fear showing up when you act like you’re invincible. Fear is when you are guarded, trying to protect yourself from hurt or rejection. Fear is an inability to accept failing as a possibility, a probability, in life.
I didn’t know I was being vulnerable, but I’m so glad I was. I had fear too, don’t get me wrong, but my desire and willingness to connect outweighed it. Opening yourself up to the possibility of really connecting with others is why we are all here. Why we look for a community to accept us and love us. Being vulnerable means you might not find love and acceptance every time. But if I’ve learned anything this year, it is that I am willing to take that risk. I’m capable to love, learn and grow through heartbreak and discovery, because it allows me to become a part of something bigger.