Vulnerability in Practice

Daring Greatly and Brene Brown's TED talk have made vulnerability a hot topic in the personal growth world. This week, in the midst of gabbing on and on about how I feel, what’s going on in my head, what I fear, the times I’ve failed, the things I am searching for in my life and still not getting, I had a thought.

Maybe I’m too vulnerable.

deathtothestockphoto.com

deathtothestockphoto.com

I feel an immeasurable amount of gratitude for my friends and family, who have always encouraged me to be open with my emotions. High school hangouts weren’t for partying, they were for sitting up at sleepovers talking about feelings. Starbucks coffee shops aren’t for quick catch-ups, they’re for 3 hour-long heart-to-hearts. And emailing? Please. More like exchanging 15 page journal entries.

This week, vulnerability has led me into some strange places – primarily, places that feel less understanding. When I share something vulnerable, I have a strong desire to be joined in that vulnerability – to hear the person I am talking to say, “Yes, I know exactly how you feel because I have totally been there.”

Not everyone says that.

Not everyone wants to be vulnerable.

And can you blame them? Lots of people have been hurt by being vulnerable. By sharing their trust with someone who broke it. By showing their authentic selves and being criticized. By opening up only to get shut down.

I understand those who don’t want to return vulnerability. That light inside of us is precious and sometimes small, and we want to protect it. It’s genuine, it’s honest, and it’s not always as beautiful as we want it to be. It isn’t understood by everyone. And risking being misunderstood sometimes doesn’t feel worth the risk.

But I think we should keep taking it.

When we are vulnerable, we might not be met with sighs of relief – “I’m so glad you’ve said that” – on the contrary, we might be met with cocked heads or awkward stares. And that might feel kind of weird in that moment. And we might feel a little bit of shame for being so honest.

And yet…it’s real.

Human beings can only form real, true, meaningful, inspiring, groundbreaking connections if we are real with each other. Because if we aren’t, what are we? We’re skimming the surface. We’re snorkeling when we could scuba dive. We’re in an airplane when we could be in a rocket ship. We aren’t really feeling it all, in all of its beautiful discomfort and aching warmth.

I want to feel it. I want to connect. I want to keep risking it.

And so the song I used to sing with my family comes to mind again: This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.