Learning Vulnerability

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a book called “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. It’s a book about shame and vulnerability, and a very excellent read. I encountered Brené Brown during a Global Leadership Summit this past summer, where she gave a small talk about her studies of vulnerability and shame. I found it interesting, but soon forgot about her message as life went on. A few weeks ago, I came across her TEDtalk where she expanded more on her subject. I was captured, and realized that shame was a huge factor in my life, and had been for a very long time. Even as a small child, I remember not wanting to go play outside because I was fearful that passengers in passing cars would judge me on how or with what I was playing. Looking back, I can see how shame kept me from being adventurous and open and carefree. In past years I’ve felt like I’m not being my true self because I’m bubbly and extroverted inside, but very introverted on the exterior. I always thought it was just how I was, but I did want a change. Now, I realize that it was shame holding me back. I’ve been so fearful of people judging my every move, that I’ve restricted myself from “moving”. It’s pretty silly thinking about it because I’m sure some people have judged me for not moving!

Connecting back to the book, “Daring Greatly” has been inspirational and has already made noticeable small changes in my life. It’s new and scary, but I’m trying to be more vulnerable by talking more, being freer with expressing my emotions and asking for help, and being adventurous. These three things are features of my “internal being” that I want to be reflected on my “external being”.

The reason that talking is on my vulnerability list is because I’m not a huge talker. When I talk with my friends, I can go on and on and on. Talking is the way I relate my passions to my peers! But language is also a way that others see the value of one’s thoughts and the maturity of filtering what comes out. In the past, I talked little because I found that listening to others gave me that insight on how they thought or what they believed. But another reason I talked little was because in the years of late elementary and middle school, I wasn’t as accustomed to the world as my peers, and because my knowledge of worldly matters was acute to some of my “friends”, I felt and thought myself to be unworthy of belonging in that friend group because my knowledge was inferior to theirs. Staying quiet all throughout those years has impacted my abilities of communication. Freshman year I barely said a word to a boy I liked, even though it was obvious he liked me back. I was afraid he would realize that my internal thoughts were inferior to those of my other peers; that thought of inferiority may not have been true, but I believed it because I had been taught that form of shame as a child. Now, I’m trying to release that fear of others judging what I say, and speaking more so that the intellectual ideas I do have can be effectively related to the person with whom I’m speaking.

By encouraging myself to talk more, I’m opening up a door for expressing my emotions. For the longest time, I saw expressing emotions as a form of weakness. Being vulnerable with how I was feeling was an opportunity for others to judge me. Not only judge, but offer help. As a very independent individual, asking for help is not something I do. I enjoy helping others, but whenever I do need help, asking is admitting failure, and to allow others to see that failure was unimaginable to me. A quote from the book sums it up nicely:

Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.
I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.
(Daring Greatly 42)

I didn’t want to show my “weakness” in emotion because I wanted to be the strong person others could come to and be their rock. But I realize that the more vulnerable I am with my peers, the more vulnerable they’ll be with me.

Vulnerability begets vulnerability (Daring Greatly 54)

Most people want advice from someone who can relate, someone who has gone through the same trials before. By being closed doors, I hindered my ability to give advice, as I was seen (and looking back can see myself) as having a perfect life, untouched by troubles, and probably seeming a little judgmental in me giving advice. My first big step towards vulnerability was when I got a message from my now best guy friend. Before that message, I had heard about him, but never spoken to him in person or over some form of media. That first step of speaking my shame had such an impact on me, that I remember where I was and my reaction. I tried to convince him that he didn’t want my troubles. That they were “too big” for him. Boy was I wrong. By opening up to him and revealing my deepest shames, I found a friend in whom I could share anything, and over the next year we supported each other when the world was full of nothing but darkness. However, though that was a big step towards vulnerability, it was only in writing. Expressing vulnerability and emotions in public where nothing is hidden is much, much harder. But in a way, the “rules” (or ways that the emotions should be expressed) keeps the panic and fear at a minimum because a person shouldn’t expose all their emotions to everyone. A select few who can be trusted and are mutually vulnerable will encourage more vulnerability and a safe atmosphere to encourage more growth.

Being adventurous is the third goal on my vulnerability list. It stems off of the two previous goals, but goes a bit beyond that. Being adventurous calls for wholehearted exploration and devotion to dare greatly. It is being confident in oneself so much that a person can go beyond them-self and explore the world. This calls for vulnerability because wholeheartedness can only be achieved when shame is no longer controlling, and vulnerability of being oneself and exploring flaws and failures is in abundance. Being adventurous is trying out for the school sport with great passion, but little experience. Being adventurous is going to Haiti with no previous airplane or foreign visiting experience. Being adventurous is giving a lesson on religion to students at school. Being adventurous is being vulnerable.

This blog has been my vulnerability output for almost two years. To some it may seem like a big feat, but putting emotions into words and writing to “computer viewers” is easy for me. This blog was my “see, I am being vulnerable; I don’t need to work on it” escape. But my life isn’t on the internet. I’m living and breathing in the real world, and that is where my vulnerability needs to be. That’s why I’m learning vulnerability. That’s why I’m getting rid of my shame.

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