Let's Get Real. Vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a strength
“Vulnerability is not weakness. It's about the willingness to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome. It is our greatest measure of courage. So show up in an authentic way and let us see your hearts because we know how lonely you really are.” - Brene Brown
If you asked me who my heroes are, I would say Oprah, Brene Brown and Lewis Howes. Each are making a massive difference in the world and helping us to open up, be vulnerable and live our truth.
Brene Brown is an author, public speaker and a researcher of vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. She was on Lewis Howes' “The School of Greatness” podcast recently and I can honestly say I was blown away. I connected to her on so many levels.
This podcast was very relatable for me as I have felt alone for most of my life, and still do. I used to be the drunkest person in the room. I was that “big boned” pale kid in high school. I was the kid who was picked last on the b'ball team. I was the kid who wasn't allowed to read aloud because my Year 7 teacher told me I “wasn't good enough” - something I have held onto for most of my life.
All I - and most of us - want is to belong. But hearing this podcast I realised that I'm not alone. As Brene stated: “Belonging is being a part of something bigger than yourself. But it's also the courage to stand alone and belong to yourself. I belong to me”. Which is so true.
Lewis responded to Brene with: “We lose ourselves sometimes by trying to belong in groups we don't believe in”. Just like Lewis, I always tried to fit in and conform to the way others were living their lives but that meant I was not living my own. My biggest fear has always been that I will be alone and not accepted.
“The minute you become who you want me to be is the moment you don't belong anymore” - Brene Brown
I have always been so grateful that I am adaptable in any situation, I'm what they call a chameleon but I like to do things differently to most.
One of my favourite quotes from Brene was: “True belonging never asks us to change who we are, it demands we be who we are”. And this really resonated with me. I have never been one to be in just one group. I love to be friends with everyone but I am not the sort of person that can be tamed or defined by a group's core values. I have my own. I'm a free spirit and that is OK.
“We are never free until we belong nowhere. We belong everywhere which is nowhere which is no place at all” - Dr Maya Angelou
When growing up, I was always been made to feel that expressing feelings and opening up and being vulnerable were bad. I lived by the motto “eat concrete and harden up”.
I always thought opening up about my feelings made me weak. I never used to talk about my true feelings. I would bottle them up inside. Then that anger emerged when I drank alcohol. I never used to stand up for what I believed in due to fear of being shamed or rejected. But it’s 2017 so let's get real. Being vulnerable is OK. It is OK to speak your truth. Feelings are our friends, not our enemy.
The dictionary definition of vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”. Brene Brown states that vulnerability “is uncertainty. It’s not knowing but doing it anyway cause it’s the brave thing to do.” Vulnerability is courage. Vulnerability is being brave.
It is hard, especially for us women, to opened up and be vulnerable because that means we are less than perfect - which is something I, and am sure many others, have always strived to be. But you know what, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, it's OK to talk about them, and that makes us human.
Which brings me to the word shame. It’s a very confronting word. It makes us feel icky inside. It is often related to something really bad, or being called a "pussy". But shame can be something as simple as starting a business and failing. Saying the wrong thing to someone and often regretting it straight away but not speaking up. The dictionary definition of the word shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour".
On the School of Greatness podcast, Brene educated us on a great way to deal with shame.
“When you feel shame, talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. If something happens and you are overwhelmed with shame, the first thing you need to do, is get back on your emotional feet. Don't talk, text or type to anyone. Because the first thing we want to do is not push that shit out on other people, and talk to ourselves first. So go to a dark, quiet place and talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. Be like, "dude, it's OK'. You screwed this up. What you said was super hurtful. You are going to have to circle back and clean this up. Then reach out and talk to someone about what you are feeling. Shame cannot survive being spoken. Shame can’t survive empathy.”
They mentioned a quote by American writer James Baldwin: “I understand why people to hold to their hate so stubbornly because once they let it go there is nothing but pain”.
If we hold onto shame and guilt, it eats away at us. I want to open up and talk about that dirty little word, shame. That confronting word, vulnerability. I want to open up and be vulnerable to inspire you and to give you the courage to do the same. Because when we open up and be vulnerable, we release our anger/guilt and we no longer hold on to our shame.
You can listen to the entire podcast here:
And Brene Brown's new book “Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone” is out now which I am SUPER excited about.