I was so happy that I got to see one of my favs, Brene Brown, at SXSW. It was my first time seeing her live and it was everything I imagined it would be. It was also a great reminder that embracing vulnerability is the only way to lead a fulfilled life.
What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability is the ability to remain whole heartedly open to both the good and bad life has to offer. Yes, open to the good and the bad. Sure that leaves you open to criticism and hurt, but it also leaves you open to love and joy. Unfortunately, Dr. Brown’s research has found that our scarcity culture has created an intolerance for vulnerability.
What is a Scarcity Culture?
Dr. Brown defines our scarcity culture as everything around us that reminds us we’re not enough. That we are not good enough, that we are not safe enough, that we can never be certain enough, that we are not perfect enough, and even that we are not extraordinary enough.
Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton says to just look at all the ads that try to make us believe that our pain is a mistake. While marketers do tend to agree with what we’re feeling – life is hard, difficult, lonely, and sad – they try to make us believe that we only feel that way because we don’t have their product yet.
- Want to be the perfect size? There’s a diet, a workout, a pill to help.
- Want to be beautiful? There’s always the latest skin care, makeup, fashion trend that’s guaranteed to make you beautiful.
Stop Numbing the Pain
Glennon believes we’re so immersed in this culture that we just consume and consume, but it never works because you can never get enough of what you don’t need. We don’t need to numb our pain with food, drugs, sex, alcohol, stuff, etc. We need to deal with the pain.
Yes, Glennon agrees that life hurts and it’s hard, (but) not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everyone.
Dr. Brown has found that when we look outside of ourselves to numb vulnerability, fear, (pain), and the shame of not being good enough, we by default numb joy, love, and happiness. Glennon adds that while we think our job as humans is to avoid pain, to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each others pain, we need to (instead) be patient, loving, witnesses (to pain), allowing ourselves and others the time and space needed to heal.
So how do we embrace vulnerability? Dr. Brown says it starts by letting go of the perfectionist mindset we created for ourselves, and which is perpetuated by society. We are enough just as we are right now, not when we’re 10lbs lighter, richer, prettier, etc. We are worthy of love, belonging, and all that is good. As such, we need to let ourselves be seen and heard. We need to feel every emotion whole heartedly, even when there’s no guarantee on the outcome. Glennon believes that pain, like love, are places we must be brave enough to visit and surrender to.
Yes, Dr. Brown acknowledges it can be really hard and even excruciating, but her research shows that the more we function from the understanding that we are enough, and practice joy and gratitude for everything we have, the more we stop looking outside ourselves for validation. This is when we’re able to soften into our whole hearted, vulnerable selves, and allow love and kindness to take over our inner voice, allowing us to experience compassion for ourselves and everyone we encounter. That’s what embracing vulnerability is all about. Glennon agrees and adds – We were born for this. We are warriors.
Trust me, I know how difficult it is to open yourself up. I grew up keeping secrets and keeping my true self hidden. But once you’ve experienced the high of love, life, and happiness, it’s hard to close yourself off. Even the bad seeds who seem to only criticize and hurt aren’t enough to deter me. Sure, their comments/actions can sting and bring self doubt, but pushing through it fuels me even more. The key is to open yourself up incrementally and to only open yourself up fully to those who have earned the right. Cheers to surrounding ourselves more with those who want to earn the right, than those who just want to muddle around to see how they can wreak havoc on our lives.
How are you embracing vulnerability in your life?