Local nonprofit directors dedicate their lives to the common good. photos by Keith Borgmeyer Cheryl Howard, Nora Stewart Early Learning Center As a former graduate...
Writing articles for everyone to see throws me into a pool of vulnerability. As I have been known to say, “It’s like sticking needles in your eyes.” Typing this sentence, I can feel the tightness in my chest. Who am I? What if they find out I’m just me?
I remember posting one of my first articles for COMO Living on Facebook. In the post, I shared that I was really afraid to write these columns, but I was glad I decided to say yes. I was surprised when I starting receiving supportive comments from people, thanking me and encouraging me. I didn’t expect it at all. I felt really supported and connected. By sharing what, to me, was a weakness, I experienced the benefits of being vulnerable: support, affirmation, and connectivity, to name a few.
Brené Brown is a researcher and expert in the field of vulnerability (you can’t have a meaningful conversation about vulnerability without referring to Brene’ Brown), and she defines it as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t get much clearer and scarier than that.
One might wonder — and rightfully so — why anyone would make vulnerability a goal. As children, we might have told our friends that our favorite ride at Six Flags was the teacups, only to be laughed at by some mean boy who considered that ride childish. Or perhaps we ran across the playground and kissed our true love, only to discover it wasn’t reciprocated. When we’re vulnerable, feelings of unworthiness, shame, and guilt arise, as does the armor of protection: trying not to be seen as we are but, rather, as we think others will accept and love us.
The challenge with wearing this thick armor is that it stifles our opportunity to have a satisfying, powerful life with deep relationships. I remember my coach once saying, “Enough with the army of one.” He was referring to my notion that I had to go it alone and be perfect rather than actually share myself and even ask for help.
For me, the notion was both alarming and exciting. I started talking with friends who had earned my trust and shared my tender spots of insecurity, and I asked for help or advice. Two unexpected things happened: My projects got easier, due to my friends’ advice, and I felt more relaxed and in deeper relationships with them. They had seen my underbelly and still wanted to hang out with me.
Over the years, investigation and research have shown that vulnerability takes courage. It requires a willingness to be seen, to engage in those difficult conversations without knowing the outcome —quite risky situations! But, as Brené says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, love, and creativity.”
Being vulnerable is like deciding to work out at the gym. The first time is pretty rough, but as you continue to work out, you become stronger. So it goes with the vulnerability “muscle.” The more you practice vulnerability, the more your joy, power, and connections to humanity increase. Ask yourself, “Where is a place I could practice vulnerability?” Start with something low-risk with people you trust and with whom you feel safe. This is a gift you can give yourself. A gift that keeps on giving.
3 WAYS TO PRACTICE VULNERABILITY:
Share your opinion. It can be low risk. “I would like to go to Murry’s for dinner.”
When asked how your day is going, share something about your experience. It doesn’t have to be big or dramatic. Something real. “It seems like a long day. I’m tired. I woke up a lot during the night.”
Invite someone whom you’d like to know better to lunch.