Airing My Vulnerability
I learned of Brené Brown and her work from my brother-the-rabbi’s sermon during Rosh Hashanah. He suggested that the congregation read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (Hazelden, 2010). It offers appropriate themes and thoughts for the High Holiday season; especially for Yom Kippur as we contemplated how we might change our ways and become more accepting in the New Year.
I was intrigued by the concept. After all, how many of us – even as adults – still hear the voices of grandparents, parents, teachers and bosses telling us what we should do or who we should be? How many of us still feel we must do it all…be a good cook; keep a perfect home; be in great physical shape; always look young and attractive; never miss a deadline; have smart and well-behaved kids; have a successful marriage; have a fantastic job; and make a ton of money? How many of us believe we are failures if we do not accomplish all of our goals? How often are we led to believe we are not fulfilling our potential? Why, I wonder, can’t we just love ourselves as we fundamentally are — imperfect as we may be — and be proud of whatever we can achieve?
I set out to buy Brene’s book to learn more. A search on her name, however, directed me first to her Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability.” It also took me to another book of hers, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Gotham, 2012). It quickly became clear that Brown’s work over the last fifteen years, as a professor and therapist, yielded insights from probing and exploring the topics of vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. What surprised me most is how deeply I personally identify with her findings. I never imagined that choosing to write a blog could be considered brave.
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I’ve been writing this blog on a weekly basis for five years. Some find it to be egotistical, self-serving, and even narcissistic of me. Others feel it’s too open, direct, and in the category of TMI (too much information)! I’ve even angered a few by expressing my thoughts and opinions. Some reactions hurt my feelings, make me feel a bit insecure, and cause me to want to stop writing.
And yet, many of my readers have privately reached out to thank me for my candor. My stories have inspired them to take certain steps towards improving their own relationships and lives. A few have felt safe enough to share their own intimate stories or feelings of aloneness. Others’ memories had been buried until my words unearthed them; causing a willingness to confront and deal with demons. And, through the process of writing, I’ve made new, genuine friends. It is for these people — and the others who have yet to personally connect — that I keep writing.
Brené Brown helped me realize that I write as a means of connecting…connecting with people and the universe. It’s not about fame or fortune. For me, it really is about the desire to share what I’ve learned as a result of my own experiences and believe to be possible.
I recognize that I sometimes expose myself (and frequently my family members) to harsh and often penetrating scrutiny. I willingly reveal my vulnerabilities, however, because I’m brave enough to own them. They are part of me whether or not I or others like them. I am very clear on the fact that I will never be perfect, but that won’t stop my never-ending pursuit of self-improvement. I have nothing to hide and should not be embarrassed by the truth.
I am not afraid or ashamed of my vulnerabilities. I am willing to put myself out there and risk rejection because I want to be — I feel the need to be — authentic. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I refuse to self-medicate or cover up; I know that true healing can only come from feeling, dealing with, and pushing through pain. I accept that having genuine connections with others means they have the right to see and know what they’re going to get and can expect from me.
Vulnerability, according to Brown, isn’t a bad thing. It actually can be the fuel for innovation, creativity, and change. It inspires making lemonade from lemons; the idea of never giving up (or in!) and never feeling forced to accept the status quo.
And that’s what I and this blog are all about. Take us or leave us.