Who hasn’t seen this TedTalk? Or heard about Brené Brown? If you are one of the lucky few discovering Brené and her work for the first time today, lucky you!
If you have been a long-time fan or feel like it might be time for a little refresher, this blog post is for you too. If there is one thing I know from experience and my work as a therapist working online actively practising vulnerability will help you live a more meaningful life.
Brené Brown is a researcher who studies vulnerability. As she will be happy to tell you, she never imagined finding herself focused on this topic. However, her Ted Talk shows that she has been quite successful in this pursuit. The talk on vulnerability is one of the most popular Ted Talks in the world and has been viewed over 35 million times.
Brown always prided herself on being tough, but one nervous breakdown later, she was forced into a position where vulnerability seemed like the solution. For her, it was, and today she is the leading spokesperson for this construct, and it has resonated with others. Before we look at how vulnerability will help you live a more meaningful life, let’s first take a look at what vulnerability is.
But what is vulnerability?
Vulnerability is defined as a place of emotional exposure, uncertainty, and risk. It involves being open to others and to the world with all the things this entails. There are hundreds of examples of vulnerability, from being in love (and saying so) to speaking in public to saying no and to many, many other things. Vulnerability is being in that place where we feel liberated and afraid at the same time, and it is the thing that drives us to achieve unexpected heights: high risk, high reward. For example, without vulnerability, we might never enter a relationship with a significant other. We might never ask for a promotion. We might never take a trip. Vulnerability frightens us, but it also drives us forward in the process of growth.
Why vulnerability will help you live a more meaningful life
Brown’s research suggests that vulnerability is essential for happiness and growth, and she has experienced its effects firsthand. Despite resisting it hard at the start, she eventually came to see that vulnerability was what she needed, and time proved her right. Why is this so good for us? Vulnerability is scary, but it is also the factor that allows us to feel highly essential and desirable things. There can be no love, joy, courage, or creativity without it. Being with someone is being vulnerable. Writing and publishing a novel is being vulnerable. Asking for help and receiving it is being vulnerable. When we deny this and avoid this factor, we are also shutting down any potential for growth, connection, and creativity.
We avoid vulnerability hard, as Brown describes in her talk. We put on armour, a mask that shields us from the world. Usually, we seek perfection, imagine things going wrong, or we numb ourselves. We avoid any behaviour that puts us in a vulnerable position, but this means that we avoid the positive aspects of this as well. So, if you would like vulnerability to help you live a more meaningful and engaged life, let’s look at some of the steps you can take.
The question is: how can we be more vulnerable in our daily lives?
Recognize that it is important
In her works, Brené Brown often speaks about her position before discovering vulnerability. She was organized, focused, scientific. It wasn’t until she decided to give it a chance that she made a change. So, the first step is to recognize vulnerability as an important factor, accepting it as a potentially good thing rather than a dangerous one.
Put ourselves in situations that challenge us
What makes you feel vulnerable? Ask yourself this question and then seek out those situations. It sounds terrifying, of course, but it’s also essential. You don’t have to start by doing things that terrify you. Make yourself vulnerable in small ways at first. Try to be more open with friends and family, for example. Upload a piece of your art to the Internet. Say what you think openly in a safe space. Little by little, see what happens when you get vulnerable. See the rewards it brings.
Let go of perfection
Perfectionism is a dangerous tool. It masquerades as a positive thing, but it is one of the biggest enemies of vulnerability. A perfect individual never needs help, after all. They will never have to make themselves known to others. So, challenge your perfectionism. Allow yourself to make mistakes. What is more, make mistakes on purpose. Give yourself the chance to be just good enough.
When was the last time you practised vulnerability in your life? How did vulnerability help you connect with yourself and with others?