When human connection researcher Brene Brown took the TED stage in Houston, USA back in 2010, no one would have assumed her fleeting twenty minute speech would ultimately help people change their lives and even, change the way people parented. With over 5 million views, Brown’s TED talk “The Power of vulnerability” has clearly hit a chord with anyone with a soul. From almost a decade of research, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups and thousands of pages of data later, Brown shared her insight on vulnerability.
I shared this video with a girlfriend of mine, someone who recently left a relationship where her ex-boyfriend always disappointed her, made false promises, and conveniently never committed to there relationship. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. She’s tried and invested in a relationship that clearly some of her closest have disapproved of, but throughout the breakups and the make-ups, my friend never felt happier or sadder. Her willingness to invest in a relationship, not knowing if it would work or not, was truly commendable; but was heartbreaking to watch on the sidelines. All our friends wondered why she kept on letting her guard down. Why did she keep on going back to this douche, whom only seems to know how to disappoint. And, why did she let herself be so vulnerable?
Perhaps my friend was longing for connection. After all, connection is why we’re here. As Brown puts it in the video, feeling connected is our purpose in life – that’s how we’re neurologically wired.
We long for connection, and if we’re unable to connect with people, we automatically feel shame. We start asking ourselves is there something about me that would make me unable to connect with people? Is that why I’m not worthy of that guy? That lady? Am I not good enough at work?
In Brown’s research of wholehearted people, she found that they all had a strong sense of worthiness and had courage, which is different from bravery by the way. Courage, in the context of the original definition in the English dictionary, refers to the ability to tell stories of who they are with their whole heart. In other words, Brown argues that wholehearted people have the courage to be imperfect, have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others (you can’t practice compassion unless you can do it to yourselves), courage to let go of who they should be for who they really are and the courage to fully embrace vulnerability – like my heartbroken friend.
It’s true, in my friend’s case, she has continuously embraced vulnerability. What made her vulnerable, also made her beautiful. She never spoke about regretting her decision of returning to that boyfriend of hers or how emotionally painful it was. She only spoke about how happy and excited she was when she was back with that man. She allowed herself to be vulnerable out of necessity.
My friend was always willing to say “I love you” first, if that was how she genuinely felt. She was always the first to volunteer to do something even if there were no guarantees or invest in a relationship not knowing if it would work out.
We live in such a vulnerable society – being rejected, getting laid off, applying for jobs etc. – how does my friend do it? How does she embrace vulnerability?
***Tips on how to embrace vulnerability continued on next page***