“Vulnerability is hard and it’s scary and it feels dangerous. But it’s not as hard, or scary or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves: What if I would’ve shown up?” - Brené Brown
Brené Brown first became famous in 2010 for her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. For the past two decades, she’s lead research identifying the importance of courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
In 1996, she completed her Master’s of social work right here at The University of Texas in Austin. Over the past five years, she’s authored five #1 New York Times best-sellers about the importance of vulnerability.
Brown’s first book, Daring Greatly, gets its name from the Teddy Roosevelt quote:
“It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again... If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
This article covers the highlights of her research into vulnerability, focusing on her new Netflix special The Call to Courage.
Vulnerability is our only path through the wall that separates us from each other. It’s having the courage to let your armor down.
We’re afraid of being seen, but allowing the honest versions of ourselves to be seen is the only way to connect with others.
“How can you let yourself be loved, if you can’t be seen?” - Brené Brown
Yes, vulnerability is the birthplace of negative emotions like fear, guilt, and shame. However, it’s also the origin of feelings like joy, belonging, and love.
These may not seem vulnerable at first, but you can’t feel emotions like joy without leaning into your experiences, especially the difficult ones, and giving yourself freely and openly. A guarded person cannot feel joyful.
To be seen, to feel, and to love are all always risks. Many live their lives too afraid to ever know love. That’s the risk you take by not being vulnerable.
Social media is not a substitute for human connection. While social media make us feel like we fit in, it won’t give us the feeling of belonging we’re biologically programmed to need.
Belonging is entirely different from “fitting it”. Fitting in is pretending to be something you’re not in the hopes of pleasing someone else. And that someone else is likely pretending just as much as you are. This pretending is a form of armor and is the opposite of vulnerability.
Belonging, on the other hand, is derived from authenticity. An authentic person accepts themselves and their own flaws. They know that they will fail and they are open to learning from those failures.
To quote Brené Brown, “...true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
To belong you need to belong first to yourself. True belonging is speaking your truth despite what others may think. It’s being who you are instead of changing who you are.
”I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” - Brené Brown
It’s much easier to cause pain than it is to feel pain. People who don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable take out their pain on others. Think of the stereotypical class bully. His siblings or parents abuse him at home, so he takes it out on his classmates.
He’s taught that being vulnerable is a weakness and that hurting others makes him strong, but really it's the opposite.
Everyone experiences pain. The courageous among us are open about their pain. They share it by talking about it, not by inflicting it on others.
It may seem obvious, but you can’t be vulnerable by yourself. Being vulnerable requires opening yourself up to others. Connection, love, and belonging require opening yourself up to others. In the absence of connection, love, and belonging, there is always suffering.
Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous... I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. - Brené Brown
Entering the arena is intimidating. If you enter the arena, you will get hurt. You will feel pain, grief, and shame. But you will also know love. We’re hardwired for belonging and love. To deny ourselves love and belonging is to deny our own humanity.
By entering the arena you may lose, but by forever remaining in the stands you ensure you never win. Vulnerability can be terrifying, but it’s far less so than getting to the end of your life and wondering “what if”?
“What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think--or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” - Brené Brown
Therapy can help you to be more vulnerable and empathetic. Contact Louis-Laves Webb and Associates today to learn more.