Brené Brown speaks beautifully about the idea of vulnerability. She did a Ted Talk about her many years of research she has done on the subject. I recommend looking for it on Youtube, it is well worth watching.
I recall this presentation that Brené made from time to time and remind myself of the many powerful messages she touches on in her brief talk. One of the most important things I took away from her research is how important it is to be vulnerable. As human beings, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner when it comes to vulnerability. We see putting ourselves in vulnerable positions as a sign of weakness, but on the contrary, making yourself vulnerable is basically the whole point of this existence on planet earth, in my opinion. When we’re vulnerable, we open ourselves up to growth, to love, to all of the good things in the world. When we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and instead, we hide behind our fear, we end up numbing ourselves, according to Brené. When we ignore chances to be vulnerable, we numb ourselves to the potential bad stuff that could happen to us, but like with so many other things in life, when we numb the bad stuff, the good goes with it. We lose out on all of the love life has to offer when we try to avoid the fear.
Here’s my latest example from my life, one where I caught myself slamming the door in the face of vulnerability.
In the early part of this year, I spent an extended amount of time at the orphanage where I work, getting to know some of the older boys on a more personal level, since I so rarely cross paths with them on a regular basis. I felt good about the time I was putting into strengthening these relationships. In this time, I got to see a little more of what goes on at the orphanage. More specifically, I was given the opportunity to see how many of the boys interact with each other. I got to see how they fight, play, and talk to one another. I got to see who talks to who, who ignores who, and who genuinely cares about each other. The sad fact of the matter is, there is very little direct, obvious love between the boys at the orphanage. I think, at the end of the day, everyone involved with the orphanage is well aware that it’s just an institution. It’s a place for the boys to exist. It isn’t a place for them to live—it isn’t a place suitable for any human being. They’re fed and clothed, yes, but they miss out on so many different aspects of life. They miss out on love.
There is one boy that stood out to me as different. He falls somewhere in the middle of the pack of boys. I think he does a good job navigating between the older boys and the younger boys. He can role with the older boys, but he doesn’t seem to mind spending time with the younger boys. I think he looks out for them. I’ve heard that. This is a boy who behaves for the matrons, takes time to sit quietly on his own once in a while among the endless chaos of the orphanage. It was in this boy that I saw a ray of hope. Or, to be more precise, I saw love. Someone along the way has taught this boy to love. He is so, so different than the others. My point here actually has very little to do with him and a lot more to do with me. After my extra time at the orphanage in January, I was really hoping to spend more time with this particular boy. I was curious to learn about what makes him tick. However, when I approached him and asked him if he’d be interested in talking to me sometime, he outright shut me down. He said he was too busy to talk to me. This is, of course, a lie since the boys at the orphanage have ample free time on their hands almost all of the time. My response to this rejection was childish. Obviously I didn’t let the boy know how this “rejection” made me feel, but I did give up. I closed the door. Instead of remaining open to the idea of him coming around, I just stopped trying.
Thinking about it now (actually, I knew I was doing this right away), I realize that my “shutting the door” on my vulnerability was simply that I stopped trying. He shot me down once. I should have kept trying. Instead, I backed off. I gave the boy what he seemingly wanted and I let go of the idea of exploring him for his kind ways. Now, I think nearly a month has gone by since I’ve even seen him. I don’t know what could have happened if this last month had been on a different course, but I’m sure if I had been more persistent, things would be at least a little better than they are now. He remains an anomaly.
I’ve got to open myself up more on a daily basis. No one likes how vulnerability makes us feel initially, but if we become accustomed to that discomfort, eventually we’ll recognize that it’s just a signal that better things are on the way. I think, sometimes I even embrace the discomfort that comes with being vulnerable because I’m so eager to get to the part where I can pat myself on the back for putting myself in such an emotionally compromising position.
I’m challenging you now. Get vulnerable. At least a little bit more. Put yourself in a situation where you have to lay a bit of your heart on the line. Lean into the discomfort, and then, see what happens. Nine times out of ten, it’s magic.