On vulnerability

I recently watched another thought-provoking speech on TED: Brene Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame (of all things!). As it is meant to, she made me compare myself to her points, and the speech made me think. Her studies have brought Brown to the conclusion that in order to truly be able to appreciate life and live it wholeheartedly, one must be completely open to vulnerability. That you cannot numb feelings of sadness or fear or loneliness, etc., without numbing all the good feelings, too. I thought this both made sense and was terrifying.

Like Ms. Brown, I’ve spent most of my life definitely, absolutely not being vulnerable; nuh uh, not me. I have come a long way since then (thanks to some very conscious effort and to my very good therapist), but I still tend to feel bad things rather more readily than the good, and every little catastrophe gives me a momentary END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH -kind of reaction: cut, quit and run. The fact that I rather put away my phone and cut myself off the rest of the world at these times I consider a good thing. It means I’m not doing anything drastic without thinking it through.

Living wholeheartedly, embracing vulnerability and accepting yourself as you are; thinking you are worthy of all the good things that may come your way – it seems like a beautiful thing to aspire for. I would like to be like that.

But there is always the but.

As I’ve often laid it out on this blog, I’m recovering, or trying to, from a life-long depression. I’m trying to learn the right kind if selfishness and to do what’s right by me. You could say I’m between states, which is a very humble place to be. The longer and the further I go on the path of learning to be who I really am, learning to let go of self- or socially imposed rules and regulations to what I should or shouldn’t be, the more I get the feeling I don’t fit into this world. Shame? I know what that feels like.

No matter how many times I tell myself, or how many times other people tell me that I only need to work as much as I’m capable of, calling in sick ‘just because I don’t feel like it’ feels a whole lot like laziness. Shame. You know everyone in the project is exasperated because you’re not carrying your weight, no matter what they tell you. Shame. Since I opened myself to the world and allowed myself to feel things, I’ve pretty much cried in front of everyone I know, and everyone I don’t know. Sha-a-a-a-me.

My point was this: the world doesn’t make space for vulnerability. If you’re overly sensitive, move aside. Nobody likes a cry-baby. Grow a thicker skin. Grow a spine! If you’re an introvert and the society is only on for extroverts: too bad. Learn to be something else. If in my earlier life I felt I didn’t fit in because I was somehow worse than other people, these days I feel like I don’t fit in because the world doesn’t allow for my kind of people. These days I’m more prone to think I’m defaulting to the Loser Team.

Since on the path of being True and Honest and Not Apologising For Being Me, I’ve started explaining myself: ”I’m angry because…” and I try to make space for other people’s feelings and justifications. Nobody thinks they’re wrong. If I feel something, I try to be as honest about it as possible. I think… I think I’m trying to push myself through shame and on the other side. ”See? I’ve dragged myself through all the mud there is, I’m still a whole person and I lived through the whole humiliation. Can I please be happy now?” So yeah, I’ve got the vulnerability bit down pat.

Just… it’s not enough to admit your faults. The hardest part is to admit your advantages – your blessings, if you will – and say: I’m worth this. I believe that if only I could believe that, really believe that, I would stop being a soggy blob of vulnerability, and become instead something like a sponge: able to soak everything up, get kicked, punched and spiked, and always return to my original shape.

But how do you do it?

And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

That’s all I have. Thank you.

[Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability]


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Heard it through the grapevine:

It Has Been Written:

July 2011
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