“Vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” — Brené Brown
A few years ago, when I was starting a process of rebuilding my life, I started having the oddest encounters with people.
I should tell you that I was not merely rebuilding my life, I was trying to figure out what my life was. I was lost, but I think, to my benefit, I knew I was lost and I knew I needed to wander around for a while and figure it out. I was incredibly vulnerable, but I also knew that I had to get by. When you are a woman with a child to protect finding yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position, you have no choice but to put on a very strong front. My mom instincts had kicked in big time and it didn’t matter how I felt; I had to take care of the child and shelter her from the world. I was living for my daughter because I couldn’t figure out what else to do and, honestly, it was more than enough at the time.
During this time when I hoped I looked exponentially stronger than I felt, I started having the oddest encounters with people. Strangers — mostly woman — started to walk up to me in the grocery store, in a restaurant, in a bar and tell me that I was beautiful. Now, I’m not sure about the rest of you, but at the time this started happening, I had zero recollection of it ever having happened before in my life — ever. Maybe some women are used to being told by strangers who want or need nothing from them that tehy are beautiful, but that was not my life. I was floored. Just floored. (And thankful, y’all. Feel free to walk up to any stranger and tell her that today. It will make her life.)
At the same time, men started to tell me that I was both strong and vulnerable. The word vulnerable came up often in these conversations. I will share, too, that most of these men were not on any sort of a track toward romantic involvement with me. Many, actually, would have had their balls chopped off by myself or their wives if they had tried. This wasn’t about sex or desire or love. For whatever reason, women decided to tell me I was gorgeous and men decided to note my vulnerable-but-strong vibe.
(I’ll note, too, it took much vulnerability for me to accept those compliments from women — things I had rarely heard in my life. I didn’t deflect them. I just accepted them and said thank you. They helped. I don’t know if they know they helped, but they did. It put so much spring in my step and a smile on my face. I felt it was shallow and silly and I still don’t care. It was nice and I appreciate it still.)
I’ve thought about these moments a lot over the years. I’ve thought about the word vulnerable a lot. I hated it when I first started hearing it, then I started to embrace it as I realized allowing myself to be vulnerable was opening me to all sorts of awesome experiences. In my vulnerability, I grew by leaps and bounds. When I exposed my raw self, I had nothing left to lose. When I laid it all out for the world to see, that was it — there were no more skeletons to be afraid of someone finding. I was done with fear and could focus on living.
Being vulnerable, I found, was incredibly freeing.
I promise, this will be 1 of at least 10,000 times you hear from me on this subject because I think it is an extraordinary idea and one that is almost impossible for people to understand. (I have saved V for this subject through the entire A to Z Challenge!) We are taught to be strong, yet we are one of the most vulnerable species on the planet. (And I have the cancer to prove it.) We need to learn to accept our vulnerabilities because that is when we become the strongest.
Brené Brown gives an awesome TED talk about vulnerability. I can’t wait to read what she has to say in her books. I am so completely in tune with this message — I think she says it much better than I can right now.