Get Out There! The Power of Vulnerability

by Nora Dunn on 20 January 2011 14 comments

Guess what? I’m not perfect. I get scared. I worry about my future. I want people to like me. I am afraid of loving somebody who doesn’t love me back. And I can’t stand the idea of people talking behind my back or accusing me of things I haven’t done.

These are a few of my vulnerabilities, out there for the world to see. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person who has these fears. We live in a vulnerable world, dealing daily with situations in which we are exposing our vulnerabilities (to ourselves if to nobody else).

When you feel vulnerable, or you’re searching for meaning in life, what do you do? Many of us "have a couple of beers and a banana-nut muffin" to dull the pain, suggests Brene Brown, a researcher-storyteller who gave one of the most powerful 20-minute TED talks I’ve ever seen.

But the unseen consequence of the numbing effect of those beers (or food, or drugs, or even medication) is the dulling of not only the pain, but the pleasure you could be experiencing in life.

Brown spent years studying the concept of vulnerability and how people who live whole-heartedly accept — and even celebrate — their vulnerabilities.

I highly encourage you to watch the video:

Among other things, Brown discusses the concepts of courage, compassion, and connection, and how they are embodied by the whole-hearted people she studied. Since watching the video, I have decided that I want to be one of those whole-hearted people.

So I’m exposing my own vulnerabilities to the people I care about. I’m re-examining what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how I want things to change (if at all). I’m not afraid to talk about some of my innermost fears and, conversely, to share my victories.

And if I feel vulnerable, I don’t reach for a glass of wine (at least not right away and not for the wrong reasons!); instead I ask myself what I’m feeling and what I can do about it.

In doing so, I’ve deepened some friendships inexplicably, and in turn had the honor of seeing a few vulnerabilities of others exposed — and nurtured.

I’ve accepted the fact that life is messy, and that leaning into feelings of discomfort leads to growth.

I’m willing to risk getting hurt to experience the joy of falling in love.

I’ll invest in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) without any knowledge of the outcome, despite the appearance of the odds being stacked against me.

And already, in exposing — and accepting — these often-hidden and painful moments, I’ve also glimpsed the euphoria that life is supposed to be all about. I am so blessed to be a vulnerable person.

Are you inspired? Ready to take the next step? Check out these 100 Ways to Change Your Life, set your intention with some vision boards, and see what happens!

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Guest's picture

Just this week here in Dallas, Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboy quarterback who played for coach Tom Landry, known to be quite stoic - said in a radio interview that when coach Landry finally showed his emotions to the entire team, it changed everything for the team. The team had struggled up to that moment, but coach Landry spoke from the heart, showed emotions and the team began to play better than ever.

Nora Dunn's picture

@Randy - That's an especially powerful example, as most testosterone-heavy environments like football teams generally spurn displays of emotion as being weak or "girly". Thanks for the story!

Guest's picture
gt0163c

Some friends and I have recently been trying to encourage each other to "embraced the awkward". And I think the basic principal is fairly similar (haven't had a chance to watch the TED talk yet). The idea being that life is messy, but it's better to own up to that messiness, talk about, jump right in and deal with it, do the awkward things and have the awkward conversations rather than to try to shy away from those things or play it safe. It's not easy. It's often scary. But the fact that we're in it together and have given each other "permission" to admit when we're scared or having a hard time, has made a big difference. And we're seeing some interesting things in each other's lives.

Nora Dunn's picture

@GT0 - Getting into those "messy" ideas with others is a fundamental principle of communication, which at times can be awkward and uncomfortable. How often do we choose not to say something because we're afraid of another person's reaction? But when we face that fear and say what we need to say (from a place of honesty and love), things generally turn out for the best - whatever that means.

Guest's picture

I remember seeing John Cleese in an interview, and the comment he made that stuck with me is that so many people seem to spend their entire lives striving not to be embarrassed. And what's the fun in that! I admit, I'm one of those people - I hate feeling embarrassed. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced that putting myself out there and getting embarrassed (probably a lot) would make me feel a lot better or like I'm suddenly having more fun - LOL!

Nora Dunn's picture

@Fairy Dust - Ah...but maybe putting yourself out there (despite fear of embarrassment) WON'T be embarrassing after all! You never know until you try... :-)

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PF

I really enjoyed this article. It touched home for me because I'm new to writing (at least for public consumption) and I'm struggling with how much to share. I'm still feeling out how much about myself and my fmaily will make the cut, and I've yet to share it with anyone that knows me, outside of my wife. This is a really interesting perspective to add to what I've already been thinking about.

thanks, PF

Nora Dunn's picture

@PF - I did a reader survey last year for my blog (www.theprofessionalhobo.com), and one of the themes that readers requested was more of a personal edge. To know the "nitty gritty" of what my full-time travel lifestyle is like, even if sometimes it isn't pretty. And I've found in general that the posts I've written where I've exposed more of myself than I've generally felt comfortable with have also been the posts in which I've connected most deeply with readers. So don't be afraid to add that personal edge to your writing...it's what people want to read!

Guest's picture

Fear of embarassment can be paralyzing but there's so much opportunity when you open yourself up. Some of the most enlightening experiences of my life have been my most embarassing moments.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Steve - Maybe that's why I like performing on stage as much as I do....like anybody I get nervous, and am always afraid of embarrassing myself. But the sense of elation I get when everything goes well (or even sometimes doesn't, but that's an adventure unto itself!)....it's magic.

Guest's picture
Guest

Really excellent article that confirms for me that we all make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Guest - They say that 80% of the things that we worry about never come to pass. Indeed - we DO make things complicated, but only in our heads!

Guest's picture
Ayngelina

I watched that TED Talk and I really identified with her struggle to be more vulnerable. Oddly enough I've found it much easier to do online through my blog. It's the first step.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Ayngelina - Yes, somehow it's a little easier to be vulnerable from the safety of being behind a screen than it is to do so in the physical company of others. But it's certainly a start...and I've practiced exposing my own vulnerabilities - both online and in person.