The Power of Vulnerability

glass heartsWhat comes to mind when you think of vulnerability?

Do you think of it as a weakness?

Does the thought of being vulnerable bring up fears of being judged or rejected or hurt?

If you resonated with the above, and you don’t believe vulnerability to be a necessary ingredient to a joyful and happy life, then you’ll want to watch the video I’m going to tell you about in a minute (it’s probably one of my all-time favorites from TED).

But first, let me share my personal history with vulnerability, and how it impacted my life for many years.

If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m a recovering perfectionist. But do you know why I became a perfectionist?

I would like to think that it was my commitment to continually strive for excellence, but the truth of the matter is, it was to avoid being vulnerable.

(For the record, I am all for striving for excellence, but that’s different from perfectionism. Just thought I’d make that clear, in case there is, you know, any judgment. :))

Up until a couple of years ago, I equated being vulnerable with being weak, at least for myself. I hated the idea of laying myself open, to potential judgment and criticism and ridicule.

What if people stopped liking me because I was vulnerable? What if the vulnerability made them think I wasn’t good enough? What if I opened myself only to get hurt?

My self-preservation instincts told me, at a subconscious level, that it was easier to be on the offensive and not give people the chance to judge or criticize or hurt me.

So I strived to be perfect in everything I did. I wanted to appear faultless so that people wouldn’t be able to say, ever, that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t worthy.

That strategy didn’t quite work the way I envisioned. And over the years, the constant chasing of other people’s approvals and appreciation made me deeply unhappy.

I guess you could say that the unhappiness was the price I paid for avoiding vulnerability, not to mention all the stress and struggle I went through to get people’s approval.

It took a pretty thick stack of self-help books and quite a bit of coaching for me to change my perception about vulnerability, and to become aware of the driving force behind my perfectionism, but it wasn’t until I saw this Ted Talk from Dr. Brené Brown a couple of years ago that all the pieces clicked into place for me.

It was, quite literally, a game changer.

I will let you hear all the insights and wisdom directly from Dr. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the last ten plus years studying topics ranging from connection, shame, vulnerability, to courage, love and belonging, authenticity, and worthiness.

Here are just some of the key insights from her incredible talk…well worth a few repeated viewings in my opinion. :) Enjoy!

  • Connection is why we are here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives
  • In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, truly seen (in other words, be vulnerable)
  • The difference between people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and people who struggle for it: the belief of worthiness –> people believe they are worthy of love and belonging
  • People who live whole-heartedly share these characteristics: courage, compassion, connection, and they fully embrace vulnerability
  • Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, but also the birthplace of joy, love and belonging, and worthiness
  • You cannot selectively numb negative emotions without dampening the positive ones: when you avoid fear and vulnerability, you also decrease your chance for joy and happiness
  • Brené’s prescription for happiness: be vulnerable, practice gratitude and joy, love with our whole hearts, and believe “I’m enough”.

What was the key takeaway for you from this video? How can you implement it in your life?

I’d love to know!! :)

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jarlin. Such a beautiful, important message.
    xo

  2. What a excellent talk and great message! Courage to be seen as who we are without the guarantees that others will respond favorably in return. The courage to be vulnerable.

    I think most of us do equate vulnerability with weakness, as something to avoid at all costs. But we didn’t know we unwittingly lose out on connecting with others, and at the core of it to be okay with our true selves, not a version of what’s presented to the world.

    Like Brene said, we’re hardwired to struggle from birth, to be flawed and imperfect. Yet we constantly fight to be perfect, to undo what’s already a part of us, to overcome and fix the vulnerabilities we see in ourselves, and in the process missing out on connections, be vulnerable and back to struggling.

    Thanks for this wonderful post. I always appreciate the thought-provoking messages you share.

    • Jarlin Sung says:

      Thanks for your insightful comments Erin, and I’m so glad you resonated with Brene’s message! :)

      You’re absolutely right…we tend to avoid pain at all cost, but we don’t often think about the joy we’re giving up by not risking anything at all. Brene’s talk is a great reminder: dare to be who you truly are. Connect with the world from this authentic place, and you cannot help but form deep and meaningful connections!

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