At the slightest perception of danger, we all immediately feel vulnerable.
And we have all learned to shy away from it.
We were taught that feeling vulnerability is a weakness. A weakness that we must tamper down and refuse to feel.
But it is human nature to feel vulnerability. It is wired into our survival. It is essential in triggering our “fight and flight” response.
In short, it’s a human emotion that makes us act.
So why do we feel the need to squash it?
For one, we humans like to feel control. We like to control what is happening around us. Even though we all know that it is impossible to.
Life is a random game of chance, and there are things we simply can’t control, no matter how hard we try.
So why not allow ourselves this feeling of vulnerability and see the power it can bring to our lives?
University of Houston research professor Dr. Brene Brown urges us all to embrace the power of vulnerability. Watch her TED talk below and let it change your perception of what it truly means to be vulnerable.
Expanding Perception: The Power of Vulnerability
Shame. It’s universal.
“The things I can tell you about it: It’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it.”
Dr. Brown believes that everything we do in life – the choices we make, the relationships we forge – all boil down to wanting connection.
That’s it. It’s about wanting to connect to people.
But most of us feel unworthy. We all, at some point, feel shame.
What if we’re not good enough? Smart enough? Beautiful enough? And so, we all feel shame in our “unworthiness.” And it’s what stops us from creating connections.
But during her years-long research, she found one consistent thing:
People who do make valuable connections know how to fully embrace vulnerability.
“They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. As I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. The willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”
Ignoring vulnerability makes us feel numb.
When we ignore feeling vulnerable, we make ourselves numb to our other emotions as well.
Humans can’t selectively numb themselves. We need to allow ourselves to feel every emotion in order to feel the good ones as well.
And this is where the power of vulnerability presents itself.
“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other effects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”
It’s a very, very dangerous cycle that we are passing on to our children as well.
We have to keep our kids perfect, far from harm, and we cannot make them feel vulnerable at all. But that’s wrong.
Instead, we’re breeding another generation of people who are numb, who do not feel, and we are making them ill-equipped to navigating life in a healthy way.
So how can we fix this?
We need to let ourselves feel.
“To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this-this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?”
We need to let ourselves feel vulnerable, so we allow ourselves to feel grateful for every human emotion we feel. There is nothing wrong with feeling shame, but how can we overcome shame when we refuse to acknowledge it?
We are all worthy. We are all “enough.” And we all need to be kinder and more gentle to ourselves, above anything else.