In a world seduced by power: why vulnerability always wins
To jumpstart my year, this January I decided to attend Aveda's Serious Business, a conference designed to motivate and nurture hairstylists. Each year had a theme that I could usually relate to, however, this year's theme was NAKED. This immediately made me uncomfortable. I kept asking myself, "How in the world could being 'naked' benefit me in my personal life and career?' Sure, "naked" can mean "sexy" or "raw." But "naked," to me, meant EXPOSED. In my many years of contributing to the workforce, every employer has made it explicitly clear to leave all your personal shit at the door when you walk in. How could we have a entire conference centered around being naked?!
One of the main speakers chosen for the conference was Brené Brown. She has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She was amazing; her research mind-blowing. The result in my life: absolute fear and terror, where vulnerability was locked up and considered a four-letter word. To me, being vulnerable was weakness. Everyday I would put on invisible armor before walking out of the house. At one point, I never took that armor off. I kept it on all day, everyday. I was so afraid that if people knew the "real" me with "real" emotions, they wouldn't like what they saw, even my family. What I didn't realize was that I was having a deeply intimate relationship with shame. Brown describes shame as the "swampland of your soul." Shame has two audio tracks:
"Not good enough!"
"Who do you think you are?"
At one point or another, we all deal with shame. According to Brown's research, we all fall into two groups Those who struggle to belong and those who have a deep sense of love and belonging. The difference between the two? Truly believing you are worthy of love and belonging. No matter what shame has you believing at the moment, never let your worthiness be up for grabs.
Vulnerability is not weakness, it is the courage to be seen. Brown defines courage as the ability "to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart." When we believe that vulnerability is a weakness, we believe that we can opt out, go at it alone, or let it all hang out. Being vulnerable doesn't mean you need to be a robot. It also doesn't mean telling everyone you meet every detail of your life. Those intimate details belong to your closest confidants--the ones who are living this life right beside you and are covered in as much dirt as you are. They aren't critics or yes people. They are the ones you turn to when it is time to say, "this sucks, but I am enough."
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Vulnerability doesn't have to be a four-letter word. It is the bridge to your most treasured relationships; your spouse, children, or closest friend. Vulnerability wins in a world seduced with power because, as Brown says, "it is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity."
Go learn more.
Brené Brown TED Talks and author of "Daring Greatly"