4 Empowering Ways to Use Vulnerability

“I can’t believe you’re talking behind my back.” The red haired Russian lady snarled when she approached me at the office. There she was ready to eat me like a 99 cents buffet, and I stared back like a small child, lost in crowd.

Vulnerability. The word is heavy to some who hear it. To others who leave their hearts out on the table, it’s just another word for character strength. In listening to the famous TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brené Brown, enlightens the listener about connection and worthiness. She has spent the past ten years studying and researching vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her talk has garnered over 35 million views.

We grow up and learn about making connections with our families, friends, and the world. As we make these relationships grow, we learn about our worthiness to other people. “The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection.” — Brené Brown

Her research indicated 4 top characteristics of those who felt worthy in the world: courage, compassionate, connected, and vulnerable. The people who had these characteristics were willing to take responsibility, feel for others, and make connections that were open to judgement. Courage and judgment almost go hand in hand. Can we take the courage to claim our mistakes in risk of the judgment that will come thereafter?

The administrative office job I took after college was an experience I couldn’t forget. I was trained by a great office manager. When she left, they hired another woman. We worked together even though our personalities did not match. In my own immature 20’s mind, I would Gchat with the ex-office manager about the fiery woman whose arrogance rose like a ghastly wind. Her desk was at the back and I was at the front of the office. One day, I had left my chat box open. We had to change seats for a job task. I completely left the Gchat open.

If you don’t know what Gchat is, how about leaving your phone out with your text messages visibly available for anyone to see it. And, how about those text messages are about a person you don’t want them to see?

As I left to the desk in the back, I opened up another Gchat and started hungrily, typing negative things like “I can’t believe she did that. Or who does she think she is?” My Gchat window would instantly be minimized which I furrowed my head, thinking it was just a bug. Turns out that bug was my office mate. She was trying to close the window. Suddenly, I hear a boulder of sounds of heels, thumping like knives down the office and I felt her eyes laser into the back of my head. I turn around and her eyes were enraged and red flushed. “I tried to close your private conversation, but I couldn’t, and I read it all.” Where was that corner I could crawl and die into right now?

Two choices: I could fess up and own it or I could pull a “It wasn’t me” move. At that moment of time, I told her, yes it was me and I’m sorry. My passive aggressiveness and failure to address our inconsistent, power struggle relationship had ultimately left me to become that bad apple in the orange bunch. A life lesson I remember to this day 15 years later.

People who have the 3Cs to the V (courage, compassion, connection, and vulnerability) live life with an open book, no cards in their sleeves, and don’t have anything to hide. Brown states that people who acknowledge their imperfection can form genuine connections with others. They may have a set of friends who aren’t as many but have quality bonds that last longer than superficially held ones. They are comfortable in their skin and even if they are judged, they are absolutely okay with themselves.

Part of the comfort is their compassion with others which sounds counter intuitive. Brown states compassion first starts within ourselves. Compassion in ourselves can be difficult since we are our own worst critique. “I’m such an idiot for….” “I’m so stupid…” When we have compassion for ourselves, we exude it to our loved ones and that becomes genuine. Genuineness in ourselves turns true compassion for true connections.

Once we pass compassion, our next step is to face vulnerability. Brown talks about going to therapy but without the emotional crap. She tells her therapist “No childhood s*, no family stuff. Just give me strategies to being vulnerable.” Her therapist nods. “It’s bad right? She says when she sees the nod.

So how do we define vulnerability: “They talked about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first. The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.” Brown saying “I love you” can be hard for me. That amount of vulnerability in the air that’s left while you hold your breath for that other person to say something back is excruciatingly long and awkward. However, that power of vulnerability shows your connection to that person. Starting to see the interrelated concepts that weave this fabric of vulnerability?

Brown states “So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable…it becomes a dangerous cycle.” I reflected and though I need to let feelings become true, real, and feel them. Somewhere in life, I was taught that feelings were to come and go. In one sense, it was a form of numbing and ignoring the true feelings we desire. Again, this becomes miserable.

So how can we use the 3C’s to the V functionally? Here are the top 4 ways to use the 3C’s to the V in your everyday activities:

  1. Courage. Find one thing today that you are willing to do out of your normal comfort zone. There are many choices you can make and probably way better than what I did to my office mate. Stand up for what’s right and believe in yourself. Examples: Talk to someone you may not normally talk to. Reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Go on a blind date. Go on a cultural plunge in which you insert yourself in another person’s culture like a Native American Powwow or a Pride event.
  2. Compassion. Sit down with a friend and listen. Don’t insert your own thoughts or opinions. Sometimes we hang out with a friend but all we do is the talking. When we stop and listen, and truly listen, you start to feel for your friend.
  3. Connected. Grab your calendar. Spot weekends or week days you’re free to hangout with your close friends or family. Schedule at least one time with a friend or family for lunch, hosting dinner, BBQ hangouts etc. Feel your support network.
  4. Vulnerable. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you say to your loved ones? Say “I love you” if it’s hard to say. Say “I’m hurt” if you’ve been hurt. Say “I’m scared” if you’re scared in relationship or friendship or whatever situation. Say “I was wrong.” Those raw feelings can change your over controlling behavior into a freeing response to life. If you can put your ego aside, and if this is the hardest thing for you to do, you will have grown having done so. Your character will strengthen when you’re vulnerable.

Brown says “believe you are enough” at the end of her speech. To start a change, we must start to believe we are truly worthy of ourselves. Because if we don’t start believing in ourselves who else will?

To listen to the TED talk regarding The Power of Vulnerability – check it out here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability


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