Vulnerability is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; all its many facets and why we simultaneously preach vulnerability while seeking to escape it. After reading Katharine’s post on her battle with depression (along with Laura’s look at vulnerability as her tipping point and Bri’s discussion of loneliness), I deeply considered why we — the season four writers — are here: to share our stories, to be transparent, and to be vulnerable.
Today, I sat back at a local Starbucks and contemplated vulnerability while I probed TED for answers. And, as it turned out, there was a relatively recent talk that was given by Brene Brown on “The Power of Vulnerability”. Brene’s insight into vulnerability is incredible. Highly recommend you give it a watch.
One of my goals during the time that I’m here with you is to learn to express that vulnerability without feeling shame or fear or disgust at myself and/or, ofttimes, certain situations that I’ve found myself in; to embrace failure without succumbing to its tendrils of terror. To give myself permission to fail on.
Unperfecting a Perfectionist
As a teenager, I was a perfectionist.
I strove to be smarter, faster, and better than my peers. I studied hard. I played on many sports teams. I was an actor, director, and vocal coach. I sang and played musical instruments. I taught myself how to code. I took on so many different aspects of my growing self that I didn’t know where my extracurriculars began and I ended.
“We live in a vulnerable world and one of the ways we deal with it is by numbing it.” – Brene Brown
My version of numb — even today — is to bury myself in work; to actively avoid the situation by finding something else to think about and something else to do. With the array of possibilities available to us on a daily basis, it’s easy to find something else to do instead of dealing with our pain: play video games, watch TV, get drunk, or eat that chocolate cake in the fridge (all of it).
When I dealt with the monotony and malaise of starting up my own business (while simultaneously trying to figure who the hell I was trying to be), I dove into a different project instead of nourishing myself (and the business). And, in the process, I shut myself off from everything (and everyone) else. I lost sight of my joy. I lost sight of myself.
“You cannot selectively numb emotion. You cannot selectively numb the hard feelings without numbing the rest.” – Brene Brown
I crawled back inside and stayed there. It wasn’t until I found out this entirely new vulnerability of pregnancy that I finally woke up from my emotional coma. I’m still blinking back the comatose-zombie from behind my eyes at this point… but I’m awake. And instead of cutting out the bad emotions, the hard emotions, I’m learning to live with them.
We are emotional creatures and when we hide from ourselves, we cut ourselves off from joy.
We cut ourselves off from the chance of living authentically and genuinely.
We create half-selves. We become shells. We embrace numb, just so we won’t be scared.
But what if we lived in concert with our fear?
What if we just showed up, did our thang, and let that be that? What if we gave fear a high-five every time it kept us from doing something stupid? A la, don’t jaywalk across Granville Street during rush-hour or you’ll get hit by a bus (or three). And, what if we hugged vulnerability to our chests and thanked it for being honest?
It takes courage (read: balls) and compassion to remain connected to ourselves and to each other. It’s not weakness to say, “Hey, I need you” or “Y’know what? I love you, damn it.” It’s required for us to move past our own insecurities and move into a place of connectivity and strength.
The most difficult part of a millennial’s journey — ahem, my journey — into adulthood is learning to embrace failure, fear, and vulnerability for the inevitabilities they are instead of seeking numbness. It’s not something that we’re taught as children. Teachers don’t come up to us and say, “Y’know what, Amanda? It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to be afraid.” No, what we’re taught is to suck it up, deal with the problem, and move on.
I say: fuck that.
You are more than just the sum of your accomplishments. You are more than your Ivy League university or your diploma or your business. You are a culmination of beautiful imperfections and we need to learn to embrace ourselves because of that fact, not in spite of it.
“When we work from a place that says, “I’m enough”, we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.” – Brene Brown
I’m learning to be gentle with myself by remembering that I am enough. As we journey together through the trials of the QLC — our millennial rite of passage — just remember: be kind to yourself; be gentle with others; and learn to live with your inevitabilities of fear, failure, and vulnerability.
You are enough.
Photo found via Insane Metal on Tumblr