How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning
This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project
Week 17: How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown
How to Embrace Vulnerability and Ultimately Live a Life of Purpose and Meaning
In the last Awakened Heart post, (read it HERE if you missed it) you were asked to watch Dr. Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk. This is one of my all time favorites TED talks and I hope it’s one of yours now too! Dr. Brown has managed to sum up years worth or research into some of the most invaluable information we as humans have ever received; The purpose of life is to find meaning in it, and to connect with others, and the only way to connect, is to be vulnerable.
When you think about what it takes to be strong, honest, courageous and authentic, you may or may not include vulnerable to your list. In fact, synonyms of vulnerability include: defenseless, sucker, susceptible, unsafe, weak, and in danger. Quite the contrary to anything strong and courageous!
As humans, we thrive through honest, vulnerable, trusting connections to others. We are born vulnerable to everything around us. If we experience love, tenderness, physical and emotional connections and safety, we grow up to be healthy, happy, functioning adults (well, most of us). Vulnerability is ESSENTIAL to human existence. Yet, so many of us fight it. We fight, because we don’t want others to judge us. We fight, because we’re afraid that if we open up, we’ll lose that connection and won’t be lovable. We build walls, and do whatever we can to make sure we’re protected from all things harmful. We’re scared of losing pieces of our hearts, -of ourselves, and so, we retreat, not realizing that by retreating from vulnerability (that which is essential to our connection with life), we ultimately lose the very thing we were trying to protect all along; love and connection.
Was that a lot to take in? Think about those words for a minute. Are you connecting in your life? Are you living vulnerably? Or are you fighting it? Become aware of which path you’re on as this is what is going to change your direction in life. If you’re fight it, it’s time to become aware of it, to realize why, to forgive yourself and others for what has happened to send you on this path, and then make the decision to change course and begin connecting once again.
“Vulnerability allows us to connect with others. Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives -it’s why we’re here. We have to be really seen to connect, which means that we have to be willing to be vulnerable with other people.”
Dr. Brown’s research shows that there are ultimately two groups of people: (1) People who have a strongsense of love and belonging, and, (2) People that struggle for it and always wonder if they’re good enough. The one variable that separates these two groups of people is that, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. The one thing that keeps us from connection is the fear that we’re not worthy of connection. Further, the people with a strong sense of worthiness shared one common theme: Courage. Interestingly, the word courage stems from the Latin word cor or heart and the original definition of cor was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”. Thus, the people who had a sense of worthiness were “wholehearted and authentic people able to embrace vulnerability. They could be deeply seen by others. They had the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others; as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. [These people] had connection as a result of authenticity; they were able to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were…these people embraced vulnerability and believed that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful. They believed that vulnerability was fundamental”.
By numbing vulnerability, we ultimately lose. We need to surrender to vulnerability to live a life of connection and love.
How to Life a Vulnerable Life
1.) Be Authentic!
When you’re authentic, you’re your true self. You’re not trying to be what others expect of you, or what they want of you, -you’re simply being yourself. By being authentic, you’re able to cultivate authentic connections. If you don’t allow yourself to be who you truly are, you’re not being vulnerable, and therefore, are not truly connecting. Think of it like wearing a mask. We’ve all done it. We’ve all hidden by the “status quo” mask to fit in. Why? Because we fear being rejected, being incapable of being accepted, and being fearful we will never be loved! But as Brene has so critically pointed out, this approach will not work.
Part of being authentic is also being truthful; truthful to yourself and truthful to others. If you’re feeling hurt, say so. Explain yourself and allow others to try and understand where you’re coming from. Don’t hold your feelings in, or worse yet, release them in a passive aggressive manner. Be honest.
Part of being authentic means also admitting faults. If you made a mistake, say so. If you need help with something, ask for it. If you’re afraid of what’s ahead, admit it. If you don’t want to live the life you’re living, change it. Just be truthful. The people that walk out of your life, don’t matter in the end, because if they don’t love your true self, they’re not worth it. This is also true of “things” not just people (e.g. your job). The important things will say in your life and in your heart, I promise! It takes real courage to be authentic, but it will always be worth it in the end. Why? Because when you act outside of who you are, -when your thoughts, beliefs, and values, do not coincide with your actions, internal anxiety, and conflict arise in your subconscious mind (or maybe conscious if you’re every self-aware) reducing in your happiness, and feelings a security. In time, you’re likely to have a have a existential crisis or mental breakdown!
2.) Take Risks!
Risk taking is the cornerstone of vulnerability because it open yourself up to things that make you feel insecure or uncertain. It takes real courage to take risks and it is courage again that pushes your towards vulnerability and therefore connections. It’s the times when you are most vulnerable, and go forward despite your fears, that typically produce the most meaning results. Taking risk gives you the opportunity to say, “This is me, I’m not sure about what’s ahead but I’m following my heart anyway!” It also gives others the chance to offer help, to encourage your growth, and maybe even have the courage to take risks as well. We need to take risks to grow in life. You take a risk falling in love. You take a risk leaving a job you’re unhappy in, or a marriage you’re unhappy in. You take a risk getting married. You take a risk by telling others who you feel. You take a risk by being vulnerable. But what else is left if you don’t take risks? Can you image if you never did anything that scared you? Can you image if you never took that promotion, or never said hello to the person that is now your best friend? Life is a risk in general. So why not embrace fears, take risks, and spend your life building meaningful connections. Amber from Hey, Amber Rae states it like this:
“Act with no guarantees. Ideas are safe. The idea of true love, the vision of a better world, the image of your perfect lifestyle. We can sit safely in our imaginations all day or we can fully commit to taking action, embracing the notion that we might fail or get hurt.”
3.) Embrace Negative Emotions!
Many of us try to selectively numb the emotions that make us uncomfortable or that cause us pain, in an attempt to protect our hearts. The problem with this is that we cannot selectively numb emotions, and still feel the emotions we like! When we numb negative emotions and vulnerability, we numb joy, gratitude, love, belonging, creativity, compassion, and happiness. By numbing vulnerability, we ultimately lose. We need to surrender to vulnerability to live a life of connection and love. For some, this is easy. For others’, this is arduous and maybe even foreign. I think Dr. Brown described her battle with vulnerability best when she stated, “For me, it was a year long street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.”
You must embrace that life will throw you some punches. Not everyone will love you. You will get hurt. You will lose sometimes. There will be pain, that’s a fact. But remember this: No pain, no gain. Personal growth is perhaps at its highest in times of pain and vulnerability. It takes courage to embrace life even though pain may be lurking ahead. It takes courage to take risks. Connections come from risk taking, -from facing our fears. So take risks! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be authentic. Admit your faults! Say “I love you”! Say, “I’m sorry”! Just be TRUE to you, and to life. Believe you’re worthy of love and belonging!
Many of the words from this post come from my second post posts on With an Open Heart. It largely discusses why I started this blog. You can read it HERE.
- What thoughts come to mind after reading this post?
- Have you been living vulnerably? If not, what is holding you back? If so, why do you choose vulnerability?
- If you’re afraid of being vulnerable, is there an experience from your past that change things for you? Are you still holding onto pain from your past? How can you forgive and let go?
- What is something that you’ve done that was a risk, -that took courage, that lead to a wonderful ending?
- What risks do you want to take in the future, but feel you may not have the courage?
- What does the word “authentic” mean to you. Describe it.
- What does the word “vulnerability” mean to you. Describe it.
- If you had to explain the word “courage” to a child, what would you say?
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