Did you see Brené Brown’s interview on CBS 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, where she sang the praises of vulnerability? It spoke to me. In fact, it moved me so much, I watched it again online because I didn’t want to miss a single piece of her wisdom. And it wasn’t just wisdom she doled out, it was confirmation of something I’ve always known: That being vulnerable is actually a strong move.
If you don’t know Brenè Brown, she’s a qualitative researcher, lecturer, TEDTalker, best-selling author, and badass when it comes to vulnerability.
I thought I was alone in my fear of vulnerability–even admitting it made me feel weak, but here comes Brenè Brown with 20 years of research and over 400,000 pieces of data to prove that vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s the path to courage. There is no courage without vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the new black. It’s sexy, brave, and it’s everywhere. Vulnerability shows your humanness, and isn’t that what we’re all feeling right now? We’re in a time where we’re collectively vulnerable, searching for strength. Our vulnerability is on full display, and it’s OK according to Brenè, because “What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.”
“The most vulnerable people I know are the toughest people I know.” –Brenè Brown.
Vulnerability teaches resilience, gives you grit, and makes you tougher. Vulnerability is the scariest ride you’ll ever take, but daring to step on it is the first step to conquering it.
It takes balls to admit you’re vulnerable/scared/lonely/helpless/anxious, but as Brenè cautions: “If you don’t name what you’re feeling, if you don’t own your feelings, and feel them, they will eat you alive.”
I’m terrible at vulnerability. Nothing makes me feel more out of control, exposed, and fragile. But that’s the lesson. We need to feel vulnerable in order to know what we’re made of, to know our worth, and see what we’re capable of.
I know this from my many years in the fitness business. After hundreds of classes and clients, I’ve seen what facing fears, powering through pain, and digging deep will do to somebody. I’ve seen the power of vulnerability take a self-doubting, fearful 80-year-old grandmother and turn her into the Bionic Woman; I’ve seen vulnerability take an overweight, self-loathing, single dad and turn him into the Six Million Dollar Man. Everything I do with my clients makes them feel vulnerable: from balancing on unstable surfaces, to releasing their egos. But I crack the whip and they beat back the vulnerability beast.
Me and vulnerability are a different story, though.
We’re “friends” right now, but it’s been a struggle. Usually I’m tough-as-nails, but when both my parents fell ill last December, all that changed. My father was diagnosed with cancer and died in January, and my mother continues to be in and out of the hospital suffering with Type-1 diabetes, pneumonia, sepsis, a broken hip, and coronavirus. As a result, I’ve been suffering too. And even though I have an insanely supportive husband, I’ve never felt more vulnerable in my life. Add in the backdrop of a pandemic, and you can see how beating back the vulnerability beast is a daily struggle for me.
How is this possible? I’m a life-long athlete, I’ve run five marathons, and was single till I was 51. If anyone knows how to tough it out, it should be me. WTF?!
I’m not sure this experience is showing me what I’m made of, but it’s sure showing me that I’m human.
The reality is, we’re all scared shitless right now. We’re all freaking the fuck out. There’s so much we have no control over, and if you’re like me, you’re fighting the feeling with everything you’ve got. But here’s the deal: “Vulnerability may be the core of shame, and fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it also appears that it’s the birthplace of joy, creativity and love,” according to Brenè.
My hope is that when coronavirus is all over, we’ll look back at ourselves with a sense of pride. We’ll have seen what we’re made of, what our worth is, what we’re capable of, and we will be stronger people for it.
Vulnerability is the new black, so wear it well my friends.