What words come up when you hear the word vulnerability? Weakness, perhaps? Or feeble, exposed, at risk, helpless, small, scared? These are words that came up for me when reflecting on the word “vulnerability.” Reading and listening to lecturer, author, podcast host, and researcher Brené Brown completely changed my perception of vulnerability.
In her TED Talk, “The power of vulnerability”, Brené Brown shares that humans are wired for connection: “it is what we are here for, what gives meaning to our lives” (Brené Brown, The power of vulnerability). So, the idea of losing the ability to connect with others is terrifying to us and we avoid it at all costs. In her investigation process, Brené analyzed the stories of hundreds of individuals and learned that what underpinned the fear of not being worthy enough to deserve love and belonging, was vulnerability. At the same time, the data revealed that vulnerability stands at the core of love, connection, and belonging.
So, how can we exploit the feelings of love, connection, and belonging that come with being vulnerable, while fighting the shame and fear that may come with it? Her answer: believe that you are worthy of love and belonging no matter what.
Hearing this made me realize that my ability to say “I am worthy of love and belonging” was inextricably linked to my achievements. The fear of not being considered smart, accomplished, successful enough was at the driver’s seat. My true, authentic self was in the co-pilot seat. No, it was actually in the back seat, struggling —and often failing— to make herself seen.
My decision to start experiencing a life full of connection, love, and belonging required that I detached my sense of worthiness from my achievements. Rather than thinking: “I am worthy if I achieve this or that,” I started manifesting the idea that “I am worthy despite my imperfections.” Hard? Incredibly so. Embracing vulnerability made me question the way I had been living for the past years. It turned my sense of self on its head and made me question: if not my achievements, then what makes me worthy of love and belonging?
This question is the pitfall of the “never enough” world we live in. In constantly measuring ourselves against often unattainable and detrimental standards, we blind ourselves from seeing the unique elements that make us valuable. The truth is that you do not have to be the epitome of success to believe you are worthy. You deserve love, connection, and belonging by virtue of simply existing as a sentient, emotional, valuable human being.
Embracing this principle has allowed me to become more comfortable with vulnerability and I reap its benefits on a daily basis. Being kind to myself allows me to be kind to others and develop deep and genuine connections with people. Letting my authentic and imperfect self shine through empowers me to take risks and become comfortable with uncertainty. Making peace with the fact that I am enough allows me to pursue passions I had suppressed for so long, under the belief that they were not “legitimate”, or “worthy enough” to society. Vulnerability has made my life so much more meaningful and I cannot imagine myself without it.