The Power of Vulnerability

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I’ve made no secret about my love for TED Talks. Well this week I watched two talks by very divergent women both addressing a fundamentally important trait, vulnerability, and our deep rooted need to be seen. Vulnerability is the birth place of Love, of Joy, of Creativity, of Belonging. Yet most of us fear it deeply.

Here’s the thing. The reality is we live in a vulnerable world. Getting fired, firing someone. Telling someone you’re interested in them or waiting for the results of your biopsy. Life presents us daily with moments of vulnerability. As Brené explains the key it not to numb out by spending money, overeating, abusing drugs and alcohol. Because you cannot selectively numb emotion, cut out only the bad and keep the good. If you choose to numb yourself you will lose it all, the good as well as the bad.

Brené Brown: Researcher Storyteller

Connection is why we are here.  This is what brings meaning to our lives; it’s how we are wired. When Brené asked people about love they shared their heartbreak. When she spoke to people about belonging they share their pain of exclusion. When she asked about connection, they spoke of being disconnected. She came face to face with people’s fear, their shame. What if others saw something they didn’t like? Yet underneath all of this lay vulnerability.

In order for connection with another human being we had to allow ourselves to be seen. We had to be vulnerable. So what did she do?  As an academic taught to believe that “if it cannot be measured it does not exist” she set out to deconstruct and outsmart vulnerability with her research. Her findings were that the only thing that separated those with a sense of love and belonging from those that struggled for it was their belief that they were worthy of it.

Next she delved into those that had this sense of worthiness, the whole hearted. She found they had Courage to be imperfect, Compassion to be kind to others and themselves, and Connection as a result of their authenticity. They were unafraid to be their true selves and let others see them. And most importantly they embraced vulnerability believing that what made them vulnerable also made them beautiful. They believed it was a necessity.

Amanda Palmer

Now Amanda is a force to be reckoned with and I have to admit it took a Ted talk to discover a fellow Seattleite. In the Art of Asking she addresses the relationship between artist and fan. Her profound encounters of prolonged eye contact in which she fell in love a little bit with each person, a silent Thank you, the exchange of being seen in the another’s reflection. She made an art out of asking people for help. By asking she connected with others.

Believe me asking for help takes vulnerability. Amanda relied on the kindness of others, couch surfing and crowd surfer, falling and trusting into her audience. And again when she crowd funded her album. But the ultimate moment of vulnerability, in my opinion, was at her Albums kick-starter party in Berlin, “The visceral feeling of trusting strangers” as Amanda explained. She striped herself bare and walked out into her audience and let them sign her body. The sheer strength it must take to be that completely vulnerable. Literally lay yourself bare to your audience, to trust them explicitly.

Personally I’m not advocating you actually strip yourselves down. But metaphorically embrace the concept. Can you be authentically open, emotionally vulnerable; willing to accept what another brings toward you in your daily interactions? Are you willing to truly be seen, to share yourself? Willing to wholly display your heart?

Because the answer is to let ourselves be seen deeply, to love wholeheartedly without any guarantee, practice gratitude and joy in the toughest moments and absolutely believe that you are enough! This is what I took from Amanda’s and Brené’s talks. This is what I am working to embrace more fully in my life. I already know I’m enough, but am I strong enough to be vulnerable and let others truly see me. Are you?

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