There are a few myths about vulnerability that I think keep us from being wholehearted people who can fully give and receive love. The first is that vulnerability is weakness. The second is that it's optional.
First of all, vulnerability is not weakness. It's probably the most accurate measure of our individual courage. When I ask research subjects to give me an example of being in situations where they feel vulnerable, they say, "Taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work" or "Telling my boyfriend that I love him" or "Calling my friend whose child just died" or "Sending my kid to school knowing she is struggling but knowing she had has to figure it out" or "Meeting with the hospice person who is going to be taking care of my mother."
Sometimes I hear people say "I don't do vulnerability." But you do it, everyday. We all do it. We all have those moments. The only choice you have is how you handle those feelings of being terrifyingly, painfully exposed. Maybe you turn them into rage; maybe you turn them into disconnection; maybe you numb them; maybe you turn them into perfectionism (which, by the way, is what I do with them). But you do something with them.
The key to transforming them into courage instead is learning how recognize them, feel them and ultimately make the choice to simply be there, with that horrible tangle of uncertainty and risk. When you know what you're feeling and why, you can slow down, breathe, pray, ask for support—and make choices that reflect who you are and what you believe.
Brené Brown is the author of the The Gifts of Imperfection and widely known for her celebrated TED talk. Find her on Twitter at @BreneBrown.
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