WOW! As I’m sure that many of you will agree, 2013 has flown by. In truth, as I get older, each year appears to compress such that time appears more and more fleeting. As one year closes and a new one begins, I’ve begun to experience that all too inevitable march towards the end.
Casting morbidity aside, lately, I’ve been thinking about 2014. As I am sure most of you are aware, the annual list of resolutions is fast being replaced by the word for the year. As described by this blog, the endless lists of resolutions that are typically tossed aside within a couple of months or so, require us ‘to do’ something. On the other hand, choosing a specific word of the year requires us to aspire ‘to be’ for the year. The choices are limitless. For instance, our word may be creativity, surrender, determination, stillness, or lovingkindness, you get the picture. This year, my word is “courage.” I intend to be courageous, and this post explains how I arrived at that choice.
This morning, I listened to a Brené Brown‘s Ted talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.” Although I have yet to read any of her books (I have one ‘to read’ on my Kindle.), I already know that she is a phenomenon, trained in social work, and a dedicated researcher who studies human connection. Everyone who has either read her books or worked with her, speaks highly of her wisdom. As an initial matter, I need to say that although I will discuss some details of the talk, I cannot do it justice, so I urge you to listen to it for yourself here. My focus is on her discussion of the words ‘courage’ and ‘vulnerability.’ She literally had me at the words ‘courage ‘ and ‘vulnerability.’ Both are words that vex me, directly or indirectly, on a daily basis, even as I write this post.
A brief summary of the talk is that she began her research asking people about connection and what she received were stories about disconnection and ultimately, shame–the fear of disconnection. Her research led her to focus on shame and resulted in a wealth of data in the form of stories, interviews, focus groups and more. As she sifted through the data, she concluded that it could be separated into two categories, those who had a sense of worthiness and a sense of love and belonging, and those who cast themselves as unworthy and lacking a sense of disconnection.
Those with a sense of worthiness and connection shared the following four qualities:
- The courage to be imperfect.
- The compassion to be kind to themselves first, then to others. (i.e., We can’t share what we don’t have.)
- A connection as a result of authenticity, and
- They fully embraced vulnerability, in all its forms.
It is important to note here that as Brown’s talk discussed, although vulnerability has its foundation in fear, shame and most other “negative” emotions, it is also the “birthplace” of creativity, love, joy, happiness, courage, and those emotions that we strive for. Vulnerability is not an option that we chose, it is a fact of life.
If truth be told, there is not one among us who does not have a laundry list of vulnerabilities that affect how we feel about and live our lives. In my case, when I created this blog, I did so as another way to document my journey (or more accurately, my non-journey) after my health forced me to stop working as a trial attorney. I needed a healthy outlet for releasing my thoughts and feelings. Yet, as I write posts for this blog, I am often confronting various vulnerabilities, which based on Brown’s talk is the ability to be really and fully seen — in both the good ways and the bad.
Every time that I write a post, my self-talk goes something like this,
- Are you sure that you want anyone to know this or that about you?
- What if I disclose this and they won’t like me?
- What gives me the idea that I think that I can write?
- What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear?
- Why do I have the audacity to think that my opinions matter?
- What will people think of me?
I could go on, but I am sure that you get the idea. All of my fears, shame, insecurities, uncertainties and the rest take over and I end up thinking, “Do I really want to put myself out there risking ridicule or worse?”
As I listened to the talk, I was surprised to learn that the original definition of the word “courage” was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart” — to be vulnerable. It hit me that what my self-talk boiled down to was that I lacked the courage to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable meant admitting that I wasn’t perfect, that I don’t have it all together, that sometimes I feel lost, and that sometimes I need, among other things, love, help, support, a shoulder to cry on, to vent, that sometimes, I just don’t know, and need help finding the answers. I realize that I need the courage to be imperfect, thus, the courage to be vulnerable.
This is why I choose to focus on courage. In 2014, I will continue the task of telling the story of who I am, but in a more open and honest way. I seek the courage to tell it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. In all honesty, I feel overwhelmed with fear, doubts about failure, and questions about my sanity, but every day I vow that I will imbue each interaction, each post, each encounter with the courage to be true to myself and others. I will pray for the courage to be vulnerable, whatever the result, and to be compassionate with myself when I inevitably fall, which I surely will. Yet, I will also pray for the courage to get up, and simply, begin again. By practicing “courage” I hope to make “vulnerability” a way of life, a way of acknowledging that I am enough.
P.S. See, I am really getting into the ‘word of the year’ state of mind. This post is littered with the words ‘to be.’
- Being acceptably imperfect (c-suitexx.com)
- Vulnerability: The Birthplace of Creativity, Connection, and Authenticity (mysakuranights.wordpress.com)