Happy Thursday… Just thinking that I’ve been a bit messy on this vulnerability stuff, I only really skimmed what the book is about before delving into my own various back stories… so this post is a cheat’s guide to the book so that you actually know what Brene Brown is saying as opposed to just knowing the inner workings of my mind (and immune system).
It’s a wonderful wise non-self-helpy book that touches on every aspect of life so I really do recommend you read the real thing but even for my own clarity of thought, here you go:
WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF SCARCITY
Brene starts by arguing that we live in an age of scarcity. In our media dominated world nothing we do is ever enough – we’re never rich enough, successful enough, beautiful enough etc… Even when we wake up, our first thought being ‘I didn’t get enough sleep,’ followed by the fear ‘I don’t have enough time…’ We go to bed thinking ‘I didn’t get enough done today…’
WE COMPARE OURSELVES TO OTHERS
In this culture we compare ourselves to others. Constantly. And, of course, we find ourselves lacking. We look at airbrushed pictures of people’s live – in magazines, on Facebook, Instagram etc – and think ‘Why isn’t my life like that?’.
THIS LEADS TO SHAME
When we feel like we don’t measure up we feel shame – which is a deep fear that we’re not good enough and that if people knew the truth about us they’d run a mile.
According to Brene’s research, men and women feel shame about different things.
For women – most of our shame is around not feeling pretty enough, or feeling like we’re good enough mothers. How depressing that it still comes down to our looks but it does.
For men – it’s a shame around feeling/showing any kind of weakness, not being sexually powerful or a good enough financial provider.
WHEN WE ARE ASHAMED OF WHO WE ARE, WE ARE TOO SCARED TO LET OURSELVES BE SEEN.
Being vulnerable means letting the world see who we really are, being honest about our hopes and dreams and reaching out to people even if it means facing rejection and hurt. If we feel ashamed of who we really are though, we are not going to have the courage to be vulnerable. Instead we find ways to hide our true self and to protect ourselves. Brene calls this Vulnerability Armour which is when we:
WE DON’T ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE HAPPY
I touched on this in my first post but I’ll re-iterate cos it’s good. Brene calls it Foreboding Joy. It’s when we’re scared of letting ourselves be happy because we’re only setting up ourselves for a fall so we may as well protect ourselves by not getting too high, too happy.
WE BECOME PERFECTIONISTS
‘Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence,’ writes Brene. Perfectionism is a shield that we carry with a thought process that says this, ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, and do it all perfectly, I can avoid or minimize feeling shame, blame, and judgement. All perfectionism is, is the 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping that it will keep us from being hurt.’
WE DISENGAGE AND PRETEND WE DON’T CARE
This is a lot of what being a teenager is about – that’s when we first become aware that people might not like the real us and we put on and armour of coolness, cynicism and we disengage. Many of us keep that up for a lot longer than our teens.
WE NUMB OUR FEELINGS
We eat so that we don’t feel so empty, we stay busy so that ‘the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us,’ we drink to stop ourselves thinking about how much we hate our job, we shop to distract ourselves, we have sex, take drugs, gamble…we do anything to avoid feeling what we don’t want to feel.
Brene says the trick is to understand that there’s a difference between doing things for pleasure and doing things to numb.
‘For me, sitting down to a wonderful meal is nourishment and pleasure, Eating while I’m standing, be it in front of the fridge or inside the pantry, is a red flag. Sitting down to watch one of my favourite shows on television is a pleasure. Flipping through channels for an hour is numbing.’
WHEN YOU NUMB THE BAD YOU ALSO NUMB THE GOOD
If we go through life trying to push down all the bad feelings, we can’t feel the good ones either. ‘Numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
SO WHAT’S THE ANTIDOTE?
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
First of all, feel your feelings and try to understand what’s going on. So am I sitting here necking wine and eating chocolate because I am cringing about the mess up I made at work today or because I’m so lonely and fed up of being single? Well, face up to that, as unbearable as it might seem. In self-help land most people will say that the more you resist and suppress and feeling the more it will persist. The only way to move forward is to really sit in the uncomfortable feeling, letting it wash over you. It will pass sooner than you think.
SHARE YOUR SHAME
Talk to somebody you trust. ‘If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive,’ says Brene.
But don’t ‘floodlight.’ This is when we over share with people we are not close to too quickly – which makes us feel even more shame.
‘Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.’
In her research Brene found that most men believe that women cannot cope with hearing them be vulnerable or showing any form of weakness. I guess keep this in mind if you have a husband/partner? Is that true? Any men reading, do you think that’s true?
THE ANTIDOTE TO SHAME IS FEELING ENOUGH
When we share our shame we find that it’s nowhere near as bad to other people as we think it is. They’ve been there too. Then you start to cultivate a feeling that you are good enough…
‘Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance,’ writes Brene.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
VULNERABILITY IS ABOUT ENGAGING, IT’S ABOUT BEING ALL IN
It’s also terrifying, no matter how happy with ourselves we might be.
“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace,’ says Brene.
‘When I asked people “What is vulnerability?” a large percentage of them used the example of “initiating sex with my wife” or “initiating sex with my husband.” Yet there can be no intimacy—emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy—without vulnerability. One of the reasons there is such an intimacy deficit today is because we don’t know how to be vulnerable. It’s about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need, and, asking for what we need. Vulnerability is a glue that holds intimate relationships together.’
DO IT NOW
“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead