I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability over the last year. As I’ve dug deeper into storytelling and social issues affecting us as humanity, I’ve realized vulnerability is at the heart of it all! Often, difficult social issues cause us to be in a position of vulnerability (usually not by choice), and telling our personal stories or sharing our lives with others often requires us to be vulnerable. In storytelling, however, the level of vulnerability can and should be a choice!
So, how do we evaluate what we choose to share with others and what to keep private?
It’s a difficult question, because often when we’re in a place of what feels vulnerable, it’s tough to be vulnerable.
Yet, vulnerability is so integral to connection. Being vulnerable allows us to open up, share a part of ourselves, and embrace the difficulties and joys of being human! BTW - It’s integral to good storytelling too. 😉
As I’ve been studying vulnerability, one of my absolute favorite resources is Dr. Brené Brown’s publication, The Power of Vulnerability. She highlights that “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” She helps us understand that we can ultimately find more connection, meaning, and purpose in our lives when we stop protecting ourselves from feeling vulnerable and instead lean into it!
Those who know me well, know that I share just about anything in person - sad, silly, crazy, and everything else in-between! But, when it comes to my professional side, I’m more guarded…I’ve pondered this a lot and I’ve uncovered that the same “me” shows through in either circumstance, but the professional “me” is more polished. Is this a good thing? Maybe!
As I’ve dug into the power of vulnerability, I’ve understood with more clarity that rather than evaluating vulnerability at such a high level of good and bad, it’s important to instead evaluate vulnerability according to each situation and the overall type of person I want to be. Sometimes that might mean being more guarded or polished during a professional conversation, because doing so at that particular time is in alignment with my values and beliefs. Yet it might also mean sharing more than I was prepared to share during a dinner out with a friend, because that’s where the conversation lead, and leaning-in felt in alignment with my values and the type of friend I want to be. The level of vulnerability is circumstantial, yet it’s all still an accurate representation of me!
My ever-constant goal is to actively work to bring polarizing situations such as these closer together - to show up in a way that is consistent with my underlying values and the type of person I want to be! (That sounds a lot like authenticity doesn’t it? I love how they’re related!)
So, how do we evaluate what we choose to share with others and what to keep private in any given situation?
Here are 5 sets of questions I ask myself regularly:
- Am I holding back on sharing something vulnerable because I don’t like the feelings it stirs up in me? Or, am I holding back because sharing won’t really help the situation, and could make it worse?
2. Would holding back from sharing actually be in-authentic to who I am and be detrimental to the situation? (If so, I almost always share, even if it’s hard.)
3. Will sharing this part of me help someone else in some way?
4. Do I feel ready to share? Would it be a good idea to get permission from anyone else first, if it involves them too?
5. What level of detail do I need to share in order to get my message across and connect with others on a deeper level?
As Dr. Brené Brown puts it, “Show up and let yourself be seen”!
When we bring ourselves into the light, darkness scurries away and we’re left with more love, joy, connection, meaning, and purpose!
Want to listen to Dr. Brené Brown’s teachings yourself? The Power of Vulnerability audiobook is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It’s so good, I’m already listening to it again + taking notes! If you’re human, this book will uncover things you didn’t know about yourself and the world around you! It’ll impact your relationships and help you continue to grow into the person you want to be. It’s simply an incredible resource.
Check-out a list of other related resources here too!
Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” - Brene Brown
Remember, Press into the dark to find the light. After all, light always wins, if we let it.