On Vulnerability

You haven’t read Brene Brown?”

This was the shocked question I was met with over lunch this week when I told a friend what I was reading. A fellow writer and the most avid reader I know, he is the ultimate guru of good books. And he was stunned when I told him that Daring Greatly is the first of writer Brene Brown’s many books that I’ve tackled. 

If you don’t know who Brene Brown is, you can check her out here. She’s smart, witty, and insightful and for several years now people have been talking all about her books. Admittedly, I have not been one of those people. Something in me tends to lean more toward fiction in my reading choices. I also tend to lean away from things that are super popular. It’s the inner skeptic in me, I guess. 

But when my sweet friend Blake sent me Brown’s book last week, I was intrigued. Blake is the kind of friend who encourages me in so many ways so when she texted me about the things she was learning from Daring Greatly and told me she’d ordered me a copy, I knew it would probably challenge me in the same ways. And when I was met with my friend’s shocked response at my lack of knowledge of Brown’s books, I knew it was officially time to jump on the train.

I got in bed last night to do a little reading and opened my copy of Daring Greatly. And within the first few pages, I was taken immediately in when I read this:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity… To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation—that’s also vulnerability. 

If this isn’t the struggle of my life right now summed up in a few sentences, I don’t know what is! It’s the struggle of this blog really. Truth be told, I’ve grappled with the idea of having a blog for years now. And even though I finally am writing it on the regular, I still struggle to make it happen every single week. 

I could tell myself it’s about time—that I don’t have enough of it to write each week. Or I could say it’s about inspiration—that I struggle to write because I just haven’t found the right inspiration yet. I could tell myself it’s about finances—that I have to give my writing energy to work that’s paying me. And some weeks, it is about those things. 

But if I’m being honest, more often than not, it’s the idea of having to be vulnerable that stops me. It’s the idea that people will see me. It’s that they’ll actually read what I write more so than not. It’s the idea that I have to peel back even just one small layer of curtain in my life and write about it. It’s the idea of talking about it on the Internet (ugh!). It’s that people might know if I somehow fail.

I wrestle with that vulnerability every single time I sit down to write and even more when I sit down to actually post what I’ve written. It feels like a one woman wrestling match every single week. 

I was sharing this with a friend a few weeks ago and she asked me this: “Well, if it’s really that frustrating for you, why are you doing it then? Beyond just meeting a goal, if it’s really that hard for you, why do you keep doing it?”

I could answer her immediately: It’s about connection.

That’s what life is truly about for me—relationships with other people. I’m the most extroverted extrovert you’ll probably ever meet. There’s nothing that brings me greater joy than real, deep friendship. Connecting with other people leaves me energized. Learning from my differences with other people, finding a point of commonality with others, talking about their perspectives and experiences, walking alongside them in their own vulnerable moments, having fun with the people around me, doing life with other people—that is what I really love. 

I do that in my home with my roommates. I do it in my small group on Tuesday nights. I do it when I meet with students. I do it when I talk to my girlfriends (typically over chips and queso and margaritas, of course!). And maybe, just maybe, I do it with this blog. I do it with people I know and people I don’t know, with people I may never know. 

One of the companies I write for does a lot of studies on what the students they’re writing for are dealing with in each phase of their lives. And one word that’s come up a lot in those studies is disconnection. People are dealing with the weight of being disconnected from each other all the time. They’re facing the danger that comes with disconnection. Studies are showing over and over again that so many of life’s greatest hurts are rooted in disconnection. 

If what Brene Brown’s book says is true, then disconnection happens when vulnerability stops. So one of the answers to stopping some of the hurts so many of us are dealing with in life—the pain of disconnection—is vulnerability. 

I don’t want to be disconnected. That’s one of my worst fears! But if connection is what I want from my life, then I have to be vulnerable. As annoying and awkward and frustrating as it may be at times, I have to be real. I have to show up and allow myself to be seen and heard and known.  I have to open up in, over and over again, in order to connect.

Even if it means people will know things about me. Even if it means I have to talk about or draw attention to myself. Even if it means asking for help. Even if it means failing in front of others. Even if it means succeeding. 

I have to be vulnerable if I want to connect. 

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to ever become a place where I verbally vomit all of my deepest and darkest secrets. I think we can all agree that’s not very much fun for anyone to read! But it is going to be a place where I continue to strive for connection. It’s a place where I’m going to fight the good fight for vulnerability. 

Because if even just one person connects, then I’d say it’s a win. And who couldn't use a win every once in awhile?

Sara Shelton