No matter whom you talk to, one of our greatest fears in life has always been failure. For years, we’ve heard inspirational words of wisdom about what is and what isn’t considered failure. But throughout the years and from a personal aspect, it has always seemed to be a formative experience. Because truth be told, we will all fail at one point or another in our life and it might be one of the scariest things we’ve ever experienced.
Like the icing on a cake, failing gives success great substance and significance—makings that help us to understand our identity and ability. While many might attribute such a feat to being courageous and having a brave heart, there’s also another aspect that many overlook partially because it can be painful.
Scholar, public speaker, and author of Rising Strong, Brené Brown believes being vulnerable can make our life so much better. In an interview with Forbes, Brown says that vulnerability is an emotional exposure stemmed in uncertainty and risk. Being vulnerable and sharing that deepest part of you with the world or another person can be excruciating. In so many ways, it seems like it can set you up to fail when you open up that part of yourself.
In Brown’s book, the physics of vulnerability are simple. If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall but it is in how we get up that gives us the strength to understand ourselves. Brown goes on to share through essays and nuggets of wisdom that whatever disappointment, failure, or heartbreak we experience, there is a power in each of these elements that sets a clear path to deeper meaning, perception and hope.
Earlier this year, I received a letter from someone I love, but who broke my heart. Over and over. While I wasn’t sure at first of their identity while reading the letter, it was soon after I realized it was him and what this letter really meant.
That said, life is what it is and the relationships we each form are of meaning no matter what we think. So many of us pretend that we don’t have an effect on people, but we do. We often pretend the choices we make or the things we say don’t have a huge impact on other people, but we are all just ripples in this giant pool we call life.
That night as I drove home, I thought back to Brown—the courageous, vulnerability and self-worth expert. I had been first introduced to her several years ago after she did a TED talk on vulnerability and it blew me away. It was then I knew no matter the relationship, exposing a part of myself to a loved one was the way to feel a deeper connection.
In her talk, Brown said the one variable that separated people who have a strong sense of love and belonging versus the people who struggle for it, was that the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of it. But the ones who struggle in their relationships, the ones who cannot connect with their partner or spouse, they constantly feel they’re not worthy of receiving love or belonging both personally and professionally. It produces the notion of those who settle and those who are afraid to connect. After discovering a partner’s shortcomings, they become rug sweepers and settle because living vulnerably means getting hurt—or recognizing the truth for what it is.
It’s no secret we have been raised in a society that rarely focuses on vulnerability and its budding promise that has the ability to feed our soul and relationships. But it’s important to realize that vulnerability is a bigger part of our identity and shouldn’t be a dreaded anxiety we deal with on a daily basis. In fact, we should be able to recognize it as an instrument in helping us reach our full potential.
As Brown says, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen.” Yet the paradox is that many of us are terrified about what people might see or think of us. We let our fears permeate through our decisions and in turn, let it frighten us from making changes and moving on. When we let that happen, we end up burying our worth instead of letting it be the best part of us.
Being vulnerable and being seen as vulnerable, is not easy. Loving with our whole hearts isn’t easy either. It’s incredibly difficult. But you find your real purpose and everything you want in this life only if you’re vulnerable. Falling down and screwing up helps you feel alive and know what you want most. While some of us choose to live with one foot on water and the other on land, being brave and rising above the comfort lets you see and experience what’s important in life.
Being vulnerable brings the right people in your life
When we can be vulnerable, we have a better chance of understanding those we can relate to best. Letting your guard down not only creates an opportunity for expanding compassion but it helps to strengthen relationships, especially friendships, which means you attract the right kind of people in your life.
This doesn’t mean share your life with everyone you come across. In fact, it’s quite the contrary because instead, you evaluate your relationships to help you realize which ones are the best ones for you. Love everyone you come across, but put your faith, truth and trust in real friends you can surely count on. Barriers that protect us from getting hurt don’t help a relationship in any form.
You humanize yourself
If we look at our vulnerability as an asset, it can become our greatest measure of courage. When we are vulnerable with others, we are much more approachable. In turn, we are regarded as kind, considerate and selfless. Of course, this goes without saying that finding courage to be that open and generous is hard but it’s the best way to encourage self-awareness and social acceptance. We are all human and make mistakes but if we are open, it means we are accepting of all our flaws.
That said, one man’s flaw is another man’s strength, so think back to your circle of friends, your partner, your family and know that only you can understand yourself. As Brown says in her book, “Generosity is not a free pass for people to take advantage of us, treat us unfairly, or be purposefully disrespectful and mean.” The best way to be vulnerable is to be mindful and cultivate relationships with those you can trust. After all, constructive changes never come from a space of self-loathing, nor a place of criticism and contempt.
Greater empathy for others
Living in a nanosecond world with information easily accessible at our fingertips creates a sort of distance between sociability and Maslow’s modern man. Yet as it goes, when people talk to you, listen to them completely. Nowadays, most people never listen. When we are vulnerable and lend an ear to others, we develop a greater perception of the world and an unparalleled empathy. We are so caught up in our own lives that we often forget the world doesn’t revolve around our needs, feelings or thoughts. We end up stomping over others in hopes to get our way, but there is a great big world outside your peripheral view.
While it’s rather easy to be angry when things don’t go our way in life whether it be about work or a relationship, it’s important to bare our soul a bit and demonstrate compassion for the struggles of another person. You never know what someone is going through and by listening, being a helping hand or just trying to put yourself in their shoes, you’re able to have a greater awareness of the world and the relationships we forge. As it might be known in life, the most beautiful and kind people we come across are those that have known defeat, suffering, struggle, and loss. Moreover, with such valiance, they have found their way out of a dark abyss that knows heartbreak and pain. Incidentally, these types of individuals who have exhibited vulnerability have a greater appreciation, sensitivity and understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and genuine concern.