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I’m Terrible at Headlines. Vulnerability.

Vulnerability memeI find myself totally avoiding writing about my topic by doing endless google search after google search. I started this day out like most days, writing my morning pages, drinking my cup of coffee. As I write, I generally tend to ask myself questions, and today I asked what I should write about in my daily offering. What came up was vulnerability as it relates to surrender.

For me, vulnerability meant weakness for a long time, and on some level I still struggle with it. And I think that more than likely hits home for a lot of people – sharing your most intimate thoughts and insecurities and deeds, the ones that bring you shame, with another person? Hell no. Why on earth would you do that? Those of us who have emotionally evolved at all know we’re better at it than we used to be, but there’s still that limit, that place we’re not willing to go. Even with ourselves.

Vulnerability only became real for me when I was at the end of my rope after my mother died. Disconnected from the world (or so I felt), I dated a man for a short time, and he introduced me to a group of people who were so in touch with their feelings it was weird. Hugs all the time. ALL the time. And the sharing they would do, the things they would say to each other. It wasn’t something I’d ever experienced before. For the first time, I saw that my previous relationships had been places to play out patterns and expectations, not to share my authentic self with other people. My previous relationships had been rather cold in comparison.

Why is vulnerability so hard? Because of it’s counterpart, shame. As researcher Brené Brown put it:

If vulnerability is the willingness to show up and let ourselves be seen, shame gets in the way. How can we be authentically known when we are paralyzed with fear about what people might see?

Shame and vulnerability go hand in hand. Brown teaches that we are born with the hardwiring for connection, but we are taught shame. It’s used as a tool in parenting, it’s used as a tool for social control. Shame is used in classrooms, synagogues, churches, mosques.

Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. And when you start naming [the cause of your shame] and talking about it with people who have earned the right to hear these stories in your life, it dissipates, because shame only works when it keeps you in this false belief that you are alone. The good news is that the men and women I have interviewed who have high levels of shame resilience share things in common that we can all learn from.

This blog is a perfect example. This is extremely vulnerable to me, and there’s a level of shame underneath it. I find myself judging it again and again; I can’t tell you the number of times just in the last five days I’ve questioned whether this is stupid or bad, or cheesy, or [insert any negative adjective that comes to mind here]. I mean, am I even making any sense? Will anyone know what this is about?

There’s a lot of intellectual shame around it. I’m still not comfortable saying that my spirituality is important to me. So important, in fact, that it is really the only part of my life that I find fulfilling. I’m still not comfortable saying my goal is self-realization. As someone who used to call herself an atheist, and who used “being smart” as part of her identity since she was a child, how can one say they believe in something which requires total faith, with little to no evidence (which of course is a matter of how you look at it, but still). How do you share parts of yourself with the world that feel raw, childlike, and fragile? Indefensible?

So I’m leaving [you, me, us, we] with this question: how do you fully surrender to something you feel vulnerable admitting you have faith in?


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