The author whose writing has most inspired me and changed me in this past year is Brené Brown. Brené Brown (Ph.D., LMSW) is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. Her areas of research include shame and vulnerability. Yes, I did say she was inspiring. Really!
My first exposure to Brené Brown was in watching her TED Talk on vulnerability. Vulnerability was not a new concept for me. For the past 10 years, my teacher and mentor James Jordan at Westminster Choir College has insisted that choral conductors and all creative artists needed to be vulnerable in order to offer pure and beautiful creations that move people and connect people.
What is vulnerability? It’s kind of like emotional nakedness. It’s being open. Vulnerability is allowing ourselves to be seen…as we are. Vulnerability is letting go of trying to control how others see us. It is showing up and being real…allowing ourselves to be exposed in all of our perfection and imperfection…embracing humanness. Vulnerability is taking risks…saying “I love you” first, letting others see us cry, saying “I don’t know,” and “I’m scared.” Vulnerability is letting others see how excited we are about an opportunity…with the recognition that we might not get the job or we might not be the one selected after the audition, or that special person might turn us down for a date. So many times, we choose to avoid vulnerability by “playing it cool” and acting as if it’s not a big deal…pretending it doesn’t really matter if we get the job/get role we auditioned for/get to go on a date with that special someone.
To be vulnerable is to be brave. We take a risk when we expose ourselves to others. There is a very real chance that we will be judged, ridiculed, hurt… Brené acknowledges that being vulnerable takes courage, and we will sometimes experience rejection and hurt. Yet, it is worth the price, because it is actually more painful to stand outside of our own lives and look in, wanting to engage and participate wholeheartedly…but to hold back, protecting ourselves from the potential dangers we might encounter if we let others see us. I know: I have often stood back and not fully engaged with others, not speaking up when I had something to say, not saying how I really felt because I feared others would judge me, not stepping up and taking a leadership role because I still had work to do on myself to become “good enough,” not letting others see how much I care on account of fear that I would be judged as “too sensitive.” The list goes on.
I have now decided: I would rather go home and feel the painful feelings that follow harsh judgment by a friend, audience member, critic, family member, or stranger after I have lived authentically and lifted my voice, living out loud…than go home and feel the painful feelings that arise from knowing that I didn’t put myself out there…that I stood in the background and didn’t bring all of me to the world. I choose to dare greatly. I know I will have to be brave.
How have you dared greatly in your life? How do you plan to be brave in your days ahead?