Vulnerability: The Key to Self Worth?

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Remember the dreams where you were standing naked in front of a crowd?  That’s how I felt when I published Happily Ever Now. It was like I was running around town naked. I have just finished reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Brené is a shame researcher who talks about vulnerability.

If you look at the picture on the cover of my book, the girl has come out of the castle, taken off half of her armour, and laid down her weapons.  Does this feel risky? Of course! There are times that I still pick up my armour to keep myself safe.

The key points I took from Daring Greatly are:

1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Waiting until you or the project is perfect will likely mean that what you want to do won’t ever get done. My book is the perfect example. There are editing and spelling errors, despite my having paid for professional editing, and having other people read it over. It is not perfect, but there came a time I realized that it was never going to be perfect, no matter how many times I went over the content, edited, and revised it. Perfectionism is one of my key vulnerability defences.

2. When we feel vulnerable we either retreat/shut down or attack. Both of these defences can lead to lost opportunities.  It is most often the fear of being humiliated that we are trying to avoid.  Can you recall your first experience with humiliation? I can.

3. Uncertainty breeds vulnerability. I can recall the conversation I was having with myself as I drove to the rink for my first practice with a AA woman’s hockey team. Would they like me? Would I be good enough? Would I be accepted? I could have made myself sick to avoid going.

4. Connection is what we desire.  Being able to connect with other people is what I enjoy the most about my work. It is the reason that I set up the clinic to have 30-minute, one-to-one appointment times. Do you feel worthy of love and connection? Try the mirror work on this one. Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of love and connection.” See how it feels in your body. Does it feel like you are speaking the truth or does it feel like you are lying to yourself?  If it feels like you are lying, then your homework is to tell yourself this daily until it feels like the truth.

5. Belonging versus fitting in: there is a difference. We all want to have a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. We can get this from our family unit, place of employment, or other social groups. When I have a sense of belonging, I get to show up as my true authentic self and am accepted for who I am.  When I feel like I have to fit in, is when I feel like I have to portray the person that everyone else thinks I should be. This can happen in the same settings as belonging can happen. If we want to be accepted for who we truly are, then we need to allow others to show up as who they truly are.

What other people think of me is none of my business." - Wayne Dyer

6. Being, rather than knowing, is what matters most. Two famous sayings come to mind here: “actions speak louder than words” and “be the change you want to see”. Being who we are does require knowing who we are, but it is the inner knowledge that matters here, not the outer knowledge.

7. Look at the behaviour, not the person.  There is a difference between telling someone they are a mess (attacking the person) and that they are making a mess (the behaviour). The actions are good or bad, not the person. We so often base reward on being good. It is no wonder we come to attach our self worth as a person to being able to please others. I know as I have the “good-girl syndrome”.

8. Finding the vulnerability in the actions of another. If you find yourself labelling another person a spoiled brat, narcissistic, self-centred, try to think about what fear the other person might be feeling. Is it a fear of being ordinary? The fear of being alone? The fear of not belonging or of not being accepted? A fear of getting hurt? We all have our inner fears and we all have behaviours we utilize to protect ourselves from feelings of vulnerability. I know many of my behaviours and choices have come from the fear of being along and of wanting to belong.

9. Vulnerability is not weakness. It is courageous for it involves showing up despite your fears. This makes me think about how it feels to ask someone out on a date. What if they say no? Fear of rejection might keep you from asking and you would never know.  Though what if they say yes?  How great would that be? It is true you never know until you ask. How do we keep the no from feeling like rejection? Maybe we don’t. It doesn’t have to be taken to mean we are not worthy or good enough though. Be aware of how we feel, by writing in a journal, meditating, talking with someone you trust about how you feel.  If it feels like personal rejection, use it as an opportunity to realize there is still more work to do in the self-worth department.

10. When vulnerable, do it with someone you trust. You don’t have to bare your soul to the world. I have a few really good friends with whom I am able to share my innermost fears.  Talking with them, I can sort through my feelings and emotions and often make more sense of them.  Yes, I shared a great deal about me in my book, but it was all the stuff that I had already sorted through and made sense of.  Journalling also helps me make sense of my feelings and emotions.

Learn more about Brené Brown.