“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” –Dr. Brené Brown.
A decade into researching, writing, and teaching about the power of vulnerability, professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work Dr. Brené Brown has been studying human connections, the need for such connections, and how they can be achieved. She notes that a happy, wholehearted individual actually finds courage in accepting their imperfections. This allows them to not only tackle their issues head-on, but also to empathize with others by admitting that we all struggle with our own flaws and problems. This helps us forge connections with other people, and shapes us into more empathetic individuals.
Vulnerability is Dr. Brown’s answer to combat fear, shame, and disconnection. She points out that we are more likely to waste time combing over what’s lacking in ourselves and in our lives than strive to achieve what we really want. In the process, we push ourselves into the abyss of isolation while forgetting that many are going through the same troubles that we are. We often put on armor – a facade of strength – that we think will protect us from the cruel world, but instead it perpetuates the emotional distance between us.
On top of that, socializing has become generic and rushed so that we never have to peer inside another’s inner world. A related study by social psychologist Paul Piff also found that as monetary wealth and social standing increase, arrogance and self-interest replace vulnerability and empathy. We forget that “empathy fuels connection,” Dr. Brown explains, while “sympathy drives disconnection.” Feeling sorry for someone only puts more hierarchical distance between you. But what if we instead accept and disclose our own vulnerabilities? Consider the global implications of how much more connected, courageous, and free we could all feel by opening windows of communication with others through trust and truth.
Start somewhere, anywhere, and don’t give up.