The gift of going first

The need for vulnerability

Image: Arts Journal

I read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown at the end of last year and highly recommend it. It’s loaded with insight and wisdom. In it, Brown argues that having the courage to be vulnerable transforms every aspect of our lives.

Unfortunately, vulnerability is one of those words we rarely have positive associations with. When we hear the word it is easy to assume we’re talking about weakness.

But, according to Brown:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

In other words, if we want to live a full, rich life, vulnerability is essential to that happening.

Vulnerability isn’t easy though. Particularly if we’re convinced we are alone in what or how we’re thinking and feeling. And that’s what holds us back from being vulnerable, isn’t it? We’re afraid. Or ashamed.

What if I’m vulnerable about something personal my life and I just get mocked or abused?

What if it’s just me?

But it never is.

I’m not the most open person in the world, particularly in person. I can struggle to share openly the extent of what I’m feeling or some issue I’m wrestling with. Every time I do though – and writing has actually become a helpful outlet for me to do this – it immediately ends up resonating with someone else.

What I’ve learnt is that having the courage to be open and vulnerable is always a gift to others around me. Instead of shame resulting, the responses are nearly always along the lines of, ‘Thank God, it’s not just me’.

As well as all the benefits of vulnerability for my own life, vulnerability is a gift to others. It legitimises their own feelings, struggles, and fears.

We’ve all been there. If you’re a parent like me, we’ve all worried that’s it’s only us who loses it with our kids sometimes. But then someone goes on Facebook and instead of posting a happy, smiley face of their perfect children, they admit to how their kids drove them potty that day.

And we all let out a colective sigh of relief. It’s okay. Well, maybe not okay…but it’s normal. It’s okay to not be the perfect parent. For a few moments we are able to let down our guard and stop pretending.

That’s why I am determined to keep seeking to be as vulnerable as I dare through what I write and share with others.

This isn’t about sharing anything and everything without any boundaries. (There is a definite need for wisdom in when we are vulnerable and who with.) But I want to be someone who gives others the gift of going first.

If my vulnerability can make it easier for others to embrace the life-giving benefits of vulnerability for themselves in ways they might not otherwise, it is more than worth it.

If by being vulnerable, someone else is able to feel less despondent about their own struggle with some aspect of life, then that’s a price more than worth paying.

If sharing opening and honestly about my life can help people break free from needless guilt and shame, then that’s something I want to do.

I want to throw out a challenge though too. Why don’t we all seek to be those who go first and don’t shy away from vulnerability? Why don’t we all give one another the gift of going first by being open and honest about our lives – the good and the bad?

It’s so easy to paint false pictures of our lives to those around us. Social media makes this possible in whole new ways. But what we would all benefit from is a little more truth to what we share. Our collective well-being as human beings would be dramatically improved if we all stopped trying to portray a picture-perfect view of our lives.

So, here’s to being more vulnerable. I’m going to try to do my part—how about you?

Success is never as simple as it seems

Endless improvement