Brené Brown, an academic researcher, was going to spend a year “deconstructing” shame, fear, and vulnerability. It turned into six years and a life-changing revelation.
She interviewed thousands of people and found they could be divided into those with a sense of love and belonging and those who wished they felt that sense. The former group held certain surprising things in common:
- they had the courage to be imperfect
- they were kind to themselves first and then to others
- they felt connection with others because they claimed their own authenticity (they did not cling to who they thought they should be, but who they were)
- they embraced vulnerability.
Shame or fear of disconnection—the things no one wants to talk about, the feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unworthy”—are what keep us wishing we felt love and belonging. It’s not easy to admit, but I spent a good deal of my life living in fear of being hurt, disappointed, or left out. I ran from these feelings, always covering them up, trying to prove I knew something about everything even when I didn’t have a clue, just to make myself seem “worthy” of a friendship.
Since my early adolescence, I never felt I could trust anyone. Not friends, not family, not anyone. I felt that no one understood me. At some point I just couldn’t stand living that way. It left me feeling drained and self-absorbed. And I got hurt anyway, of course.
What makes us feel we belong is taking the plunge! Embracing our vulnerability. Understanding that there are no guarantees in life. Saying “I love you” first. Life is too short to hold back on telling people what you feel. Don’t wait for them to go first! If they don’t return the feeling, no big deal—they’re taking care of themselves in the way they need to. (Although I admit that I wrote my first love note to a boy when I was 12, and the feeling was not mutual! The pain of a 12-year-old spurned in love is immense, but I got over it.) Now I find that when I take that first step and tell someone I love them, the odds are in my favor. I’d rather take that chance and experience the connection to another than not even try. It’s far worse to live in an isolated, fearful world. Believe me, I know.
Although I’m not a researcher, as Brené Brown is, I’m always curious about healing information that leads me to the self-awareness I need to understand, accept, and/or let go. It took me a long time on my journey to get here, but I now live wholeheartedly in my rewired state.
Watch this moving and very funny talk and let me know if you rewired your thoughts on vulnerability.
Note: If you have problems viewing the embedded video above, click here to access it directly from the TED Talks website.