I recently got a chance to watch a TED Talk about the power of vulnerability by Brene Brown, currently a PhD research at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. I found her TED Talk quite interesting, and the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize how applicable Mrs. Brown's research into vulnerability was to us anxious folk. So many of our anxieties orbit around the idea that if we can't do something we are not good enough; so I would strongly suspect that those of us who struggle or have struggled with anxiety are more likely to struggle with issues of vulnerability and self-worth. For that reason, I highly recommend a quick watch of this 20-minute TED Talk.
I won't spoil your viewing by outlining the entire presentation, but I will say that I agree with Mrs. Brown that while vulnerability can be excruciating and lies at the core of shame and fear and feels of being worthless, it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love (for others and for ourselves). As a society we try very hard to avoid vulnerability by numbing ourselves to it (e.g. debt, obesity, over-medication, addiction), by painting the world in black and white (e.g. increasingly partisan religion and politics) , by trying to perfect ourselves and the world around us (e.g. plastic surgery, pushing kids too hard), and by pretending that what we do doesn't affect other people (e.g. trolling, bailouts, recalls). And then of course we feel bad for doing these things and we want to numb that too.
So perhaps as a society we are not very good at being vulnerable right now, and yet without being vulnerable we cannot get the most out of our professional and personal relationships and we cannot by truly happy with ourselves. Mrs. Brown offers a few pieces of advice to achieve peace with being vulnerable:
- Let ourselves be seen for who we are - don't try to be something you are not.
- Love with our whole hearts even though there's no guarantee that love will be returned.
- Practice gratitude and joy even during moments of fear.
- Believe we are enough.
- Stop screaming; start listening.
- Be kinder to others and to ourselves.
According to Mrs. Brown, if we can do those things, we can harness the power of vulnerability. I believe that to be particularly true for us anxious folks and I urge anyone to take 20 minutes and watch this TED Talk.