A Gift from an Amazing Researcher: Vulnerability and Shame as Tools for Growth

GraffitiIf you’re a woman over 40, I’m willing to bet you’re intimately familiar with vulnerability and shame and you don’t like how they feel. You may hate them and you may even try to hide from them. For me, even looking over my shoulder to catch a glimpse can seem  too frightening.

I’ve been facing a lot of my feelings of shame of late and whoa, is it ever painful! My childhood and young adulthood were extremely challenging and I learned ways to function that were completely inappropriate. Looking back, I feel shame at some of my own actions. I also feel a much deeper shame for things that were done to me by people who should have been watching out for me. By facing it and staring it down, I’m making major progress in releasing it little by little.

If my story sounds familiar and rings true for you in even a small way, please take some time to listen to the TED talks by Brene Brown. Seriously, take some time NOW and go watch them. My favorite is about Listening to Shame and it’s so compelling that I wish it was a requirement for women everywhere. (And – BONUS – it’s totally entertaining.)

One of Brown’s main points is that vulnerability is actually courage in action. It’s not weakness and “it fuels our daily lives.” She states that to let ourselves be vulnerable is a gift to ourselves and others.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” she says. Describing herself as a vulnerability researcher (who focuses primarily on women), Brown is also well-versed on the topic of shame. Both shame and vulnerability can be catalysts for growth. In order to innovate and solve problems, you have to be willing to face failure, which is often the basis of shame. Shame tells you “you’re not good enough” and asks you “who do you think you are?” Facing it and admitting your failure requires vulnerability and allows others to say, “me, too.”

Brown describes out the “warm wash of shame” that is familiar to so many women. Our culture creates expectations for women that we can never meet, causing us to feel shame and separate from others and potentially never reach for what we really want. The good news? When we face shame and vulnerability, we can “dare greatly” and accomplish much.

My favorite quote from her talk is this one:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

What about you? Have you faced shame and vulnerability and come out stronger, more peaceful and happier on the other side? Tell me about it!

photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc