Driving home from upstate last week, I plugged my new iPhone (I’ve finally joined the club) into my car speakers to listen to some podcasts to pass the time. One of my new favorite podcasts (I’m a little late to join the club) is Ted Talks. I’m down with listening to Ted Talks about anything; astrology, medicine, culture. I love it all. I’m hooked on innovative ideas. One particular Ted Talks hit me really hard. I was a little unprepared for the tears stinging my eyes driving down 1-87. You can watch it below. It is twenty minutes, so give yourself that time to commit to it. It is worth it.
While listening to the talk, led by Brene Brown, who studies shame and vulnerability for a living, I began to realize the ways in my own life that I strategically position myself to play small–in essence, to avoid humiliation. The fear of success is a very real and white-hot because the fear of failure on a grand scale can seem like the end, right? The higher the tower, the further the fall, the more devastating the humiliation. What Brown pointed out is that our vulnerability is not weakness. In actuality, “vulnerability is the greatest measure of courage.” According to Brown, it is actually our most powerful asset. As she says, “vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.”
I’ve begun to realize the fear of humiliation unconsciously governs my actions. What if I simply accepted humiliation as inevitable and embraced it rather than hiding from it? Because once I truly accept it as a fact of life, it can’t have the same power over me. What if failure was actually an accomplishment in and of itself? What if I accepted failure as a gift instead of a curse? As the renown playwright, Tennessee Williams once said “Life is surviving humiliation with grace.” This idea is so present in his characters. I love that. I have loved it from the moment I heard it. Yet, I can see the ways I try so hard to duck out of humiliation’s path and how this has prevented me from really going anywhere.
I thought about my belief systems. I thought about my acting career. I thought about my personal relationships and my health-coaching business. I thought about how these facets of my life are influenced by my fear of vulnerability. Because I hadn’t been acknowledging my fear, I couldn’t work through it. Putting myself out there as an actor, I have felt such a fervent need to save face, not to let anyone see me sweat or let them see that I am also vulnerable, that I waver at times, that I’m not bullet-proof. But in my efforts to hide my vulnerability, I had been sacrificing my authenticity as a human-being. I had been shielding and therefore hiding my whole self.
I’m realizing…it’s okay to put yourself out there when you’re not perfect, when you’re not polished, when you’re not the perfect package of a person. That is your beauty. That is where your ingenuity and individuality live. Your imperfection is your greatest asset. It’s okay to own your vulnerability. It’s okay to not know how things are going to turn out and it is okay to be scared. Does that mean you can sit in your vulnerability and use it as an excuse or as a barbed wire fence between you and your best life? No. It means you have to befriend it and use it to your advantage. In order to grow, it is imperative we recognize and question our fears and our belief systems, that we become intimately acquainted with our vulnerability.
In speaking with friends and with clients, I can see that I’m not alone. I can see the ways people try to gain a position of strength before embarking on their life. I hear so many people say, “When I’m more confident, I will switch jobs,” “After I take a few more classes, then I can actively look for an agent,” or “When I am in the right mindset, I will start dating or I will start being good to my body.” The thing is, so much life is wasted while you out-wait your “weaker” self. There is a difference between planning and putting a barrier between ourselves and our greatest wants. We can’t wait until we are bullet-proof. Because we never will be. And if we are, we will have lost our humanity and our individuality.
What does this all boil down to? Life starts now. Now. Today. In this moment. From your current state of vulnerability. That is where the potential lies. Not from tomorrow, or next week, or next year. The more vulnerability you have, the farther you can travel. It’s okay to be where you are. It’s okay to be afraid but you must shake hands with your fear. Recognize your fear in the room, so you can redefine the relationship on your terms. If you wait to be perfect before you pursue your desired life, it will never happen. Accept humiliation as inevitable, and laugh at it. What are you going to do? You will fail. You will feel the hot flush of humiliation. Then you will grow. You will thrive. You will be courageous, and your vulnerability will have become your strength.
Rock On and Be Well,