On the Corner of Vulnerability and Shame

Thursday, June 13, 2013


During the wee hours of the morning while I am working,  I try to use my time in useful ways. Like watching videos or reading trashy chick Lit. In the course of working this new shift (just a little over a month) I have prepared two Relief Society lessons,  read four books and watched an entire season of Breaking Bad.

Yeah I know.

I've already seen all of the seasons of Breaking Bad.

Don't judge me.

However, this past week I have been watching Ted Talks in the morning while I "work".

My sister told me about Brene Brown several months ago. She has done extensive research into vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. As my sister talked to me about this woman and her ideas it felt like a whole new world was opening up to me. Feelings that I would have when I interacted with various people started to make sense and my world was being rocked. In a good way.

 I needed to mull over the things she would tell me, and digest them little by little. I would go back and ask my sister more questions and she would encourage me to watch the videos and read her book. I'm not sure why it took me so long to actually sit down and watch them... probably because I had to actually sit down and watch them. And that takes time. And I had more pressing things to do, like read trashy chick lit and watch Breaking Bad.

Whatever. Don't Judge.

Yet, as I watched her first Ted Talk (the one above) I was floored. I kept having to pick my jaw up off the floor. It made so much sense. I was energized with the idea that something as simple as being willing to be vulnerable could, in fact, be the birth place to creativity, innovation and change.

 I have struggled because it feels like my creativity has become stagnant, stuck, dead, dried up in the water, gone, gone baby GONE.

I miss her. My creative side. And, for the life of me I haven't been able to figure out where she has been hiding; However, as I watched the video I started to understand where she had been.

The ideas she teaches are fantastic and frankly Mind Blowing.


What really rocked my world and has had me thinking non-stop about how I parent and interact with others is the second video she did on Shame.

Shame.

It's such a dirty little word.

Shame.

It has a tendency to rule our lives, mixed in with a heavy helping of Guilt and Fear of Failing.

Fear of failing is very real thing and it can be paralyzing. I see it in my daughter who just graduated. She has been so worried about making the right choice, and then succeeding in that choice that she has failed to make any choice. The world views failure through the lens of  shame, but in reality its not a bad thing to fail. Failing is good. It means you tried. It means you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and open. Some of the most successful people have failed. And failed big. But they didn't view that failure through the lens of shame. They viewed it through the lens of courage. 

According to Brene Brown, shame  is an epidemic in our culture. We embrace it and proudly wear it like a medal of honor. And it is killing us all slowly.  Killing relationships. Killing creativity. Killing potential. Killing testimonies. Killing personal self worth. Killing people.

"Empathy is the antidote to shame.  If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially: Secrecy, Silence and Judgement.  If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and dose it with empathy it cannot survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle is "me too."
 I know, right?

I heard it. That was your mind blowing, too, wasn't it? 

How many times do we not tell people how we are really feeling because we are worried we will be judged? How many times when asked how we're doing, reply "I'm Ok." when in reality we feel like we're drowning? How many times do we shut down the vulnerable side of us and listen to our critics -- the worst one being yourself -- and embrace the words we are hearing in our head: who do you think you are? you're not good enough, you're not important, you're not smart enough, you can't do that, you're a loser and a failure? 

By doing all that we are flaming the shame, allowing it to grow, take control of our lives, rule us and ruin us.

"The two most powerful words when we struggle are 'me too' " and by using those two little words, we take away the opportunity for shame to take root and grow. If we are going to find our way back to each other as a society vulnerability is the path. Its seductive to sit on the sideline, planning furiously how we will succeed. How we will accomplish our life goals, but not actually taking the plunge until "I'm ready." Or "financially secure." Or "have more money." Or whatever the excuse may be.

It's easier to let the shame wash over us and tell us we aren't "enough."

Telling people how you feel, or that you are struggling or that you need help isn't a sign of weakness but the most accurate measurement of courage.

Let me repeat that: Vulnerability is not a weakness, but the most accurate measurement of courage. 

Courage people.

Being vulnerable and open with others means you have Courage. With a capital C.

All I want for the people I love is for them to dare greatly. To look that critic in the eye  -- who is usually staring us back from the mirror-- and respond with "Who do I think I am? I am me and I am awesome. I can accomplish whatever I can dream."

Because they can. And so can you.

Watch the videos. I promise it will be the best forty minutes you will spend all week.

Even better than an episode of Breaking Bad.

Pinky Swear.


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1 monkeys jumping on the bed:

  1. Lisa said...

    This is actually mind blowing...I think...when I'm not sitting at work, I may actually listen to one of the videos.

    Sometimes when I feel like I am in a creative slump, though, I realize I just need to go out and do some living to feed my creativity.