A Reluctant Look at Vulnerability

I didn’t want to like the book, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. I’ve had my fill of self-help, personal transformation, and pop psychology books. As someone who yearns to understand the deeper meaning of my circumstances – and grow from them – I have devoured book after book on life’s complex issues.

I read books to make sense of my wavering depression. I read books to gain wisdom in mothering my four boys. I read books to grow deeper in my spiritual journey. When I found myself in need of recovery, I read books to guide me back to good health. When I entered the dark days of divorce, I read books to help heal my broken heart. When my dad’s doctor told him chemo was no longer working, I read books to comfort me in my grief.


After a while, I needed a break from all of that self-discovery and personal renovation. I needed to live life without trying so damn hard. And so it was by happenstance that Glennon Doyle’s book, Love Warrior, moved its way to the top of my reading pile over Spring Break. I almost missed it in the small lending library next to my mom’s condo in Florida. I picked it up, looked at the cover, most likely rolled my eyes, and put it back. When nothing else looked appealing, I picked it up again and read the first couple of pages. ‘Wow! Glennon Doyle has lived my life,’ I thought, as I tucked the book under my arm and headed to the pool. And just like any old habit, once I gave into it I was off to the races.

I started Googling Glennon Doyle and following her on all the social media sites. I paid attention to the people she followed on Twitter and Instagram. It wasn’t long before I was following authors and speakers I had been avoiding for months, and even years, because I didn’t have the time or energy for their words to infiltrate my psyche.

Doyle may have made the first crack but it was Brené  Brown who really wormed her way in. I think it was a Saturday, maybe a Sunday, and I thought cleaning my room would be more enjoyable with a podcast. I pulled up my TED app and because Brown’s talk on vulnerability has about 50 quadtrillion hits or likes or listens or whatever, it was on the top of the heap. I pressed “play.”

I was sort of half listening until she started talking about the definition of courage: “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” And about vulnerability, “allowing ourselves to be truly seen” even when there are no guarantees of how we will be received. And because there are no guarantees, Brown explained, we numb vulnerability.

I stopped cleaning and sat on my bed, fully listening to the results of research she has conducted on shame and fear and disappointment, and how numbing these keeps us from connection and joy and gratitude.

I hadn’t exactly been numbing my vulnerability, but I had certainly squelched it. For months, I have been eager to write on this blog, for instance, but my own fear of being known and seen has kept me silent. I question whether I share too much. I fear that I’ll hurt others if I tell my truth. I worry that my unedited writing will be ridiculed and that I will never compare to “real” writers.

Brown helped me see that vulnerability is different than oversharing, and that it doesn’t matter if I compare to “real” writers. There are stories inside of me that rise up, stories that I want to share with my whole heart. Stories that may help others feel a little more connected and hopeful.

I would like to say I’ll start sharing these stories regularly on this blog, but the truth is, I  may not write on this blog again for months. And that’s okay. What matters more is that I show up completely in my conversations with my family, my boyfriend, my co-workers, or a complete strangers. I will choose vulnerability, rather than squelch it. The reason is found in the book that I really did not want to like:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”


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