Vulnerable. Ick. I don’t even like to type the word. Vulnerable. It sounds vulgar. Vulnerable. My trusty Pocket Oxford says the word means: “That may be wounded (lit. or fig.); exposed to damage by weapon, criticism, etc.” Vulnerable. Bad. Vulnerable. Weak. Vulnerable. How not to be. This word has been kicking around my noggin all weekend. Mainly because I started a Brene Brown book. And listen, if you haven’t read Brene Brown, well, I won’t tell you to read her. Or watch her Ted Talk or her Netflix special. But you know, if you are so inclined, I promise you won’t be disappointed. She’s a research professor at the University of Houston. She’s spent years researching shame and (gulp) vulnerability. She has a fun Texas drawl, and she doesn’t think prayer and cussing are mutually exclusive, so you know, she might not be your cup ‘o’ tea, but she is my kinda gal.
Anyway, Brene Brown has been teaching me about vulnerability. And when she first started explaining the concept, she said things like “exposed” and “easily wounded”. And immediately I thought to myself, “You’re not a vulnerable person, Missy. No worries. You have your ducks in a row.” Because who would want to be vulnerable? Weren’t we supposed to be strong and brave at all times. Especially now, in this dumpster fire of a world we live in? So I decided, nah, I’m not vulnerable. But then I kept going back to what I said, sorta like how my dog keeps sniffing his own butt, even when it appears to be fairly clean. I know my butt is clean. I am 100% sure of it. Right?
I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was lying to myself. Brene was all, “Missy, girl, it’s okay to be vulnerable.” And I was all, “That’s bullshit, Brene! You’re bullshit, Brene! Just another whack-job, wanna-be-self-help-guru, and I’m not gonna listen to you!” Then I turned off the television and continued to eat my Cheetos, and tell myself I am strong, and I am brave, and I am not vulnerable. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with the butt itchies and realized, holy hell, I’m like, super vulnerable.
Let me try to explain. I’m a writer. No need to apologize, I did it to myself. I write mainly creative non-fiction. That’s my bread and butter. I love to explore my own life, my own stories, my past, my present, my future, and share it with whomever will read or listen. Full stop. That’s vulnerability, right? I mean, every day, just sitting at my desk, writing my random-ass thoughts out for the blog-sphere is pretty vulnerable. Especially in the age of social media, anonymous chatting and commenting, and the intense showmanship and competition that comes with all of this.
Then there are the friendships I’ve had over the years. I am a pretty open and honest person. I’ve come to learn over the last year or two that not everyone appreciates that about me. But what Brene helped me realize is that my friends do appreciate when I am honest with them. They also appreciate when I tell a funny story, or allow them to see me make an ass of myself, but they don’t appreciate my vulnerability because vulnerabilty scares the shit out of people. They don’t know how to be vulnerable, or to act around someone who is. And I get that, I really do. It’s tough to be vulnerable. We’ve been trained our whole lives not to be.
So what does this all mean? Look it, I don’t know. Brene seems to act like she knows, but I don’t think she does either. What I do know is that I am taking this new bit of information I have realized about myself (with help from Brene) and I’m moving forward in my life with a few new rules.
Rule #1: If someone is not ready to be vulnerable, or to watch me be vulnerable, then I am walking away. There are so many other people out there who can handle me, and my butt, and all that comes with it.
Rule #2: I’m going to try not to worry about the critics. There are a million people out there who will criticize me at the drop of a hat. Most of them are too afraid to be doing what I am doing. Most of them want to step out of their comfort zone, they want to make a change in their life, but they are too afraid. It’s easier to sit back and watch other people fail (and Brene says I will fail, a lot) then to find their own courage. Courage to quit their job and follow their true passion, relying on their partner, giving up control. Courage to take that step to put their lives out into the world. Courage to be open and honest with their loved ones. These people make up a million excuses why they can’t do it, and I try to rationalize that when they criticize me. But I can’t do that anymore. If you can’t stick your butt in the fire, you have no right to tell me about my butt, even when it’s in flames.
Rule #3: The people who do care should be depended on more often. The ones that have been cheering me on, those are the people who matter. Those are the people to listen to when criticism needs to come my way. They do it from a love-centered place. They do it because sometimes I need to be slapped. Sometimes I say and do crazy things, and they need to tell me because they care about me. And I’ll listen. I may be mad when they are saying it, but I’ll listen.
So, I guess, uhhh, wish me luck? And maybe watch some Brene Brown? And maybe try to decide if you are vulnerable? And if you are not being vulnerable, then ask your self why not? Wouldn’t it be worth a shot?