The Power of Vulnerability is the name of an Audible teaching by Dr. Brené Brown, the famed author, and qualitative researcher who has spent over a decade studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
I must preface that while the audio of this teaching is on my wishlist, and I am looking forward to purchasing and listening to it, I have yet done so. Moreover, said recorded seminar is not the subject of this post, at least not directly.
The object of this post has more to do with the elephant in the room.
Allow me to explain.
One and a half months into my Happiness Project, it became very apparent that I kept running into a significant stumbling block. I must admit that while the nature of my Achille’s heel did not come as a huge surprise, the fact it was always showing up in my path was.
I am quite confident my nemesis will come as no great revelation at this point. It is indeed vulnerability.
I don’t see much power in MY vulnerability so far.
Vulnerability is on my shortlist of Happiness Project themes, toward the end. Way toward the end. I might even reserve it for the twelfth month.
Save the best for last and all that.
While I strongly agree that vulnerability is significant, it is not a state of being I relish. I prefer to make myself into as small a target as possible, and vulnerability does not support this philosophy.
While doing a quick web search for a definition of vulnerability, this is one of the answers I stumbled upon: “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
No, thank you very much.
Let me run the other way as fast as my short legs will carry me. Trust me; it can be pretty darn fast if need be.
As a matter of fact, to me, being vulnerable means being willing to have a massive target on my back. Not something I volunteer for as I have already mentioned.
At the same time, I am keenly aware that vulnerability is a lesson which keeps presenting itself to me. I sense this is a lesson which wants to be taught and learned…by me.
Being vulnerable leaves me feeling raw. A state which is utterly uncomfortable. At the same time, I am aware that my hesitation to being exposed can be a barrier in my life journey.
Being human involves a certain degree of openness, yet I always hold something back. Always (except when I write it seems).
While some call me extroverted and I can be, others would call be introverted. In truth, I am a blend of both. When comfortable, I am capable of dancing in the aisle of the grocery store while belting a tune. When uncomfortable, I become small and quiet.
I become an observer.
I call myself an extroverted introvert.
I have no problems being vulnerable with my husband or my kids; it is the rest of the world which scares me.
I sound like a coward don’t I?
My dilemma is this: I feel too profoundly, coupled with a thin skin. An unfortunate combination if you ask me which leaves me scrambling for cover.
Moreover, it is a fact that small targets are harder to hit.
Nowadays, I would be called an empath. Growing up, I just thought I was too sensitive. I was not necessarily afraid to speak up. I am not nor have I ever been called a meek or weak woman. I was just never ready for the backlash which may come my way. I can stand in the fight and even win, but in the end, I crawl into my safe place and cry.
Hurting words and unloving gestures do not roll off my back like water on a duck—hence why I will never run for office.
I don’t necessarily believe that my fear of vulnerability is all due to me being empathetic. I am aware there could be other issues at play.
No matter how I got here, vulnerability—to me—is frightening, not compelling.
Why Don’t They Like Me?
I remember as a young teen of fourteen or so crying to my mother about some girls who did not like me at school.
“I don’t understand," I wailed. "They don’t even know me.”
My mother’s reply baffled me (it still does): “That’s because you are so strong.”
I didn’t feel strong. At. All.
And, how can you see “strong” on someone?
All I knew is this; I didn’t fit in. In many ways, I still don’t.
I don’t mind being different, or feeling different. It is unkindness as a result of being different I dislike.
I started my first blog almost ten years ago. Since it was an informational blog, I didn’t have to be in the forefront. I could be a nameless person writing a post.
I like anonymity--that small target bit again.
My other blogs were about recipes. Again, a comfortable place to hide.
This blog--Florence Witt—is taking me way out of my comfort zone. It sports my name. I write about personal subjects, and I have “a big mouth” when I write. Writing knowing I will be read is scary, and it stretches me.
There is power in vulnerability? HA!
If this is so scary, why bother?
A fair question to be sure. One I have asked myself many times, with no grand or astute answer I’m afraid.
I have kept a journal on and off since I was a very young girl. When upset or emotional, writing is my go-to therapy. For me, writing is cathartic; it is life-altering.
The act of putting pen to paper is personal, purgative, transformational, nourishing and, yes, healing.
I have tried twice to take a sabbatical from blogging during which time, I spent a lot of time thinking about blogging.
I go on walks and write in my head. I drive and write in my head. I write without pen and paper all the time!
I have been accused of being rude in the store because I ignored an individual. Hum, sorry, nothing personal, I am lost in my little world, probably writing as a matter of fact.
Being creative comes readily to me.
I like writing.
Writing helps me process. Writing helps me remember. Writing is a friend.
I also love reading other people’s written words. You may already be familiar with the fact I am a voracious reader.
I am NEVER without a book nor am I without pen and paper.
I could potentially continue to write for “my eyes only.” Therefore, I would never have to worry about vulnerability.
This is a tempting proposition.
In truth, and as you can see, I have no acceptable answer for why I blog. I do know I don’t blog for fame or recognition. I long for neither. Moreover, none of my blogs have been vastly successful.
All I know is this, during my very dark times, when my soul cried out for relief and understanding, diving into the writings of others, who were or had been in my shoes, was like drinking a glass of refreshing cool water after a long summer walk.
Deep down, I would like to be that same glass of refreshing, clear water for someone in need.
I want my life to have meaning (who doesn’t?), and writing gives my life meaning.
The Places I Have Been
I have been hated, misunderstood, alone, lonely, abandoned, afraid, misjudged, hopeless, used. And I know others feel that way too.
Often, all we need is that someone to get us.
I remember one time, telling my husband that sometimes I felt like I was speaking a foreign language (which is funny since English is a foreign language to me), and there was no one to understand me.
Then, there came someone who could finally put words to what I was trying to say. Someone who could interpret my words to others so that I could finally feel understood.
Don’t misunderstand me, while I am glad when others resonate with what I share; I have zero desire to “fix” anyone. I don’t have answers for anyone but myself. I can’t help anyone but myself. We all have to do our own work. It simply makes our internal work easier to have someone along for part of the journey who “gets” us.
This post is not a “woe me” story; I have also known unspeakable beauty, true love, true friendship, incredible kindness and so much more for which my heart is full of joy, love, and gratitude.
The Power of Vulnerability
Despite feeling this post doesn’t make much sense, I still felt the need to write it. I needed to be able to say: “I am called to vulnerability.” Now, I am accountable for doing something about it.
While I know I need to be vulnerable and the time has come for me to do the work, I am afraid, and I feel a tad bare about the prospect—or shall I say I feel vulnerable? (And, for the record, I still don’t like it).