Vulnerability, Courage, & Shame: The Myth of Vulnerability

Editors note: Part 2 of the Operation No Shame blogging series Vulnerability, Courage, & Shame

What comes to your mind when you hear the word VULNERABLE?  Is there a negative connotation associated with the word for you?  Maybe something that was said in the past set a negative tone for the word.

Did you grow up with vulnerability equating a weakness?  In my own experience, I have heard people use the term, vulnerable, interchangeably with the words: gullible, promiscuous, weak, and shameful.

“Vulnerability is not weakness and that myth is profoundly dangerous,” says Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher with a focus on debunking this norm.  She researched vulnerability trying to prove that one did not need to be vulnerable, but her hypothesis was wrong.  She found that vulnerability was absolutely necessary.

VULNERABILITY IS AT THE CORE OF SHAME.  Vulnerability is an emotional risk to exposure (showing our authentic selves) and shame is the fear of disconnection.  If we don’t talk about shame, then it stacks up and we can become lonely, angry, sad, depressed, anxious, ect… We miss out on living and instead hide behind a heavy mask weighed down by our shame (baggage).

The more you don’t talk about shame, the more you have.  Until you find the courage to be vulnerable and show your authentic self – putting that cause of shame on the table for all to see – the shame will continue to thicken and weigh you down until you are no more.

After “six years of research and thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews and focus groups and journal pages” she found that the only difference between people classified as living with shame v. not living with shame was the SENSE OF WORTHINESS.  People could be living with the same past mistakes or experiences and the ones who were not ashamed were the people who could be their authentic selves with no apology.  “Non-shame” people still felt a strong sense of belonging whereas those who were weighed down by shame did not feel worthy of connection with those around them.

“Shame” people are always wondering if they are enough.  They are always contemplating their worth and value in the world.  But when we learn to shed the shame, we expose our authentic selves – the REAL you – and vulnerability becomes easier and less scary.  The less shame, the more vulnerability, and the deeper connections we can experience increasing our quality of life.


Write Your Memoir Prompt for March

Shame: Your First Encounter

The best part about writing a memoir is that you already know all the events in the story (so far). The characters developed in real life and the setting has always been around you. The hardest part of memoir writing is the emotions that come along with remembering and going over your life (over and over and over again).

Memoirs do not document your entire life. The purpose of a memoir is to relay a PART of your life. The memoir is a story of themed events that got you to a specific time and place in your life.

Try your hand at writing your memoir on how that first encounter with shame has impacted your life.

6-Word Story Prompt for March

Staying with the theme of March, Shame: Your First Encounter, try to put together one or more 6-word stories describing some of your earliest memories of shame.  This “sudden fiction or nonfiction” is a writing practice and therapeutic technique that challenges people to write an entire novel in 6 words.



Writing Prompts for March

Writing Prompts

Shame: Your First Encounter

#1 When is the earliest memory of shame you can recall? (What happened? Were you worried about what other people thought?)

#2 What feelings accompanied your shame: guilt, embarrassment, sadness, anger, depression, humiliation, low self-esteem, low self-worth, or dehumanization?

#3 How did you handle your first situation of shame? (Were you able to talk to anyone about it? Did you self-harm?)

#4 What negative thoughts about yourself and life came about after this incident? If none, what other thoughts lingered in your mind?

Vulnerability, Courage, & Shame: The Fear of Disconnection

Editors note: Part 1 of the Operation No Shame blogging series Vulnerability, Courage, & Shame

Do you see vulnerability as a weakness or a strength? To be vulnerable is to let others see you in your most raw, honest form – to open up all your baggage even though there are no guarantees others will accept you as you are or return your respect or love. It’s a scary thing to be vulnerable because we do care what others think because we long for connection in life. That is where shame lurks.

Dr. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “emotional risk exposure uncertainty it fuels our daily lives… our most accurate measurement of courage” and that in order for us to understand this relationship between vulnerability and courage “we have to talk about shame.”

Shame is the fear of disconnection.  Research has found that the only people who do not experience shame are the ones who have no capacity for human empathy or connection.

Shame is universal.  “Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, they won’t think me worthy of connection?”

During Dr. Brown’s first Ted Talk, Power of Vulnerability, she said that in regards to shame, “No one wants to talk about it and the less you talk about it, the more you have it.”  Therefore, if we forgo being vulnerable, our shame stacks up. We build a wall only destructible by the courage to be vulnerable and show our true, messy, honest selves to others.

When we lack the courage to be vulnerable, to be the authentic you, we are stuck in a limbo of questioning “Am I enough?”

“Am I pretty enough?” “Am I good enough?” “Am I thin enough?” “Am I successful enough?” “Am I wealthy enough?” “Am I smart enough?” “Am I talented enough?” “Am I strong enough?”

We hold back when we have to ask ourselves “Am I _____ enough” because we want that connection, but the rejection is sometimes too much to bare especially in the social media age of perfect digital lives that are hard to dissemble from truth or fabrication (an easy example: raw photo v. Photoshop).

Being honest with people about our flaws, imperfections, past mistakes, embarrassments, bad decisions, baggage from years ago, etc… is nerve wrecking because not everyone encompasses compassion or understanding or maybe not even the patience to try and understand. We fear these people who lack empathy for our different walks of life. We fear the lack in ourselves. And that’s why hold back, not talk about, and build that wall of shame. Holding on to shame is not as scary as letting it go.