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.