What does it mean to be vulnerable? Many see vulnerability as weakness.
If you do a Google search you will see the following definition.
Vulnerable – susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.
Not too far into your Google search, you will find quotes from Brené Brown, and not too much further into your search, you will see some of her Ted Talks, one of which I have linked at the bottom of this, because it is a really powerful talk on what vulnerability really is, I highly recommend you add this to your “to watch” list.
I just finished reading Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Vulnerability Unlocks Creativity, Connection, and Performance. This book has helped me better understand some of my past experiences, and appreciate them even more. Through my divorce and journey as a newly single mom, I started this blog. When I started this blog, I called it Struggling Bonnie because those were the days I struggled the most and I was finally opening up about my struggles, my divorce, and everything that came along with it. I started the blog fully expecting significant criticism. I expected some of my former in-laws to have very negative things to say to me when they saw the things I wrote about, since I knew they didn’t shine the best light on my ex-husband. I also expected people to tell me that I shouldn’t air my dirty laundry, which I have heard in the past in some more blunt posts I had made on social media when I was still unhappily married. I didn’t expect people to respond well to me sharing my worst life moments. I realized, though, that I couldn’t hide this part of me anymore and I needed to share publicly or I would be eaten alive by all of the shame. I also didn’t want to have to tell everyone in my life individually what happened, having to relive the shame and fear thousands of times. So I blogged. And I posted. And then I waited in fear of the backlash. Every time I did this, I felt those feelings of shame and fear over and over again. Waiting for the criticism and hate to flow out of other people.
In those toughest moments, though, when I opened up to those around me and with my blog posts, really opened up about the things I wanted to hide the most, my feelings and thoughts, and the things I most struggled with and felt the most shame, it was always in those moments when I received the absolute most compassion, connection, and love from people around me. I experienced the best things life has to offer through that. Through the discomfort of showing parts of me I was scared of sharing with anyone, I was able to not only experience the best things in life, but to also finally accept myself and my new life, and eventually fall in love with my life. Now, when people asked me about my home life, I can comfortably share with people that I am a happily single-mom, and that I now also have a romantic partner that supports and encourages me in my professional and personal endeavors, and that I love to blog and paint in my spare time. I am happy to talk about some of my past life choices with anyone that asks. I will even talk with people about some of the more recent painful events that I have yet to share publicly as I am still working on processing them emotionally.
My divorce was final roughly 2 years ago now. Going through the divorce process, I really felt like my world was coming to an end. I read a lot of self-help, women’s empowerment, and single-mom type books. I went to a divorce-support group and I really focused on how I could improve myself. About a month after our divorce was final, my ex-husband became engaged to another woman. This could have significantly set me back on my emotional recovery post-divorce, but it didn’t. I wasn’t happy about it, to be completely honest, but it didn’t have the impact I would have expected it to have. I realized that all of the compassion and connections and love I received through my vulnerability created this sense of OKayness. I knew that no matter what happened, if he remarried, if I was alone romantically for the rest of my life, anything that happened to me, if all of my biggest fears came true, I would be OK. I only started to feel that after all of the blog posts, and all of the fear an shame I had about my life were let out into the world and returned back to me as compassion and love. I knew that I would be OK if people knew about the worst parts of my life. I knew that I would survive. With the help of my village, I could get through anything.
I’ve heard people say when one is in their 40’s they stop caring about what other people think of them. When I have heard that, I’ve also argued my case that sometimes life circumstances speed up that process. Going through a divorce can bring you to your knees at any age. It can cause you to lose trust in other people. It can cause so many people so much pain for so many years. For me, through my vulnerability, I leaned into all of that pain and fear. I experienced it all, and still sometimes do. I didn’t hide from it, I allowed it. Because I allowed myself to experience it and be vulnerable with my experience, I feel like it led me to the happiest place of my life, and I don’t really care if someone else doesn’t approve of my life. I have 2 thriving children, a fantastic career, a loving partner, and some really big personal and professional goals. If you see me and ask me how I am, I often reply that I am AWESOME, and it is truly because I feel that life is awesome. Every up and down. Every twist and turn. I know that even in the hard moments still to come in my life, which I know I will have plenty more, that I will learn and grow and eventually after experiencing the rough parts of it, I will be OK.
So, what is vulnerability? To me, vulnerability is a very scary thing that can be an incredible source of healing, connection, love, growth, and so many more wonderful things.
Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability