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Braving the Wilderness – Part 1

Braving the Wilderness – Part 1

I’ve been reading Braving the Wilderness by (my favorite) Brené Brown.  Since I have so many thoughts, comments, and stories of my own, I thought it would be fun to do a virtual book club, so to speak.  Follow along as I navigate my way through the wilderness.


At the beginning of the book, Brown reflects on an experience, “…that became the day I no longer belonged to my family – the most primal and important of all our social groups.”  I’ve experienced this as well, but it wasn’t so much an instance when that moment clicked as it was a realization, over time, that the relationships I have with members in my family have evolved and were no longer what they once were.  It was when I realized that I have reached adulthood.

They say that you are only as young as you feel, and at 34 years old I still feel uncomfortable being referred to or described as a woman rather than a girl. I don’t feel womanly.  Often I still feel the same as the insecure little girl trying to find her way to a new classroom on a new campus, except that classroom is life and that campus is the world.

Although I can still cry into my mother’s arms when I am hurt, it doesn’t bring me the same level of comfort that it did when I was a child.  I am an adult.  My mom can be a sounding board and offer advice, but she can no longer make decisions for me.  Adulthood is braving the wilderness.

Fear.

Fear.

I’ve never been the type who craves attention, likes the spotlight.  I’d much rather blend in with the crowd.  Typically, I choose to downplay successes or celebrations.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about why.  Why do I not want the attention?  Is it fear of a possible future failure (or success)?  Fear of judgement from other people?  Fear of being seen, aka fear of being vulnerable?

There are two things about those statements above:

  1. It all begins with fear
  2. It goes back to being vulnerable

I talk about vulnerability a lot.  I’ve realized that many of our successes in life, whether they are in relationships, business, friendships, or personal growth, all begin with being vulnerable.  What I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a fear of vulnerability.  But I’m working on it, in baby steps.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What I learned in one moment of vulnerability and overcoming a fear, was that it was freeing.  I was able to let go of the “what if”, because I finally had an answer and could move forward.  So if vulnerability and fear-facing can lead to freedom, progress and growth, why is it so terrifying?

Honestly, I have a greater fear of success than I do of failure.  I’ve had a lot of let downs in my life.  And although I’ve also had a lot of successes, they’re not not as memorable.  As humans, we tend to focus on the negative.  I am sensitive and people are mean.  I have dreams, but I am terrified of putting myself out there and exposing parts of myself to people who are critical, judgmental, verbally abusive, insensitive and unapologetic.  I have the type of personality where I like to play it safe.  I’m not one to settle, but I also think that if it’s not broke, why fix it?  I like to stay within my comfort zones.  If I fail, it pretty much flies under the radar.  But if I succeed, there comes recognition, celebration, and attention.  All things I don’t particularly like, but need to learn to embrace.

What’s funny about this moment is that a link to a video came across my Twitter feed about letting fear guide you.

The message can be narrowed down to 3 things about fear:

  1. Recognize it
  2. Face it
  3. DSA (Do Something About) it

Although I am in the beginning stages of facing it, the message was inspiring.  After learning more about Leonard Kim, I discovered that we are a lot alike.  He said that we should use fear as an indicator that we are onto something great.  Something that allows you to connect with others and relate to them as well.  This goes back to the wise words of Brené Brown:

Connection is why we are here.  We are hardwired to connect with others.

How do we connect with others? By being vulnerable.

Like Mr. Kim, I just want to connect with the world.  So how did he overcome his fears?  By writing and publishing his writing to public forums.  He started writing out of passion, and it transformed his life.

When I think about my life, my dreams, my best possible outcome, I have no doubts that it could be great – if I let it.  I have everything that it takes to get there: passion, motivation, determination, drive, and ambition.  I just need to overcome my fear of being vulnerable, so I can connect to the world.

Vulnerability.

Vulnerability.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about vulnerability in this post.  At the time, the subject, the TEDtalk, the word “vulnerability”, I don’t know what it was but something hit a chord with me.  I always considered myself a pretty emotional person.  I don’t hide my feelings well, and for the most part, that still rings true.  When I’m mad, you see it on my face.  When I’m irritated or frustrated, you can hear it in my voice.  When I’m shy or uncomfortable, you can see it in my body language.  But I realized something in the past few days…

As a 32 year old, college-educated, well-together, single woman, I’m often confronted with those unavoidable questions: “How are you still single?  Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” blah, blah, *eye roll*.  I always play it off, because how else do you handle those questions you don’t know the answers to yourself?  I will still continue to play it off, because now that I think I know the answer, it’s too personal to share in a casual conversation.

I’ve realized that vulnerability is not one of my strong suits.  In a conversation with my sister about dating, I said, “I don’t want to appear needy or desperate.”  In my efforts to appear confident and independent, I do not show any signs of interest in the men I meet either.  I’m not a flirty person.  I am shy and far less confident than I want to lead on, and I’m far more expressive and honest about my emotions in writing.  You can call it “putting on a front”, but I don’t see it that way.  I don’t need a man.  I’ve come a long way in creating the life I have on my own.

I was a different person in my last relationship.  I was young, depressed, and still figuring out who I was and what I wanted.  I was hiding things from myself and my family.  I was scared of admitting I was no longer, if I was ever in love, and afraid of getting my heart broken – but it happened anyway.  And it was for the best.

I’m happy with where I am at in my life.  I’ve earned that happiness in more ways than I can explain and by overcoming difficult obstacles not worthy of an Internet confession.  But as Brené Brown concluded, vulnerability is the birthplace of love.  We have to be vulnerable, to allow ourselves to be seen to engage in human connection.  And human connection is what gives our lives purpose.  Human connection is love.

Self discovery is so enlightening.  We may like what we find and we may not, but either way it’s what you make of it.  I’m happy I discovered I need to work on being a little more vulnerable, although I’m not so enthused that I actually have to be vulnerable.

But last night, I exposed myself to the unknown.  I took a risk.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable.  The short-term outcome was what I expected, so I’m not disappointed.  I’m actually a little relieved.  But the long-term outcome remains unknown, and that’s okay.  Vulnerability is simply letting your guard down a little.  It’s  asking for help, getting a new job, making new friends, trying something new.  The first step is always the hardest.

The Whole-Hearted.

The Whole-Hearted.

I came across a TEDTalk presented by human connection researcher Brené Brown.  It’s a 20 minute presentation that I highly recommend watching.  She keeps you engaged, and you’re left feeling inspired and grateful.

Brown talks about her research and how human connection boils down to (among other things) vulnerability and worthiness.  Human connection is what gives our lives purpose.  It’s neurobiological wiring.  But to have connection, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.  We need to expose ourselves and be vulnerable.  In her research, Brown found that when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak.  When you ask people about connection, they tell you about disconnection.  These people have been vulnerable.

Vulnerability is necessary.  It’s a willingness to do something when there are no guarantees.  But we are afraid of the unknown. We put up guards against vulnerability to protect ourselves.  We numb it with alcohol, medication, food, and money.  But vulnerability is the birthplace of beauty, love, joy, and creativity.  We have to believe that we are worthy of beauty, creativity, joy, love and belonging.  To have a connection we need to feel we are worthy of connection.