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The Myth of Vulnerability

Editors note: Part 2 of 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.