I completely agree with her stance that vulnerability is never a weakness and that it is the birthplace of creativity and love. Anyone who has followed by blog from day one will have seen that it is how I chose to live my life, as wholeheartedly and honestly as I possibly can.
I believe allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the most courageous thing you can do, and what’s more; its empowering and freeing. Once I own my own faults, fears and flaws I have removed your power to use them against me.
As a woman raised in Catholic Ireland, taught by nuns in convent schools, I understand shame… trust me! I can honestly say it was one of my primary emotions growing up, and when I say growing up, I mean until I hit my late 30s! I was a walking, breathing, living entity of shame. I didn’t just feel shame, I lived it. I was never enough, I was never good enough, I was bad. It was a miserable way to live.
I’m not in complete recovery and, as Brown points out, the only people that do not feel shame are those ones that are incapable of feeling basic human emotions such as love, so none of us can ever be entirely shame free. I still mess up, make mistakes, hurt people I love, and for those things I feel shame. The difference now is I feel shame over things that are appropriate; I no longer, (mostly), feel shame for simply being me.
One thing in the clip I linked to at the top of this post that, as I was cooking in my kitchen, made me pause and actually look at the screen, was where Brown said we should only share our shame stories with those people that have earned the right to hear them.
That line made me stop what I was doing and really think.
I have a massive, and I mean massive, need to connect with people, to share and to build relationships. It is something I simply need to do, it is who I am. For the most part this is a very positive way to be… it means I am open and friendly, I try to make people feel at ease in my company, I try to make people feel better than they do, I try to enhance their lives, if I can. I have no interest in running people down, making them feel small, hurting them.
However, in my desire to build intimacy and relationships, I realise now that I am often too quick to share myself with people. If you have read my blog before, you will be familiar with my posts where I have felt I gave too much of myself to people, where I felt used up and discarded by them, where I have struggled to find the balance between helping others and caring for myself.
I am thinking now, as I sit at my kitchen table, processing the clips I have been watching online, that I was coming at this from the wrong angle.
It is not the fault of those people that I felt had sucked me dry. They simply did what I allowed them to do… I opened up and shared myself and my story with them, and I invited them in. I did this way too soon in the relationship, because I felt I needed to put it all out there in order to build intimacy. I was wrong. I rushed it. I needed to wait it out, let it happen organically… I needed to make them earn the right to my story and to my vulnerability.
I think now that this is simply another one of my self-destructive behaviours, (of which I have several!). But today I have discovered a new one. I am so grateful to have watched the Brené Brown clips, especially the one at the top of the post, because what she said opened my eyes to my maladaptive behaviour.
I need to start being more vigilant about my tendency to open myself too much, too soon in order to satisfy my need to connect. I must stop blaming people for simply taking everything I offered them and take responsibility for my part in it. I need to share my vulnerability and inner world with the right people. I need to wait until they have earned it, because once they have invested enough to have earned it, they will value it.
If I open my house to someone and say “Here, have whatever you want, knock yourself out!” do I really have the right to whinge when they clear me out and walk off with all my stuff? I don’t think so.
I allowed myself to be violated. I did this.
I have a wonderful man who I can share all of me with, my vulnerability, my shame, my ugly and he accepts it. I accept his in return.
I have a great friend that, when I showed her my shame story, didn’t flinch, didn’t judge and simply said, “Me too sister, me too.” I have, (I sincerely hope), done the same for her, (you know who you are!).
Next time I hear that little voice inside telling me to rush the connection, to share too much, I need to listen to her and reply, “No, not yet. You have enough connection that matters. Let this happen if it happens, but there’s no rush. You have enough.”
I am taking responsibility and, in declaring my vulnerability, I am taking control and empowering myself.
One more growing up lesson.
Everyday is a classroom.
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