I’ve had vulnerability on the brain recently. I first watched Brene Brown’s TEDx Houston talk (above) a few months ago. It’s a charming presentation: Brown is tough, she’s smart, and her argument is compelling. Vulnerability is the key, and she implores us to take the leap. Well, “us,” to me, was really “other people.” I forwarded it to some friends (“So insightful!”) and felt good about spreading the gospel of Brene Brown to those who, ya know, might actually need it, unlike other people who were already doing everything important with deep intuition and innate perfection. Listening to it felt like taking a quiz in some silly magazine (“So weird, I’m the BEST friend a person could have! Fancy that.”) Vulnerability – I crossed it off my to-do list.
It was a conversation a month or two later that practically made me jump out of my seat with the realization of it all. I didn’t have a CLUE about vulnerability. The old Socratic wisdom rang in my ears as I felt the weight of my hubris. Ugh. I watched the talk again, and this time I actually listened. Brene Brown is right, it’s HARD to be vulnerable. It’s HARD to admit that you care about people, or ideas, or your own imperfect self. And it’s got yucky risks – like disconnection, disappointment, and shame. EW! But, alas, it’s the only way. As Brown points out, these emotions are only one side of a very important coin. Joy, creativity, connection, KINDNESS – these things are right there on the flip side, and you can’t have one without sometimes having the other.
So I thought. And then I thought some more. And then I went to Starbucks. And when I came back, I realized that playing AOK, as someone with a sudden awareness of her loathing for vulnerability, is the perfect way to practice this critical necessity. Every little act, every little duck outside the no-man’s land of my buffer zone brings me closer to someone else, the bread and butter of being alive. It may be only for a moment or it may be for a lifetime, but it counts. Every bit of kindness and gentleness towards others is a reminder to be kinder and gentler to ourselves.
There are over a hundred pages of AOKers’ actions to back it up: when we extend ourselves into vulnerability, it’s there we learn that what we do is important. It’s there we learn, as Brown hopes we will always remember, that we are enough.2 Comments »