Abby Hevert ’15
I will be the first one to admit to it: I am really sucky at being vulnerable. This is partly because of the ingrained prejudices that I have about vulnerability. Think about it. We all want to be smart, attractive, socially adept, happy, and successful, among many other very desirable qualities. Now let’s try adding vulnerability to that list.
Do any of us really desire to be vulnerable?
Vulnerability means being weak. It means failure. It means looking desperate and being the last one picked on the kickball team. It means crying. It involves looking for help. It looks like wearing our hearts on our sleeves and sounds like stuttering.
So should we try to be vulnerable? Do we dare to dare greatly?
Yes, because the wholehearted life is the life worth living.
I am a self-proclaimed Brené Brown disciple. She is an incredible social work researcher and focuses her studies on shame, vulnerability, and perfectionism. Her thoughts are the ones echoed in this post. Her book Daring Greatly is the result of her years of research about vulnerability. I have latched onto her message and consider it my duty to spread the good news. And what is this good news?
We can be free from the bonds of perfectionism and shame by engaging in vulnerability.
The more vulnerable we are, the more susceptible we are to living, as Brené terms, the wholehearted life. We live with our whole selves and not just a quarter of ourselves. Our hearts are invested in people and activities. We jump in. We get messy. We roll up our sleeves. We leave everything on the field. Our hearts are left pounding and our hands are left open. We graciously accept all that life has to offer. We connect. We learn. We grow. We get hurt.
And it is in this way that vulnerability allows us to get swept up in life.
Theodore Roosevelt put it best when he said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So strive to be the man in the arena. Err and come short again and again. Fail while daring greatly. Make room for imperfection. How do we do this? Just a few suggestions: don’t apply the extra layer of mascara. Ask the girl out. Study for the test and fail the test. Apply for the job. Tell your dad you love him. Ask your friend for help. Be wrong out-loud. Try out for the team. Be picked last. Buy the dress. Book the ticket. Laugh when you don’t have time for it. Be faithful. Believe in something. Allow yourself to feel joy. Practice gratitude. Fail and fail and fail. Fail fast. Then clean it up. Then fail again.
Because being perfect is not only impossible, it is absolutely unappealing. It reflects the fears of being unacceptable and unlovable. And if anything leaves a bad taste in our mouths, it should be living in the name of fear.
So join me in this effort. Be vulnerable with me. If we are vulnerable together, then we maximize our chances of connecting with one another and minimize our chances of regret.
Remember that we have to play the game to win the game. And mistakes are just signs that we decided to not sit on the sidelines.