I’m reading an amazing book. It’s called ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown. She is an expert on shame and vulnerability. I fell in love with her after watching a couple of her TED talks last year.
The book starts with her visit to a therapist, where she explains that she can’t stand feeling vulnerable. The concept makes her cringe and she’d do anything to avoid the discomfort it causes her. She must have come a long way since that day, because only a few pages later, I read a sentence that still reverberates inside of me.
‘Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre of meaningful human experience.’
So picture this. I read this sentence. It takes my breath away. I put my phone down (I’m reading it on my phone; it’s the only way I can read these days without the book being shredded by a 10-month old baby). I need to digest this, I decide and start re-organising a bookshelf. I come across a notebook I used back in 2014 when I took a Build Healthy Habits course with amazing Samantha Nolan-Smith. I open the notebook at random and here’s what I read:
Hate the word, the whole concept. Makes me feel sick and weak. Not a nice feeling. Hate being exposed, this vulnerable. I resist thinking about it, showing it to anyone. I want to hide. To flee any prospect of exposure.
Hmmm, interesting. What a coincidence. I turn the page.
Not safe – I hate feeling vulnerable. It’s like being naked. I know it can be strength. I saw it in others. But in me? I can’t tolerate it. Even with friends. Even in sessions. I cover it up with humour. Or distractions. Or tears. But I don’t feel it…
I guess I was free-writing based on some prompt Samantha gave us. Interestingly, when I read Brene’s introduction to the book, it didn’t occur to me how strongly I’ve identified with her discomfort around vulnerability. My ego would like to say it’s not true anymore, that I’m getting cosy with exposure, I’m coming out of hiding; I know that the only way through is to be vulnerable. But as Brene explains there is a marked difference between having an intellectual handle on feelings and actually feeling them.
What a ‘coincidence’, I thought. What were the chances of coming across this notebook on the same day as I started reading Brene’s book?
Two hours later, I checked my e-mails.
Some of you may know that I won the 2015 Transformational Author Experience writing contest. The prize was a review and consideration for traditional publishing by New World Library. About two weeks ago, I got an email from contest organisers letting me know that the publisher was interested enough in my book proposal to circulate it among the editorial and marketing departments. If the publisher decided to take it further, they’d notify me by the end of January.
How cool was that? The guy who ‘discovered’ Eckhart Tolle gave my book a shot.
Anyway, back to the e-mail. It was from the contest organisers, three weeks earlier than they promised.
It’s a ‘no’ for now.
I know I’ve done well to get this far. To be in top ten was great; to make it through the next hurdle was incredible. I know that it was a very encouraging development. It means my book stands a chance. Perhaps not with this publisher and not right now. But there is hope.
I know all of those things in my head.
Inside, I feel deeply vulnerable.
The feeling gets covered up with all sorts: shame that I failed; disappointment; fear of what’s next; overwhelm at starting all over again; feeling lost; sadness…. Somehow it’s easier to identify with this toxic cocktail of emotions than just to stop and feel vulnerable.
So, here’s my opportunity to practice what I read. There’s no other way around vulnerability. The only way is through and that means feeling it in its entirety. All other emotions are simply distractions from this core feeling. There’s no need to overcomplicate things. Feel it. Then, and only then, get up and keep ‘daring greatly’.
See you on the other side.