Vulnerability and ‘Daring Greatly’

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:

Vulnerability

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.

Vulnerability.

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.

 

26 thoughts on “Vulnerability and ‘Daring Greatly’

  1. Oh Gulara this is such a touching post. I do hope that you will put your book out there, I am sure that it will be amazing!
    I really do not see you as someone vulnerable. I guess you grow stronger every day, you grow stronger each time you sit down and write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think as humans we are all vulnerable, Solveig. It’s got a bad reputation, but all being vulnerable means is taking risks and surrendering to the unknown. I try to control and micro-manage life sometimes because it gives me a false sense of security. But if we truly embrace vulnerability, it could be a source of tremendous strength. Once there is nothing to control or hide or mask, actually vulnerability may become a source of true freedom. I don’t know whether I’m making much sense. But to me there is a strong link between vulnerability and authenticity.

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  2. This is really fascinating. I have a strong sense of myself as strong but all that does is expose the vulnerability that, as I age (I almost said mature!) I’m more conscious of. And so I try admitting to my weaknesses, my lack of self worth my volatile self confidence and find it is both easier to work within those new parameters and people understand me better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an amazing paradox, isn’t it Geoff: the more vulnerable we are willing to be, the stronger we actually are. It’s rather counter-intuitive, but every time I witness true vulnerability, there is so much strength and courage there. Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comment.

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      • I’m sorry, but I forgot to acknowledge your disappointment. I won’t say the platitudes that usually trip from my mouth or pen at times like this, because I know they don’t stop the pain of rejection. I’m glad you’re letting yourself just feel it–I think it passes more quickly when you do that. Feelings are there for a reason, and it’s better to accept them as they come. Believe me when I say I’ve been there–feeling disappointed, vulnerable, and as if I’m a failure. After missing out on the Hungerford, I even felt embarrassed for believing I had a chance. Believe me, too, that I’m glad I didn’t win now, because I believe better things have come, and are still to come. I know they’re in store for you too. xx

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      • I appreciate your support, Louise. It’s ok. I know exactly what you mean about the timing and the book’s evolution. It’s seem to have a life of its own.

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  3. In vulnerability there is strength thank you Gulara. It is not, as many seem to think, weakness … give me a person any day who can show their vulnerability and I’ll show you a person with strength of character. Disappointment is one of the hardest things to bear – I know there are plenty of much much harder battles in our lives, but being disappointed about something or someone is real humbling stuff … and you’re right, it’s easier to feel shamed, disappointed etc etc rather than allowing our vulnerability to surface … well done on you!!!!

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    • Thank you so much, Susan. It’s not the easiest exercise, but I feel all the other feelings are moving through faster, now that I made a bit of space for vulnerability. Because as life showed to me many times, things don’t happen for a reason. I just need to be patient. And yes, I agree, there is such incredible sense of strength when we witness people’s vulnerability. I think I’m still holding back, hiding behind armours, but one can’t force vulnerability. It’s a good start…

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  4. Thank you for sharing your feelings of vulnerability. I can identify. They are not pleasant feelings to have. I can remember listening to and enjoying Brene Brown on TED also. I’m sorry you got a “no” for your book, but as you say, it’s just a “no” for now. Something better is waiting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Of course, I read your post with great hope for a Happy Ending. Of all people, I know the feeling that triggers a No from an editor or agent. But you’re right: vulnerability is at the core of every piece of art. It is possible that only when we allow ourselves to be completely vulnerable we can touch others. Your manuscript went too far to stay here. I’m sure that someone else will fall for your story. Meanwhile, returning to your work with vulnerability in mind you can maybe see where you need to show more emotions. That’s the most commun comment writers receive on their work. I wish you the very best and hope that you don’t feel too hurt. Time is a great healer.

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  6. This is a lovely post Gulara. I see vulnerability as both scary and a gift. The gift is that you show the world who you REALLY are… inside and out. I think that is a component missing in many of our interactions as people. I’m applauding you! Congratulations for being REAL!

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    • Thank you, Gwynn, it’s work in progress 🙂 Considering I’ve been in hiding for the most of my life, it’s a big thing to let myself to be seen. But that old habit is hard to break, so I find that deep down I’m still holding back. It’s not something that can be forced though, so one baby step at a time… Thank you for all your encouragement and support!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, we all start life extremely vulnerable – as babies, we’re not taken care of we’ll die, plain and simple. For the lucky two thirds (approximately) of people, that vulnerability will be met kindly, but if it’s not, we’re going to fear that state of mind for the rest of our lives. Despite that, as the book tells you, if we CAN get to the state where we can embrace it, we’re actually the stronger for it, partly because we’re not splitting off from an important aspect of who we are. But ever so scary! I recommend therapy, but then I would …
    http://writingourselveswell.co.uk/2015/08/17/why-im-thanking-my-therapist-by-anne-goodwin/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating post – thank you so much for including this link. I loved reading it. I too had to heal that split. I used to do therapy like a full-time job 😀 (twice a week to be precise). It brunched off into all sorts of other healing modalities, and I feel incredibly privileged to come to the place where I can hold space for other women to heal that split. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Anne. I enjoyed connecting.

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      • Thanks, Gulara. I do like that line “therapy like a full-time job” as it can certainly consume your thoughts and time. Mine has been less intensive that has lasted a lot longer than many jobs.

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  8. I was convinced this post would end with you saying when your book was coming out. 😦 You’re getting closer nonetheless.

    I feel you on being vulnerable. It’s a hard thing. I find it difficult. My ego hates it when I reveal the real me. After lots of therapy, various workshops, self-development, and reading, I can say that the state of vulnerability can be a pleasant experience. It doesn’t require as much effort mentally as ‘pretending’. Of course, there are times when I snap back into old patterns, but they no longer feel right, and I noticed recently that they even feel painful. There is truth in vulnerability.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I am rooting for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ula, I really appreciate your comment and support. It’s OK, I get impatient with the book but know it’s got a life of its own.
      As to vulnerability, Brene’s work is having a major influence on me. I wrote the most exposing post the other day about my relationship with my mum, and I must admit, I feel so much stronger for it.
      As always, thank you so much for reading, Ula.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Story Behind The Story – “I’m not dead” by Anne Goodwin | Dr Gulara Vincent

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