“[Vulnerability] is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love…” – Brené Brown
We all have traits that make up the best and worst of who we are. Those that help us shine, and those that we would like to change. For me, pride is one of my lesser traits that has caused me some trouble from time-to-time. It can get in the way of learning and moving forward, and can keep you stuck in one train of thought for way too long. In the last few years, I have come to learn that the antidote to pride is vulnerability. The older that you get, the harder it is to be vulnerable – whether that is in matters of the heart, your career, family dynamics or personal growth. You feel as though you should be in a certain place or be doing a certain thing or know what you are talking about because you have “X” years of experience. To put yourself in a situation where you have to say, “I don’t know” or walk into a room full of people who are strangers can be daunting and scary. Yet, it is in these vulnerable spaces that the best things in life happen. People gravitate to vulnerability because it translates to openness.
I recently had the opportunity to go to the Alt Summit NYC Conference (Alt NYC). A day when writers, designers, and bloggers come together to listen to amazing people speak and share their knowledge. I was so nervous. I’ve been to conferences, but the difference is they were always centered around something in which I felt confident or was well versed in – my “field.” I was worried about walking into a room full of women (because it was about 98% women) who have been at this longer then I have, are more successful at it that I am or who have been a part of the community for much longer. To walk in alone, with a site that I had just created, around an idea that I had conceptualized and all on a platform that I was still learning about was, well…scary and daunting. Would I make a fool out of myself? Should I wait till next year? What if people don’t respond well to the idea and it crushed my hopes? So.many.questions.of.doubt.
The truth is that there were ALL sorts of people there. Yes, some that had hugely successful blogs, but also others who were just starting out or who were just exploring the idea. The day was full of fruitful conversations and of meeting creative people who inspired me. I left feeling energized in a way that I hadn’t in a very long time. By allowing myself to be in a vulnerable place, I essentially allowed myself to move forward.
Interestingly, both the keynote speakers – Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge and Garance Doré of Garance Doré – spoke about vulnerability in their talks. Grace spoke about the importance of taking the 1st step of sharing your work and that being “truly vulnerable and honest” was key to a big change in your life. You need to share the things that are real and scary. She encouraged everyone to approach his or her fears and goals through Rejection Therapy. Having never heard of this, I learned that it essentially means that you keep asking for things until you get okay with hearing, “No.” She made the point that many-many things are more attainable then you realize, so it is worth asking for them. “Ask for the things you love.” Don’t let the fear and pride get in the way.
Garance encouraged us to really examine how we react to the world, and that “if you f*ck up, then use the tragedy to your advantage…Embrace your imperfections. People don’t expect you to be perfect.” She also pointed out the importance of understanding that not everyone is going to like what you are doing or the decisions that you are going to make. Make sure that if you have one negative response out of 100, that you don’t focus on that one, but instead on the other 99. It’s realizing what (and who) is worth taking seriously and what is not. When you are truly vulnerable it means that you are open to the risk that it might not end up exactly as you might have expected. It might end up even better, but not if you don’t give it the time and space to get there.
In an attempt to try and open myself up to being more vulnerable, I am trying to expose myself to something new every day. Ideally it is something that challenges me or makes me a bit scared, but it doesn’t have to be. As Brené Brown so eloquently points out in her infamous TED Talk on vulnerability, those who are truly vulnerable, have “the courage to be imperfect.” Perfectly imperfect.
To see more of Brené Brown’s wise words…