Being Vulnerable: An Avenue For Wholehearted Living

When Brené Brown gave her 2010 TED talk on being vulnerable, she had no idea her video would garner over 20 million views. She thought that interest in her talk would peak during the in-person event, not for years to come! But Brown’s authentic storytelling and research left a deep impact on our understanding of wholehearted living, launching a movement unto itself.

As a culture, we often misconstrue vulnerability for weakness. We fear vulnerability because we associate it with pain and hurt. When facing daily struggles, our learned habit is to hunker down and try to hammer some certainty into our uncertain lives rather than deal with our feelings in the moment. A perpetual unwillingness to be vulnerable takes its toll, leading us to check out through perfectionism, addiction, and self-critical thoughts.

Brown started her work as a qualitative researcher to create order in a messy field: social work. Through interviews with thousands of individuals, Brown discovered that accepting vulnerability, more than anything else, is an indicator of wholehearted living. Individuals who exhibit the courage to tell their stories, feel compassion for themselves, and develop connections from a place of authenticity also accept vulnerability as a natural and necessary part of life.

Brown’s research led her to recognize that she needed to embrace the unknown, the imperfect, and the vulnerable in order to be happy and fulfilled. Through her rough-and-tumble personal journey, she struggled with the need to control. Eventually, she found the certainty she craved in recognizing her own worthiness of love and belonging.

By sharing her discoveries, Brené Brown shows us another way. Like her, we all face struggles that require us to live in uncertainty and face our fears. We have tough days and challenging times, but by being vulnerable and understanding that we are enough just as we are, we walk into a wholehearted existence. This form of self-compassion is also the door to showing compassion to others; as we accept ourselves, we are able to radiate kindness to others along our path. Can you remember a moment when you felt vulnerable and showed compassion to yourself or another person as a result?

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