20130823-theodore-roosevelt-quote-600x411When the word “vulnerable” comes to mind, do you naturally cringe or consider an opportunity for growth? One site defines vulnerability as “Susceptible to physical or emotional injury”, while another source coins vulnerability as a synonym for weakness. This discussion explains the newly emerging definition of vulnerability, why it matters and how to take advantage of your delicate existence.

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Dr. Brene Brown’s fundamental research is changing the way we view human interactions. In short, the Social Worker gathered thousands of stories and interviews in which people described their most excruciating and rewarding moments related to vulnerability. Brown grouped individuals into 2 categories: those that embraced vulnerability and those that shied away from it. Through the research, Brown discovered individuals with a strong sense of love and belonging were more likely to lead a confident life with a willingness to embrace vulnerability, while those that refused to engage in interactions with their peers lacked a sense of belonging, resulting in their refusal to open up.

Brene Brown Defines Vulnerability

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Brown claims vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Sure it sounds hokey, but Brown debunks the myth which suggests vulnerability is a weakness. By willingly taking risks, one cannot be labeled weak.

The irony of exposing oneself to rejection is that it takes an act of courage to put yourself out there in the first place. So it’s illogical to suggest that vulnerability and weakness mean the same thing. Brown insists that shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. Weakness is the refusal to participate in the process of change; those with confidence and a strong sense of belonging are more likely to take chances and act on opportunities in which no guarantees exist for any particular outcome. Read ahead for examples of how to actively engage vulnerability.

Apologize

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Let’s face it: With all the good intentions one could muster, conflict is inevitable. From friendships to marriages and even relationships with the in-laws, disagreements are bound to occur at some point, leaving most to feel uneasy. Not everyone has to agree with you.

Rather than ignore the problem at hand, stretch for congruity by offering an apology. Aside from apologies, reaching out in uncertain situations indicates a willingness to hear the other person’s story. Empowerment refutes the notion of ignoring someone as a so-called intelligent move. It takes courage to open up and in doing do, you become more comfortable in your vulnerable state.

Embrace Unfamiliar Surroundings

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If you’re not vulnerable to people, you may be vulnerable to situations and settings. I rode with Keegan to see Big Business at Exit/In a few days ago and although I felt skeptical, we ended up having fun like always. One friend informed me how much she hates Reveille Joe’s Coffee Shop on the square in Murfreesboro, but much to my surprise, their Peppermint Mocha tastes much better than Starbucks.

Whether it’s a party or a concert, don’t be afraid to try something new and venture out of your comfort zone. I would have never imagined going to a show alone but once I saw Queens of the Stone Age by myself, I realized how easy it is to blend in the crowd, make new friends and enjoy the music regardless.

Speak about Shame

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Dr. Brown refers to shame as “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging”. Shame tends to hinder those with a lack of confidence from reconciling issues in their past when they remain silent. So, shame stunts the growth process, whereas those that thrive on vulnerable opportunities tend to develop their courageous persistence and poise. Brown’s research suggests that shame cannot survive being spoken. In other words, it’s healthy and encouraged to talk about shame.

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Shame derives from guilt and embarrassment, and the only way to overcome these emotions is to talk about them. As mentioned previously, a vulnerable soul embraces resolution skills. The refusal to speak about problems and ignoring them altogether will only fester with time because of shame. A willingness to communicate eradicates shame.

Challenge Your Fears

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Figure out which types of people or situations you need to come to terms with. Hone in on your fears and find comfortable ways to tackle these goals. For more information regarding vulnerability, feel free to watch Brene Brown’s video posted below.

http://new.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

I enjoyed her discussion and how she touches on a variety of situations that leave us feeling exposed at times: Asking for help when you’re sick, approaching your boss about a raise, waiting for your mammogram results, extending an invite to a former friend and even initiating sex.

All these situations involve risk, but that doesn’t mean you’re not in control. Putting your fate in someone else’s hands means you’re brave enough to deal with the consequences, and that’s what counts. So live boldly, fearlessly and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.

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