Do you want close and trusting relationships but find it scary to connect? Do you want to have deep and meaningful conversations but feel afraid you’ll say the wrong thing? Do you want a new career but feel paralyzed by the fear you’ll try and fail?
So many of us want bigger, bolder, and more connected lives. But we’re terrified. We’re afraid we’ll fail. Afraid we’ll be judged. Afraid we’ll get hurt.
In Brené Brown’s Netflix Special, she talks about this crushing dilemma. This tug of war. We’re caught between wanting the good stuff in life and feeling absolutely terrified by the uncertainty of it all.
Brené Brown is a well-known researcher and speaker. She’s written a stack of best-selling books. Her TED talk has been viewed nearly 40 million times. And she’s a member of Oprah’s posse. Simply stated, Brené’s a badass. And her new Netflix special brilliantly highlights what you need to know if you want to live an awesome and fulfilling life.
1. Vulnerability is not a weakness. I’m going to be honest; you’ve been lied to all your life. You were told to keep your emotions under wraps. You were trained to be strong and unaffected. You were taught that being vulnerable is a weakness to be avoided at all costs.
Well friends. That’s a lie. Vulnerability is not a weakness. It’s not a negative. In fact, as Brené says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” It’s at the core of nearly everything good and meaningful.
So, it’s time to stop thinking that vulnerability and weakness are the same thing. They’re not.
2. Vulnerability is not the amount of information you disclose. You know that coworker who tells everyone her personal life? Or that woman at the store sharing about her breakup, her new boyfriend, and what she did on her day off? Guess what? They’re not being vulnerable. They’re oversharing.
Too often, we confuse vulnerability with the amount of information we share. How many dirty details we include. But that’s a hard no. Brené gives a clear definition of vulnerability. And it’s simple. “Vulnerability is the feeling you get when there’s uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.”
Going for a promotion, even though you’re not sure you’ll get it? That’s vulnerability. Telling a friend you were hurt by their comment? That’s vulnerability. Parenting a tiny human without a roadmap? Yep, that’s vulnerability.
Being courageous isn’t about telling someone your entire life story. It’s about being authentic. It’s about sharing your truth. It’s about being you.
3. You must be willing to fail. I talk about courage a lot on my site. It’s become a guiding force in my life. So, I thought I had it down pretty well. But Brené Brown’s Netflix special gave me a gut punch. If you choose courage, you must be willing to fail. Because you will. You will fail. You will fall down. And you will get hurt.
So often, when we talk about being brave, we acknowledge there’s a chance for failure. A chance for disappointment. For hurt. But if you’re an overachiever, you secretly think that if you do all the steps just right, you can avoid failure or disappointment.
But you can’t. Failure is part of courage. It happens. Not every time. But sometimes. Simone Biles has fallen off the balance beam. Bill Gates has had a bad idea. It’s just part of the deal. You must be willing to take the risk. You must be willing to fail.
But rest assured. Because for every failure, for every flop, you’ll have more than a handful of glorious wins. You’ll have joy-filled relationships. So get used to failure once in a while. It’s part of the deal.
4. Vulnerability is at the core of everything good. Right now, list a few of the things you want in life. Love, connection, joy. Laughter, equality, support, fulfillment. Each and every one of these things require vulnerability. They require risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure.
Vulnerability is scary and hard. But it’s also at the root of everything good. And as Brené points out, you can’t have joy, love, or connection without letting yourself be seen. There’s an enormous payoff when you choose courage. That soul nourishing thing you’re craving? Yep, it’s just on the other side of vulnerability.
5. Your thoughts are not the truth. I talk about this in depth in my Ultimate Guide to Tackling Anxiety. And it bears repeating. Your thoughts are not always accurate. Your conclusions are not always correct. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true.
In Brené Brown’s Netflix special, she shares a story about swimming with her husband, acknowledging how each of them created a story. As humans, we’re wired to make sense of things and draw conclusions. It’s an evolutionary survival skill that serves us well in dangerous situations. Smell something burning? Hear footsteps behind you? Your brain creates a quick story to help you take action. (Learn more about why we do this here.)
But in relationships, the stories we create are rarely true. They’re complicated by our own fears. They’re skewed, based on our insecurities and past hurts. But we move forward, believing that they’re true.
This causes you to lash out in relationships. Or retreat in fear. This causes you to hide your feelings. Or wrap them in sarcasm. This causes you to say no to an opportunity. Or convince yourself you don’t want it anyway.
When fear creeps up, and the story in your head seems certain, gently take a breath and remember, your thoughts are not always accurate.
It’s easy to play it safe. It’s easy to make your dreams small. To play small. But as Brené so perfectly says near the end of her special, “Vulnerability is hard and scary, and it feels dangerous. But it’s not as hard and scary as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves, “What if I would’ve shown up?”
So today friends, I challenge you to show up. Be brave. Be courageous. Smash the idea that vulnerability is a weakness. And get comfortable with a little bit of failure. Because everything good that you desire? It’s there, on the other side of vulnerability, just waiting for you.
Have you seen Brené Brown’s Netflix special? I’d love to hear your big takeaway!
PS: Ready to be courageous, but feeling afraid? Learn the single word that can dramatically reduce your anxiety!