In my downtown Vancouver counselling and art therapy office, I often sit with clients who find it difficult to embrace vulnerability as a strength. And that is understandable since we are conditioned, since childhood, to view it as a weakness. In order to help clients begin to take a new perspective on vulnerability I recommend Brené Brown’s 2010 TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. The talk usually inspires further introspection that lead to many a-ha moments for clients.
On Friday April 19, 2019, Brené Brown’s Netflix special, The Call to Courage, was released. As of Sunday I have already watched it three times. Brown has committed 20 years to researching courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy so I value her knowledge on the subject. On my first round I had to pause the special so I could grab my notepad and pen to record the wisdom that resonated with me. I laughed. I cried. I felt inspired. I leaned into the discomfort I felt around certain topics and understood those were going to be areas for my own personal growth. I watched it again right away and found many more golden nuggets and laughed and cried again.
By the end of my third viewing, I was ready to show up, be brave, and jump in the arena. Looking over my life, I like to think I have been brave and embraced vulnerability. I do view vulnerability as a necessity, a foundation, to live a whole-hearted life. However, upon further reflection, there are still certain areas of my life where I am cautiously reserved. The areas of my life where I have answered the call to courage are where I have experienced copious amounts of failures, heartaches, disappointments, frustrations, as well as numerous moments of joy, accomplishment, expansion, and serendipities. And the areas of my life where I have yet to pick up that call or put that call on hold, are the areas of my life that feel stagnant. I was left wondering what I should do and judgment crept in which felt unhelpful even shameful. Understanding the importance of self-compassion, I offered myself some. I know that it’s okay if I’m not ready. I know it’s ok to take my time. I know that I can take baby steps until I get there. I know it’s ok to stay still until I’m ready to move forward. And with practicing self-compassion the judgment dissipated.
For those also feeling inspired to jump into the arena of courage and vulnerability and are ready, I commend you and I’m rooting for you. For those also feeling inspired to jump in but don’t know how or are not yet ready, I see you and I’m also supporting you. Please know that it’s ok to take your time. Always honor where you are and what you are feeling. Move at your own pace and find what works for you.
Words from the special that resonated with me:
- “Vulnerability is having the courage to show up when you don’t know the outcome.”
- “You’re going to know failure if you’re brave with your life.”
- “You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives.”
- “Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth, telling your story, and never betraying yourself for other people. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are and that’s vulnerable.”
- “When we were interviewing to understand resilience, the most resilient participants that we’ve met across all these years had this sentence in common: The story I’m telling myself. Because when something hard happens, our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story. It understands story and narrative pattern, and it says, ‘Give me a story so I can understand how to protect you.’ It wants, bad guy, good guy, safe, dangerous, against you, for you. And so we make up these stories.”
- “Joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions. We are terrified to feel joy. We are so afraid that if we let ourselves feel joy something will come along and rip it away from us and we will get sucker punched by pain and trauma and loss. So that in the midst of great things, we literally dress rehearse tragedy…When we lose our capacity for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding…The people who could really lean into joy, they didn’t dress rehearse tragedy. They didn’t practice the terrible things. They just leaned in…What do you think the one thing they share is? They practiced gratitude.”
- Regarding trauma and loss: “No matter what the trauma was that they were recovering from, they said: When you’re grateful for what you have, I understand that you understand the magnitude of what I’ve lost.”
- “If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture, you can’t create.”
- “Today I’ll choose courage over comfort.”
- “In the absence of love and connection there is suffering.”
- “Vulnerability involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
- “Sometimes winning is not coming in first. Sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing.”
- “Vulnerability is hard, and it’s scary, and it feels dangerous, but it’s not as hard, scary, or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves: What if I would have shown up? What if I would have said I love you? What if I would have come off the blocks? Show up, be seen, answer the call to courage, and come off the blocks ‘cause you’re worth it. You’re worth being brave.”
As a Californian, I fully support getting your Californian on. ❤️ 🤣
*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.