The power of vulnerability

Hi there. My name is Sarah, and I’m human. It may sound like a weird thing to say but we keep forgetting that we are only humans after all. Humans with fears, sorrows, doubts, and happy moments. We were all designed to have feelings, in order to experience things. It could be the warm and strange feeling of falling in love, or the fear of telling someone that you are falling in love. Feelings are everywhere, and we are confronted to them everyday.

And yet, no one likes to feel vulnerable. There are some people that will never open up to someone because they fear they will end up broken hearted. There are some people that are scared to admit that they are in pain, because they think it will make them sound weak. It is almost like vulnerability sounds like a disease we would rather avoid in order to stay in control of our feelings, and the logic behind that is « you can’t get hurt if you can’t feel in the first place. »

As far as I can remember, I grew up with the idea that hiding your pain is the only way to deal with it. Last year, I had to face a painful event in my personal life, and that’s exactly what I did: denying pain with the thought that eventually it will go away. I really believed that was actually working at the time, because I was feeling « okay ». I couldn’t remember the last time I felt joyful or happy but as long as I couldn’t feel pain, I was fine with it. I thought that not feeling joy was just a normal effect of grief and I was willing to go on like this, convinced that eventually everything would go back to normal.

And I did go on like this, until the day I started having nocturnal terrors. I would wake up in the middle of the night and scream my lungs out and then go back to sleep like nothing happened, without being conscious. My body was literally trying to express everything my mind was trying to shut down for many months now. I also started to notice that all the ideas that used to pop up in my head in the middle of the night or in the middle of a conversation were nowhere to be found. My sense of creativity was gone, along with my joy, my pain and the fear of being hurt. That’s when I realized that I had become emotionless.

« We tend to numb vulnerability. But we can’t selectively numb emotions. You can’t say: here is disappointment, here is grief, here is shame. I don’t want to feel these. I’m gonna have a couple of beers and a banana muffin and everything will be alright. »

This amazing quote is from the famous research professor Brené Brown, who spent an entire lifetime studying courage, empathy with others and being vulnerable. I discovered her work through one of her TED talk that felt like a much needed slap in the face.

As Brené Brown says, the human brain cannot numb only one chosen feeling above them all. You cannot possibly avoid a feeling without numbing all your other feelings. If you decide to not experience pain or anger for exemple, you definitely will lose the experience of other feelings as well. Ignoring the problem seems likes the easiest solution at first, but it will never do good in the long run.

Vulnerability is the birth place of creativity, of joy, of love, of belonging, and it is necessary to be vulnerable to feel fully alive. After watching this video I realized that I wasn’t doing so well after all, and I think that accepting the fact that something was obviously wrong in my life was the hardest part of the process of healing. The second most important thing I learned from this TED Talk was that once you start embracing the feelings that hurts you the most, you start feeling the good ones even stronger. If you want to live your life at its best potential, you have to take the risk of feeling sad or the risk of being hurt.

That reminds me of when I went skydiving for the very first time. I was so in control of my emotions that when the instructor told me that I might scream when I would get off the plane, I laughed at him and told him « Oh don’t worry, I’m gonna handle that ». When it was time to jump, I was sitting there on the edge of the plane, again trying to control myself « You’re not going to scream Sarah, pull yourself together ». And when I actually jumped, I screamed so hard for an entire minute without even realizing it. For the very first time of my life, at 7000 ft above the ground, I wasn’t in control of anything and I could let myself go. It felt truly amazing to be able to express your feelings without the pressure of being judged. 

I guess that’s what being vulnerable feels like, exposing yourself to others for who you truly are, how you truly feel, and taking the risk that it might be uncomfortable or that it might break you. But at the end of the day you had the guts to be your entire self and to express your feelings, and that’s all you should remember.

And one last thing guys: « Being vulnerable also means that you are alive. »

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