On Vulnerability

Vulnerability.

What do you feel when you read that word? Pause for a moment, take note.

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability lately. And its poignant role in being who we are truly meant to be; our most courageous selves.

In her brilliant research and work which has forged an essential and transformative global conversation, Dr. Brené Brown powerfully highlights that "You cannot get to courage without walking through vulnerability. Period."

That last word still gets me. Period.

Vulnerability shows up uniquely within each of us. What is vulnerable for one isn’t necessarily vulnerable for another. Yet universally, when we choose vulnerability, it moves us all toward courage.

Imagine with me for a moment. What would our partnerships, families, teams, workplaces, communities, and world be like if we chose to lean into our vulnerability and the practice of courage?

  • The courage to make the hard choice.
  • The willingness to tell the truth, aloud and within our own hearts.
  • Or to make the choice that brings us closer to being our most authentic self.

It gives me chills, a big smile, and a little shudder too. What about you?

What is the most courageous choice in this moment?

I think about this question a lot too. It simultaneously intimidates and fascinates me because it brings me face-to-face with my vulnerability, my most raw and unfiltered self. 

When we’re doing well, life is moving smoothly, or we’re not face-to-face with enormous change or transformation, the practice of vulnerability often gets quieter, easier to throw in the back of the closet. However, when transitions are high, the unknowns are glaring at us, and fear holds a prominent place at the kitchen table of our minds and hearts, vulnerability somehow seems more within reach.

Simply put, in times of transition or life’s difficult moments, we cannot help but show our more vulnerable selves, even if only to ourselves. The high tides of life somehow bring vulnerability and courage to the surface. This doesn’t mean we always choose to anchor ourselves here; sometimes we fight like hell to plunge that vulnerability back beneath the tumultuous surface into the quiet deep. 

So the challenge is often choosing the practice of vulnerability in every situation—no matter the tide of life—knowing it is the path to our most courageous self, our most meaningful life.

It’s rather easy to write such words. Hard as hell to live them, isn’t it?

I was sitting in a hospital a couple weeks ago when I read this:

"The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is." (No idea who the author is so thank you, kind universe, for this wisdom wherever it came from.)

This struck me in a powerful way. There are days when it’s damn hard to remember what is real and what is not. Fear can be oh-so-charming to entertain, with its cunning ability to make you believe it’s real. And light can often be so intangible to capture, its warmth seemingly out of reach. The important thing is to keep reaching.

I’m definitely no teacher of this process; merely a fellow student like you who sometimes finds herself living in a kind of darkness stretching her spirit toward that elusive hope. And other days, embracing the light wholeheartedly and with boundless joy. And still other days, finding the strength to actually be the light within the dark. Stumbling along with grit, grace, and gratitude wherever possible.

There are many paths to the light in this life. Authenticity, vulnerability, and courage certainly aren’t shortcuts along the path but rather powerfully illuminate the light within along our way.