I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. -Michael Jordan
Though I’ve read almost all of Brene Brown’s books, watched her TED Talks numerous times, and taken an online course with her, I had some serious new aha’s during her recent Netflix special: The Call to Courage. The biggest of which was this: Vulnerability is not RISKING failure. Vulnerability is GUARANTEEING failure. Not all the time but definitely sometimes and eventually. So why would we do this? Because “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” –Brene Brown
When Brene shared the story of a group at one of the tech companies trying to develop and algorithm to determine when it’s safe to be vulnerable, i.e., trying program the risk out of vulnerability, a light bulb went off in my head. I try to do this!! She shared another example of a man who came up to her after one of her talks and said something like “I’m going to start by practicing vulnerability to my own and then I’m going to do it with other people.” Brene laughed! And this small voice in my head is going “Uh oh…I think that’s what I do.” Like, I’m going to be vulnerable once I’ve practiced on my own. But vulnerability doesn’t work this way. According to the research vulnerability requires a) uncertainty b) risk and c) emotional exposure. When you take the risk out of vulnerability, it’s no longer vulnerability.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read about all of the armor and shame shields we use to avoid pain. But I didn’t get it so plainly until listening to some of these stories. Brene ends her talk with a beautiful story about her daughter and I’m not going to give away the ending but the message is that when you’re brave and you show up, that is the win. It’s not about the outcome. It’s not about how many likes your post gets. Or whether you win the race. Or how many people show up at your workshop. Or whether your partner is hurt when you speak the truth. Or whether you get hurt when you speak the truth. It’s about your willingness to show up regardless and keep showing up.
But instead often when we show up and wind up face down in the arena, our ego steps in says “No!!!! I will never let this happen again!!” So we armor up. We figure out how we can make sure that we are perfect before showing up. Or we decide not to show up at all. Or we blame ourselves–I wasn’t ready or wasn’t good enough. Or we blame others—anything to protect us from the pain. But what if in these moments we did the opposite? What if we said, “Yes! Here is my opportunity to access my own resilience. Here is my opportunity to get back up and try again. This pain is part of being human. And I can get through this.”
You may be wondering, yeah, but aren’t there situations that just aren’t safe for you to be vulnerable? And as many things, there’s not a black and white answer to this–it’s more of a both/and. On the one hand, you don’t want to be reckless and boundary-less and share your most vulnerable stuff with someone who hasn’t earned your trust or someone who’s repeatedly shown they’re not safe. You don’t want to give an important speech or workshop without preparing at all. And on the other hand, no matter how careful and prepared you are, when you choose to be vulnerable and show up, you will fail at some point. And this experience is the birthplace of resilience. By embracing our pain in those moments, by loving ourselves through it, and by reaching out for connection, we begin to know our own power. Bottomline, it’s all good when you’re showing up–all of it. Because it’s not about the outcome at all. It’s about you being brave, being vulnerable, being present.
We often have this idea in our minds that if we show up and are doing the work, things will go well or we’ll feel good or our relationships will be better, right? But sometimes it gets harder before it gets easier…and then it gets harder again…and then easier. It’s not linear. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes we are in the dark night of our soul and it feels like things are falling apart. This doesn’t mean we’re not right where we’re supposed to be. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us or that we’ve failed. Rather, it means that we are showing up. We are doing the work of being human. We are in the arena versus standing on the sidelines watching. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy. And we all get caught up in trying to stay comfortable and away from pain. After all, that’s our ego’s job–and it’s an important one. But the win is about showing up and embracing ourselves right where we are, wherever that is. It’s about creating our own inner safety and belonging that can’t be shaken. Saying ‘This, too. Right here in this moment, I am perfect, I am lovable, I am strong.’
I’m going to do a quick recap because this idea is so freakin’ important. Failure is an inherent part of vulnerability. It doesn’t mean anything about you. It’s not something you can avoid or orchestrate out of the picture. So next time you put yourself out there and find you self face down in the mud, celebrate! You did it! That is the worst, right? But you can get through it. And each time this happens and you get through, you are accessing and cultivating a deeper sense of inner safety that can’t be shaken by external circumstances. You are tapping into your own resilience. Offer yourself some gratitude for your courage and willingness to take the risk. This is the work! And just by doing this, you are winning. You are growing. You are connecting.
So here’s my commitment to myself and to you:
- I am willing to show up each day, in all of my messy human-ness.
- I am willing to notice when I’m doing that perfecting thing before I put something out there, e.g., spending 30 minutes on a 4 sentence facebook post!
- I am willing to reach back out for connection when I feel hurt.
- I am willing to say no when something isn’t healthy for me or doesn’t feel right.
- I am willing to listen to and trust in my knowing. Sometimes we can’t see the whole picture.
- I am willing to notice when I stepped outside my own integrity and own it.
- I am committed to seizing those moments of failure as opportunities to strengthen my ability to show up regardless.
- I am willing to sit with my discomfort, my irritability, my pain.
- I am committed to loving those parts of me that feel deep shame–and to reaching out for support in those moments. We can’t heal these parts in isolation.
- I am committed to forgiving myself when I get caught up in my own armor and defenses.
- And I am committed to offering myself so much love, compassion, and gratitude along the way.
I hope you’ll join me in this journey. As always, I’d love to hear from you!
Invitation: Make a list of your commitments to yourself around your vulnerability (you’re welcome to use some of mine!). And celebrate yourself for showing up in both big and small ways, regardless of the outcome.
Affirmation: You are good enough and perfect the way you are no matter what.