Vulnerability is often confused with weakness. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, according to researcher and author Brené Brown, “vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage”.
And the source of the word courage is the Latin word coeur, which means heart (the French kept it intact, but in Portuguese we say ‘coração’ and, in Spanish, ‘corazón’).
So, to have courage is to lead with our hearts, to show who we are without fear of not being accepted or liked. And to be vulnerable, we need first to be courageous.
Vulnerability means to open our hearts, to lean into uncertainty, to risk something with no guarantees of a positive result. Like falling in love. Or starting a business. Or changing jobs.
Without vulnerability, we can’t truly connect with others. We are too afraid to allow ourselves to be seen. We protect our hearts too much, to the point of closing it down – and in that process we miss so many precious life opportunities.
It is true that life is messy and unpredictable. It has always been, but right now it feels like it’s even more so. We are now collectively faced with the reality of impermanence and life’s fragility. We may try to hide, but there’s nowhere to go. It’s all right in front of us, all the time.
And how do we stay true to ourselves without courage? How do we allow ourselves to feel our feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly, if our hearts are closed down, sealed, shut?
Vulnerability doesn’t mean to be overly emotional. It means to acknowledge and feel our feelings, knowing that we are humans and that we can’t numb just the stuff we don’t want to feel. When we numb ourselves, we numb it all, including the beauty and the joy and the pain and the suffering.
During a crisis, my tendency is to become overly productive. To roll up my sleeves and “get things done”, and beat myself up at the end of each day for not having done enough. My type A personality takes over.
And that’s what the last 2 months have been for me: taking care of stuff. Keeping the studio running. Learning new ways of teaching. Learning new systems. Helping clients, organizing things.
However, last weekend, something happened that forced me to stop, to put everything on hold and redirect my energy. I was for 2 days, again, on ‘taking care of business’ mode, but a different kind of business. My heart was exposed the whole time, and there was so much uncertainty.
When the issue was resolved, I finally felt the weight of everything. It all crashed down on me like a huge wave. I felt it all: the fear, the intense love, the longing, the joy – all at the same time. I was truly vulnerable.
At some point during the weekend I had this thought: to love is to take your heart out of your chest and offer it to someone else having no idea what they’ll do with it, how they will treat it.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One time a good friend of mine wrote this in a well-wishing card: ‘I wish you all the joy and all the sorrow’. At the time I thought that was mean. Now I totally get it: we cannot separate them. If we decide to connect with others, to show up for ourselves and to be vulnerable, we need to know we are open to all the joy and all the sorrow – and everything in between.
And this is my wish for you today: that you can be brave enough to feel everything fully. That your heart is always, always full.