The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown opens her TED talk by explaining how she was taught that “what you can’t measure, doesn’t exist.” We like to do things we can measure that have a direct result. Think about it; school we see it through grades and with a job it’s clear through money. But what about the unpredictable things, the things with no controlled outcome that cannot be measured or labelled?

These are the feelings that make us human. In Brown’s talk, she discusses her decade-long journey to understanding the power of vulnerability, an emotion often associated with fear.

“When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak,” Brown says. “When you ask people about belonging, they tell you about disconnect.”

I think it depends on who you ask. I think if you ask people about love, they will tell you about moments. But if you ask people about heartbreak, they will often tell you their story. It is easy to define ourselves by the struggles we’ve overcome, because we can relate vulnerability and fear to the person that we were, feelings only credited to the past.

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear… but also the birthplace of joy and belonging,” Brown says, explaining how people who have the courage to be imperfect and believe they are worthy of love are the ones who feel loved wholeheartedly.

In the words of John Green, pain demands to be felt. As does every other negative and positive emotion because that is what allows us to connect and be human. Feelings are scary because they are something we can’t control. But I think it’s even more scary to feel vulnerable and not want to admit it. Truth is, we’re all in the same boat and at some points, we’re going to fall out and need a hand. Vulnerability is about recognizing that that’s okay.

There may be no such thing as perfect, but there is such thing as more than good enough. And with this talk, I think Brown is challenging us to eliminate the word “should” from our vocabulary and only recognize what we were, are and will be. She’s saying to accept vulnerability and fear as a necessary part of who we are, not who we think we should or shouldn’t be, but who we are now. The most important things are too complex for any unit of measurement because connection and life and feelings are far beyond anything experiments can explain. Brown emphasizes how we are all yearning for connection, one that will only happen “once we allow ourselves to be seen.”

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul,” says Brown. I don’t believe all stories are backgrounded in research or even have a place on the shelf. Most stories aren’t covered in scientific terms to explain behaviours or coined a certain genre, most stories can’t be labelled at all. But each one, Brown says, “is wired for struggle and worthy of love” simply because of its existence.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Vulnerability

  1. Jason van Hal says:

    This has always been one of my favourite TED talks. It is difficult for many men to be vulnerable as they see it as weakness. I do not. But vulnerability can, and is, being terribly abused all the time. And after it has, and all is lost, the very real challenge is allowing yourself to be vulnerable all over again.

    Thanks for reminding me of this great talk.

    • ericahowes says:

      I agree, I think it’s an important message that’s often not addressed. And thanks for reading! I’m hoping to post more regularly in my blog so stay tuned for more reflection/opinion style pieces!

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