We are a culture of success. We want everything to be perfect, dialed, and done right the first time.
My father ingrained it into us as kids “do it right the first time.” I do not know if that was ingrained in him as a kid or if it was after being in the military, but he was hard-core and would often yell if we did things (mostly chores) and our results were not up to his standard. Imagine over time knowing that if it was not perfect the first time — you would receive his anger and frustration. Yet, it meant that we only learned to fail with negative consequences.
When I heard about Pema Chodron’s book: “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown” I knew I had to read it. It is the transcription of her 2014 commencement address at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her granddaughter is in the graduating class. It is a quick read (a book with text on only the right side pages, and small, so it can be read in less than an hour), but a powerful message.
I love this idea she shares:
“‘Fail better’ means you being to have the ability to hold what I called in the talk ‘the rawness of vulnerability’ in your heart, and see it as your connection with other human beings and as part of humanness. Failing better means when these things happen in your life, they become a source of growth, a source of forward, a source of, as I say in the talk, ‘out of that place of rawness you can really communicate genuinely with other people’.” Page 115
To think about failing and being vulnerable — that is where we learn. There is so much I can take from this in work and home life, and especially with this ‘lil man that is going to soon join us. I vow to let my son learn in his own way, fail, and be vulnerable. Hopefully it means he will not have the message that has haunted me for years — that I always had to do it right the first time.
Say what is on your mind. Say it directly. Say exactly what you mean. Do not hold back. What do you lose by saying exactly what you are thinking? Will others judge you? Maybe. Will they laugh at you? Possibly. Does it matter? No. If you want to be completely and utterly yourself, then you have to be you and part of that means saying what is on your mind.
I am direct. I have an opinion and it can come out strongly. Does that mean that I do not want to hear what others have to say? Not in the least. I encourage a healthy debate. Your opinion may sway me. I may learn something new that just may bring an aha moment for me that will create a speedy excitement of new ways of doing things. You never know.
I see it all the time. Individuals that suppress their feelings. They are afraid to say what is really on their mind. When that happens it means they are not really being true to themselves. They are hiding behind what they think others want them to say, do, feel. Why do we do that? Why is it so hard to be unequivocally ourselves? Why do we sometimes sensor ourselves? Or not share what we are really feeling? I constantly go back to ideas that resonated with me from Brene Brown’s book: “Daring Greatly” such as:
“Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” Page 42
Is that what we are doing when we say what is on our mind? When we have no filter, and do not suppress our thoughts?
Vulnerability is the new black. Thanks to Brene Brown, more people are talking about vulnerability. I love the word in ways I never would have a few years ago. Why? Because it is making us more real. I dislike the dictionary definitions I found for vulnerable. Once you read Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” you may just agree that we need to revise the definition. Most definitions talk about “being vulnerable to attack or harm.” Not too encouraging.
How about something about opening oneself up to the rawness and realness of life, to feel, act, and speak with openness? Ah, what would life be like if we said exactly what was on our mind all the time? We might know each other better, feel deeper, wonder what others think less. Would that be refreshing? I think so. So what holds us back from being vulnerable? Are we afraid of what others will think of us, or that we will offend another, or that we will put ourselves out there and it will not be reciprocated? All valid points, but are they enough to not make us just lay it all out there? Do we have too much to lose?
I am not going to say that it was ever easy to put my thoughts out there blunt and uncensored, but the more I have the easier it gets. Sometimes it can be messy. I can have an amazing evening with Chris and another couple and walk away thinking, “Did I say too much?” I often get a funny feeling inside that makes me revisit a conversation and I wonder what is making me circle through different moments of the night. Maybe I did say too much and maybe it was just right. Regardless, I was me in all my rawness. There is a bravery, an innocence, a transparency that comes with vulnerability. I will take that from someone any day. It means I am truly getting to see that other person. In happiness, tears, fear, you get to witness them for who they are in that moment.
By being vulnerable, we feel deeper, we form stronger connections, and we are all changed in the end. It is a risk, but I think it is worth it. Are you willing to take that risk and start being more vulnerable?
Feeling vulnerable. Feeling safe. Which one drives the choices you make on a day-to-day basis? Over the past ten years I have gone from being guarded, closed, and keeping things inside, to being so transparent I probably make others wince. I have no filter, and say what is on my mind. Yet, I know there are people in my life that I do not tell enough how much they mean to me, and how much I love them.
I did not grow up in a lovey-dovey house. In his final few years my dad was a hugger, but it erked me. I could not remember him being like that when I was a kid, and he had so much anger and depression stored inside him I did not know if the hugs were genuine, or if it was his way to try to keep what was left of our family together. What is funny about growing up in an environment of non lovey-doviness, is that it is harder for me to be that way with family (of course with the exception of Chris and I imagine my future little ones). My future little one(s) most likely will get annoyed with my over the top, make sure they know I love them, gushy momness.
Yes, I am going to share another quote from “Bread & Wine” because it is just a great, wholesome book. Her thoughts on love and vulnerability made me think and ponder. It made me question why I sometimes hold my family a bit of a distance away, and why it is easier for me to bring friends, colleagues, and others to a closer distance. I am not going to tell you my findings, as I think they are still percolating within my thoughts, but wanted to share this quote in hopes that it might inspire you to think about those moments that happen where you can tell those close to you why you love them, and why they matter in your life.
“The heart of hospitality is creating space for these moments, protecting that fragile bubble of vulnerability and truth and love. It’s all too rare that we tell the people we love exactly why we love them—what they bring to our lives, why our lives are richer because they’re in it. We do it best, I think, with our nuclear family—most of us tell our children and spouses how much we love them easily and often.” Page 176
We do not solve our insecurities all at once in life, but I appreciate when the thoughts from an author or friend encourage us to look freshly at our life each day and find how we can do one little thing to pull apart the onion layers of our vulnerability, our fears, and our past issues, and look a little more closely at who we are and what scares us. Hopefully, it makes our life richer, more vibrant, lively, and connects us to what matters most.
A few months ago, I finished reading the book: “The Longest Way Home” by Andrew McCarthy. For those of you that do not know who McCarthy is, he first became known as an actor in “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Pretty in Pink.” I also recently remember watching him in “Lipstick Jungle” until it was cancelled. He is now a travel writer, and his book shares many travel experiences in addition to the lead up to his second marriage. He calls his new wife: “D.” The following quote resonated with me because it is often how I operate:
“D’s willingness to emotionally invest in others and make herself vulnerable allows her to inhabit her humanity to a degree that still baffles me. Why would anyone who is so strong-willed, so self-sufficient, want to make herself vulnerable to someone else? D would say that what is most important in life is family, connection, and community. Loving someone, she will say, is the only thing that matters and is worth the price of relinquishing control.” page 63
I agree. Almost. While I might make myself vulnerable in many situations, I have a hard time relinquishing control. Emotionally investing in others and being vulnerable is how I believe you get close to others. Often I think I open up about myself, however, only in the way of sharing experiences. What is harder for me is being vulnerable in a way where I actually ask for help. Rarely do I put myself out there in that way.
My vulnerability happens by sharing what I have learned, am learning, and how the road of life intersects with someone else’s experience. True connection I believe is found by intersections. Being transparent and open about your life and your beliefs can start the march towards intimacy. As long as the other individual is willing and open to be present with that emotional vulnerability. If they are not, it can be a waste of time. Or is it?
All of this comes to me after reading his book. Vulnerability allows us to intersect our humanity. I have a hunch that we all could tap into our vulnerability, slide off that iPhone, walk away from our computer, go down the hall and connect with someone new. What would that feel like? To try to be vulnerable and intersect the life of one person each day. Share from your life experience, be vulnerable, and intersect lives. All for the vein of love, humanity, and connection.