I’ve had an interesting “thinking week” so far. One of those times where you sink into yourself a bit to explore complexities more deliberately. The seed of this actually started when I wrote the “Procrastination” blog post. It was an ah-ha moment for me to realize that I wasn’t pushing towards publication of my manuscript because I was afraid of failing. I looked on that post as a call to action on my part, and I have made a lot of headway since I wrote it.
Marc read it and was concerned. “I wish you wouldn’t think like that about yourself,” he said. “I think you’re great and you’re far from being a failure. It worries me when you talk down about yourself.” I thought about it a bit. It wasn’t that I thought I was a failure, but rather my fear of failure was holding me back. By my acknowledgement, I was calling it out and I was placing a challenge in front of me.
So, while I was thinking about Marc’s concern, I started listening to Brené Brown’s new Netflix special, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Brown researches vulnerability and shame. Her research reveals that people who show great courage, who achieve great things, do so by allowing themselves to be vulnerable. They allow themselves to be who they are, and to take risk, to stretch outside of their comfort zone. If we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, she says, then we end up living safe, small lives.
When Brown’s qualitative research demonstrated this need to be vulnerable, she turned it inward to examine her own life. She recognized that she couldn’t discuss the need to be vulnerable and open if she did not make herself vulnerable. Her first bestselling book, “Daring Greatly,” opens with a quote from Teddie Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Brown shifted a planned talk at a TEDx conference from “putting on her PhD” about shame and vulnerability to talking about herself and how scary it felt to allow herself to be vulnerable. The talk went viral as Brown’s words echoed what so many of us feel inside—our fear of putting ourselves out there, taking big steps that can result in big falls that are somehow witnessed by everyone around us. (If you haven’t seen this talk, which has now had more than 40 million views, you can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o)
I talk about my fear of failure, my shame about being fat and my poor self image, not because I am wallowing in them, but because those emotions are still in play at times, and I don’t want them to fester—or worse, keep me from telling my story. Keep me from helping other people who might also be ashamed about failing or about their body size. I talk about this so that no one can say “well, she didn’t feel badly about herself the way I do, so what she’s doing to transform her life can’t help me.”
By acknowledging that I want to get my manuscript published—and that I am going to do the uncomfortable work to make that a reality—I could be setting myself up for public failure if it doesn’t happen. I could stay afraid and it would never be published, or I can be vulnerable and push outside my comfort zone to make something happen that is important to me.
Acknowledging my emotions and vulnerability helps me work through what I discover along my path; it gives me the courage to step onto a new path not yet known to me. If we want a better way to live, each one of us can do so—but we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and dare greatly. Thank you, Brené Brown and Teddie Roosevelt!