In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience.” When we are vulnerable, we are putting our true, authentic selves out there to make connections with others. I know for me, exposing my authentic self isn’t always comfortable. Throughout my life, I’ve adopted different behaviors, or different tactics, in order to hide my vulnerability.
Mostly, I’ve used perfectionism as a way to gain a sense of belonging and worth. I think it’s something I learned in school: if I meet all the requirements, I’ll get an A. I want to put out the disclaimer that I did not grow up with parents that thought I was a failure if I didn’t get an A; for them, if I did the work and tried my best, I had achieved. Unfortunately, on a larger academic scale, I needed the A. I loved getting the A+. And, the more I achieved, the greater the internal pressure to continue achieving. I see the culmination of this in college, when I mitigated any anxiety I had about my schoolwork by ensuring that, 1) I completed an assignment as soon as the teacher gave it to me, and 2) I met every single requirement to a T. Brené Brown puts it this way, “It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.”
In the past few months I’ve really begun to identify how perfectionism has been a hindrance to my leadership, but I’ll save that for a follow up post. What I’ve been able to see through receiving feedback from my fellow teacher-leaders in training at the yoga studio is that this perfectionism pervades my entire way of being as well. Last weekend, we had the opportunity to give and receive honest, and loving, feedback, and these are some of the things that came up for me around my teaching:
- My body language looked “stuck up”
- I looked like I was trying to “get it right”
- I should continue to get messy, to get “off script” so that my authentic self can shine through
This is feedback I received from my peers, but I knew it myself, too. I’ve been so concerned with delivering the script perfectly that I have sounded like a robot. When I finally let myself get messy, I felt vulnerable, but I also felt free. Getting off script allows me to share pieces of myself and of my life with my students, and that opens the chance to make connection.
While vulnerability can be terrifying, some of the greatest experiences of my life have happened when I allowed myself to be vulnerable.
Three years ago this month, after getting back from a
tense casual afternoon run with Nick, I agonizingly explained to him that while I loved having him as a friend, I would also love to be much more than that. That was probably one of the hardest conversations to initiate, and it took a good half a year to happen, but it was one of the best.
The first time I got off the plane in Tegucigalpa, Honduras probably left me more vulnerable than ever. I didn’t feel confident enough about my Spanish, I wasn’t sure how to interact with children, and I had no idea what being in this foreign culture for a week would be like. Yet, I’ve met the most incredible people, found my passion in working for and with children, and made a meaningful, authentic connection with a country and its people.
“When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can’t hold space open for the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure of joy,” Brown writes. Being vulnerable certainly includes emotional risk, but I’m coming to believe that taking those risks for the chance at joy, happiness and love are so worth it.