Reflections on Vulnerability

Recently, I viewed a TedTalks video from Brene` Brown on the power of vulnerability. Dr. Brown is a qualitative researcher with a degree in social work. During this particular talk, she discussed her research dealing with shame and vulnerability. She shared that as humans, we have a tendency to focus on our weaknesses and disconnections. We have a fear that we’re not good enough. She had difficulty believing her own research and had to come to terms that being vulnerable was really courage in another form. The willingness to be “seen” and to accept being vulnerable may lead to great joy and accomplishment.

She also conducted research with people who feel worthy – as she described it “…wholehearted people living from a deep sense of worthiness.” She suggested that what separated these wholehearted people from those who did not feel worthy was the courage to be imperfect and the compassion to be kind to themselves and others. These people also formed deep connections with others and lived authentically, expressing their true selves, not the persons they thought they should be. In short, these individuals embraced vulnerability, recognizing it as strength, not as a weakness.

Her words resonated with me. As parents, we see newborns as perfect and our job is to keep them perfect. I was reminded of this when I visited my newborn grandson. Dr. Brown suggested that instead of seeing babies as perfect, we must realize they are imperfect. Our job as parents and grandparents is to nurture them and to love them no matter the imperfections.

As educators, her research is powerful to consider. Every day, we work with students who are still learning and growing. They come to us with all the joys and challenges in their personal lives. They open up to us as mentors; they wear their vulnerability daily. We must make deep, wholehearted connections to them as students find their way academically, socially, and emotionally. We must encourage tenacity and hope, so they have that “suit of armor” which can sustain them through tough times. We must recognize and accept their imperfections, which is not always easy. As a middle school teacher, assistant principal, and principal, a book titled The Middle School Years: Love Me when I’m Most Unlovable, impacted me significantly and changed the way I built relationships with my students and transformed the way I viewed them.

We must also take some of these lessons and apply them to our own lives. Dr. Brown encourages us that as we go through life, to be seen deeply, to love with our whole hearts, and to practice gratitude and joy. She implored us to be kind and gentle with everyone around us, but most of all, with ourselves.

I encourage you to reflect on this research and to realize that we have the ability engage in powerful relationships with people of all ages, and to significantly touch their lives. We also have a great capacity for excellence and innovation, if we give ourselves permission to be seen, to take risks and to have the courage to make mistakes and to learn from them.

I’m enclosing a link to the video, in case you wish to view it https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.