“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.” – Theodore Roosevelt
We’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown in one of our classes, and last week we had a long, hard discussion about vulnerability. For me, vulnerability has always been my weakness. Or that’s what I thought.
It was a battle between too much and not enough. Too loyal. Too caring. Not mean enough when people hurt me. Too open. Felt too deeply. Thought too much. Not extraverted or outspoken enough. Not logical or practical enough.
The things that make me who I am to my core were the very things causing me deep pain, and at times, criticism from others. For so long I thought, “Why can’t people see that these are my strengths? And if they are, then why are they causing me hurt?”
My vulnerability made me feel like a black sheep. I had convinced myself it was a weakness, and that it needed to be hidden, because there was no way I could ever use it to my advantage.
In Daring Greatly, Brown discusses the actual definitions of vulnerability and weakness, since the two are so often mistaken as the same. To put it simply, vulnerability means the ability to be wounded, and weakness means not being able to withstand being wounded.
It’s not that I actually enjoy being vulnerable. It’s scary most of the time. Honestly, the times I’ve felt weakest were times I was vulnerable. I’ve laid all my feelings on the table for someone to ignore. I’ve been rejected. That stuff hurts and can drag you into a place of “what did I do wrong?” or “that’s it, I’m never opening up again.”
The first will make you feel shame, and the second will make you want to feel nothing at all. These are weaknesses. These are things we run to when we think we cannot withstand being wounded. If we settle for shame and numbing, neither will make us stronger.
Just because vulnerability has made me feel weak, doesn’t mean that I am weak. In fact, those moments have been turning points in my character and growth, which have made me stronger. The reason I “love” vulnerability is not because of the feeling I get in the moment, it’s knowing the better that could lie on the other side. A better, closer friendship. A deeper, more trusting relationship. A stronger me.
With honest love,