Brene Brown and vulnerability

brene brown

I am loving listening to Brene Brown in the morning and it has me seriously reflecting on courage, vulnerability, and other people’s response to vulnerability.

It’s fascinating. From a young age, I learnt to put an armour on. I still wear the armour around people I don’t feel safe with or trust.  It isn’t armour to fight, it is armour to protect. If the armour comes off, it’s because I feel completely comfortable with that person, which in itself is a rare thing.

And yet, even when I am wearing every piece of armour I can find, I am happy to own my vulnerability. I say it. I say it loud. I say it over and over. But what Brene has me thinking about this week is whether our vulnerability is taken seriously when we have our armour on?

Let me give you an example: I have expressed vulnerability at work this year…to people where I am wearing the absolute most armour I can find.  And yet, despite having the courage to be authentic and say I am vulnerable, I feel (and I am going to emphasise that I feel) it hasn’t actually been truly listened to or understood.

The latest was this week when I expressed my vulnerability with regard to something that had happened. I said categorically ‘this has made me feel rubbish’ exposing my vulnerable position and, yet, no response was immediately forthcoming, so I have had to sit uncomfortably with my vulnerability.

And what’s worse is this is after a week in which I found myself in an unsafe space (for me), to discuss the area in which I feel most vulnerable.  And I got something ‘wrong’. And instead of feeling supported, I left feeling humiliated and even more vulnerable than before, widening the trust chasm further, if that is possible.

Now this is how I perceive it. Because the truth of the matter is that no matter how many times you say it, some people just don’t believe in the vulnerability you are expressing. And that has led me to reflect upon how utterly essential it is to listen to people when they express their vulnerabilities, to take them seriously, to respond appropriately and to do something whereby the person feels supported to tackle the vulnerability head on. And my thinking is that if this is done then perhaps aspects of the armour might get peeled away as well. Because ultimately don’t we see the real person when we see them in their most vulnerable state?

And that leads me to further questions: why is it that some people are more attuned to your armour wearing and your vulnerability than others?  How come some people get it whilst others clearly don’t?

In searching for the answer, I think I am concluding two things: firstly, and most importantly, that it is people investment, relationship building. It is genuinely wanting to invest in the people around you, genuinely showing an interest in them, acknowledging and celebrating their strengths and taking their vulnerabilities very very seriously to support and develop. This investment in people enables authentic relationship-building where no armour is actually required.

But it is also, the importance of acknowledging and meeting those people where they are rather than where you think they are – your perception of them – or where you want them to be.  It is about knowing individuals, how individuals work and what will best support, encourage and develop them in a positive way.  And this can only be achieved when people take the time to understand, to really understand, through active listening and then through actions that are supportive and encouraging.

I am loving listening to Brene because she is giving me a space to reflect. And so, whilst I continue to ponder the courage to be vulnerable and what that means as a consequence, all I am certain of is that I will continue to be vulnerable.  I will continue to wear my armour.  I will continue to be vulnerable whilst wearing that armour.  There are times when my vulnerability is going to make me feel shit and I am going to have to temper my expectations about how I overcome my vulnerability but if you look in the right places, I also know you can find the best support and continue to chip away at the vulnerability you feel in order to develop further.

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