How Vulnerability Saved My Life
BY: ASHLEY JOHNSON
For me, there was no way to write this article without adequately paying homage to the master of understanding and embracing vulnerability: Brené Brown. Four years ago, I was sitting in the office of a psychologist as he tried to break down my outer protective shell and figure out exactly why I was there. Sure, I felt out of control, was dating someone who was damaging my mental and physical health, and was working over 30 hours a week plus taking a 19-credit course load, but “I was fine.”
Sitting in the doctor’s office that first day, I was so nervous. He told me to look up a researcher/storyteller/general badass named Brené Brown and that she had a particularly great Ted Talk about vulnerability. He wrote this information on the back of his business card and I disregarded it for weeks, unsure of what a Ted Talk was going to do for my deteriorating mental health. It wasn’t until I was bored one night—putting off homework—that I decided to look up the video on YouTube. And that’s when everything changed. What’s to come is the best I can do to communicate what I learned the next year of my life about being vulnerable, and why you have to embrace it.
“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.”
I’ll never say there’s anything wrong with being a “strong independent woman” (or man), but in order to feel whole and loved, you have to show your cards to the people who want the best for you. How can you expect people to be there for you if you won’t show them who you truly are? Showing people the real you means showcasing your flaws, your insecurities and your fears. When you allow people to see the person you really are, you build a connection and an immense sense of trust. To create meaningful relationships, you have to acknowledge your vulnerabilities and face them head on with the people who love you. Let others support you and lift you—you don’t have to do it alone.
“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”
How many times have you been told to “just be yourself.” Easier said than done, right? While I won’t tell you that exactly, what I will tell you is you have to let go of the idea that you have to be a certain kind of person or live up to some kind of standard—the only person’s opinion of you that matters is your own. The sooner you learn to own up to your most vulnerable parts, the sooner you’ll find true peace and happiness within yourself. As Ms. Brown would say: “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think—or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Be unique. Be yourself.
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
My last key takeaway from my time studying vulnerability was that you have to treat yourself with kindness. It’s so easy to look at yourself in a mirror and pick apart your appearance or be disappointed in yourself for not always being your best self. But do you know how boring life would be if you always had it together? Beauty comes from pain and it’s OK to not always get it right. While self-love has become a bit of a hyped-up phrase in our modern society, there’s something to be said about sitting with your thoughts, accepting your flaws and realizing you can still kick ass without fitting into a size two. Imperfections make you human and you were put on this planet for a reason—imperfections and all.
While it’s terrifying to think about opening up and letting the world see you for who you truly are, you will never feel whole until you learn how to be vulnerable and embrace the most vulnerable moments in your life. The sooner you embrace your truth and show the world you’re confident being you, the sooner you’ll see all areas of your life improve. Always opt to be the most authentic version of yourself, even if it means letting those safely guarded walls down every now and again.
Now that I’ve *tried* to impart my wisdom on you, I’m going to leave you with a final thought from Brené Brown (mostly because no one can sum the subject up better): “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”
*All quotes attributed to Brené Brown*
Ashley Johnson is the managing editor of She Reads by day and an aspiring novelist by night. Blogging her way through college, Ashley graduated Northern Arizona University with a degree in English in 2017. When she’s not catching up on the best new reads from her favorite publishers, she can be found taking naps with her four loyal chihuahuas and claiming her rightful title of “VIB Rouge” at Sephora.