In the period between getting ready for work and leaving for work I was wasting time watching “Real Life… I’m a (insert neurosis here)” on MTV. Don’t laugh; it was better than watching Justin Beiber make his millionth appearance on The Today Show. The episode I happened upon followed the lives of young people who were “living double lives”. There was a young man who was posing as a woman and a young woman who told everyone she was from the Dominican Republic. They both wanted to be something they weren’t and were desperate for validation from their peers.
It got me thinking about my recent world-traveling adventures to New Zealand. I was a with a group of Americans and the second question any traveling American will ask you after they find out where you are from is what to do you do for a living. This conversation baffles my European comrades as that question is rarely brought up when they introduce themselves.
While waiting for our flight from Sydney to New Zealand, my dad, sister and I met up with a group of our fellow travelers. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and when we ran out of things to say asked what each other does for a living. My first inclination was to talk about my day job, but I stopped and said, “I’m a writer”. It felt liberating like I cleared some invisible hurdle and I said it with such confidence that people were intrigued and asked thoughtful follow-up questions.
I told them I what I wrote and what I am working on and explained it all with enthusiasm. I gave my list of writing accomplishments and even impressed myself. Toward the end of the trip, even my DAD was telling people I was writer. This is coming from a man who works in the concrete business and couldn’t figure out how my aunt makes a living as a clown and my mom and step-dad ran a successful hockey school for 25 years.
While I was away, husband must have been reading my mind because he e-mailed me this Ted.Com talk with researcher Brene Brown. In this 20-minute talk, Brene discusses the power of vulnerability and why we need the courage to be imperfect, be authentic and fully embrace vulnerability. What really got me was her encouragement to willingly do something with no guarantees in order to succeed.
By being vulnerable Brene says we can connect with others and become more empathic to others. Being vulnerable also helps us thrive. She says that in order for connection to happen we have to be seen. Really seen. We have to get out there and tell strangers we are writers, artists, scientists, speakers, etc. She also said something that really resonated with me and that is that people who believe what made them vulnerable also made them beautiful. WOW! Who knew? Like with most things, there are no guarantees being vulnerable make us successful but it does help us learn and grow.
In this coming week, gentle reader, think about all the ways you exchange being vulnerable for comfort or inertia. Think about how being vulnerable and putting yourself “out there” can help you grow and connect with others. I did it, and I made believers out of people who had just met me. You can do it to and you don’t have to fly halfway across the world or watch bad programing on MTV to do it.