Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Brene Brown, a researcher-storyteller, gave this TED talk and, to me, it is a beautiful portrait of humanity and the struggle for connection and with vulnerability.
I hope you've taken the time to watch the video - it's 20 minutes but it is definitely a third of an hour well spent.
I'm not quite sure where to begin except, perhaps, with yet another quick story from my own life.
When I first discovered this video I was living with my mother, back in my home town and unsure of what I was going to do. My life kept changing, or rather I kept changing my life, and yet I'd ended up back with the same company, in almost the same job that I'd left a year before. I watched Brene Brown speak and was inspired. Despite the fact that I was caught in a kind of unending cycle that was very dissatisfying - I wanted desperately to change my career but couldn't quite get there! - her words somehow gave me hope and strength. I've tried very hard to be courageous, to live authentically and in hearing her speak it confirmed that even though I was feeling weighed down I was still on the right path.
When I next returned to the video my circumstances were the same, but different.
I'd just had my heart broken and was feeling so alone. I was working from home and just the most miserable person around. I was terrible company but, thank goodness, my friends put up with me and encouraged me, reassuring me that this was just another step on life's journey and that there were many other fish in the sea.
The thing is, it was this video that really made the difference in a lot of ways. As I sat in front of my computer and considered vulnerability I felt both inspired and empowered. As Brown says, the people who live life most whole-heartedly are those who are willing to let go of who they thought they should be to be who they are.
Watching the video reminded me that my battle for authenticity while not easy, and often not gratifying either, was still the right way. It encouraged me to speak clearly and honestly from my heart when something really mattered and I'm happy to say I have been amply rewarded for that terrifying effort.
Now, obviously this talk is about so much more than than my experience. Brown's voice, her perspective on humanity, on shame and vulnerability is a rare jewel in many ways.
From the stage in Houston she acknowledges her research bias and her difficulty in practicing what she preaches but she also expresses beautifully the story that brought her to this place where values the intangible, the unmeasurable and battle that we all fight at somepoint - how much of ourselves do we allow to shine through?
"In order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen - really seen," Brown says. How does this relate to community? How can we, as individuals, take our stories and grow them in to moments, experiences and conversations that enrich our communities? I feel like community is really a web of different connections - do we need to be vulnerably honest in all of these to get the most out of the experience?
This is obviously a very difficult question. To be honest, this blog is even proving quite difficult to write. I think most of us have been taught that protecting ourselves is paramount because, most of the time, we're the only ones who will do so. Many of us have also borne witness to all types of negative repercussions associated with personal honesty. Think of the children who are bullied in the playground, the women in an office who are passed over because they respond honestly or with emotion to a circumstance in the workplace, the men who for all of their lives have been told to "walk it off" or not to "cry like a girl".
There are so many barriers to expressing our authenticity - how can we get past them?
I suppose my thought is that we can only really do it together. We can only encourage each other, our children, friends and colleagues to be themselves and support them when they step out and do so.
There is so much more to say on this. The subject of numbing, of control and of the positive expression of vulnerability through creativity, love, belonging and joy are all topics I'd love to expand on but, for now, I think I'll step away from my desk and hope that you'll start that conversation up for me.