“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness and also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.” – I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about the adult who was once a brave child.
We all started somewhere – the child grows to become an adult. I remember what it feels like as a kid who was never afraid to try out new things and who never thought to engage the idea that she might not get what she wants.
I wonder, sometimes, what happened to that kid.
I think we have to agree that children are the bravest of us all, because, do children not get to do new stuff that we introduce them to every time? Of course, they throw a little tantrum, but these are things that adults would not normally do. Children say ‘yes’ even though they aren’t ready.
Children aren’t a little bit worried about people judging them. They don’t hesitate to act, which I think can be a good thing, sometimes. Because in hesitating, we remind ourselves of all the things that can go wrong without remembering that things can also go right.
As a child, I owned a little provision store, and I participated in a lot of school challenges. I was the kid who entered offices asking for an interview and when they asked if she was not too young to work, replied ‘No.’
At what point does the fearless child become scared to perform in the society? Where did it go wrong? Maybe if we can point to a particular cause, then we can find the strength to move on to become the brave person that we can be?
Sometimes, I think my fear started when I entered university. Nigerian colleges have a way of instilling fear in you and making you believe that you are undeserving of where you are and should be grateful that you even have a score in your name.
But, this is not the time to point fingers. This is where we acknowledge our calling to reclaim our true selves.
Many of us are afraid of failing, and it shows in the way we give ourselves to our cause. We are scared that we may not be successful with our mission. We are afraid of the shame that comes with trying, we are terrified of the name-calling, of the guilt, of the tongue-lashing, of the fall.
We ask ourselves questions like – What if we fail? What if it is not worth it? What if we risk it all and we lose it all?
But what if we risk it all and win some?
What if, by delaying to take action on our call, we extend our suffering by going off the wrong path?
I think we cling to certain kinds of people because we seek something outside us – something foreign, kind, and possibly dangerous.
We want what we do not have – we don’t know what this thing is, yet we are terrified to think about it.
So, we follow the train and let it lead us to anywhere.
Sometimes we may not find what we seek until we’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed to the extremes.
Then we realize that perhaps what we’ve been looking for is what we’ve always had.
We recognize that we’ve not learnt to love ourselves, and in this understanding, we begin to find ourselves.
In defining vulnerability, Brené Brown said, “We cannot selectively numb some emotion. You cannot say, ‘Here’s the bad stuff, here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions“
And I think this is one thing that separates the child from the adult – the ability to give themselves wholly. Even though sometimes, we forget that children have feelings too, they aren’t afraid to embrace their vulnerability. Untainted, they love with all of their heart. You scold them, and after crying, they come back to you. They fight with their peers one instant and are ready to make up and play the next minute. Kids are the most vulnerable – they meet new faces every day at school, and most times adults act like they are too young to understand, therefore making them feel as though their feelings won’t matter until they get to a certain age.
Kids are braver than we think and are always acting, but how do you, as a grown adult, in a constant state of navigating through stress and depression, work yourself towards taking action on your goals?
Brené Brown answered:
“and this is what I’ve found. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, VULNERABLY seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s hard. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we are wondering ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this, this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful,” because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.“