First up, this book is only available in Audio format, primarily because it is essentially Brene Brown recounting her 12 year study into vulnerability, and how so many of us seem intent on not allowing our true selves to be seen.
Brene wants us to understand that we must not be afraid to be who we truly are. She explains this whilst revealing the reasons why most of us cannot be our true selves. She argues that western culture has associated vulnerability with negative emotions such as fear, shame, uncertainty and embarrassment. Whereas in fact the associations of vulnerability should be closer to joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity and love.
Research shows that we protect ourselves from disappointment and rejection by using a self deprecating shield of cynicism, which disarms shame by numbing ourselves against joy. We circumnavigate grief by shutting off our willingness to love. Once we recognise these patterns of self defense, we can disable them. This opens us up to a richer and a more fulfilled life, unafraid to show who we truly are, and unafraid of our own vulnerability.
This is a very powerful message. When our hearts are broken, we vow never to love again, or we wonder how we can ever love again. In those moments of true heartache, it seems impossible to comprehend any other life, or imagine ever finding a love like that again. We are torn, desolate and isolated, with an inner burning pain you would do anything to stop. But once we open our hearts again, we find it is possible to love, it is possible to find true joy, and it is possible to stop the raging pain inside.
How many of us know people who never open themselves to the possibility of trust again. They have been hurt so badly by the infidelity of their partner, that they protect themselves by closing their heart and vowing to never let anybody hurt them like that again. The problem with this is two fold, and I have seen both. The first and most obvious is, that person remains single, probably going through various relationships, with all ending rather tumultuously. Secondly, that person will not allow themselves to trust a partner again, racking themselves with jealousy and possessiveness, until the partner they had can take it no longer, and runs away to a life of freedom.
In our everyday lives we continuously shield ourselves and pretend to be people we are not. Sometimes through the necessity of a job function, or sometimes through necessity of social etiquette. We tell our children not to behave that way, to stop running around and sit still. To be seen and not heard. To not embarrass us when we are out.
I love how Brene has overcome her naturally inclined weakness to veil her own vulnerability, allowing herself to be herself, and allowing her children to be themselves. It’s an easy thing to do. To shut down your children when they’re expressing themselves, as it can be annoying when you’re rather busy. But allowing that to happen and encouraging free expression in our children is so important if you want to give them the best possible chance to maximise their greatness, whatever that may be.
We are who we are and we should not be afraid of that. To show vulnerability is to be authentic to your real self and is nothing to be ashamed about. The more people in this world who can show their true self by opening their vulnerability, the happier, freer and more joyous we will all be.
Embrace your true self and be free in the knowledge that there is no shame to show your vulnerability. It’s what makes us caring, loving and happy members of humanity.
This book is highly recommended as Brene is a great storyteller and clearly believes the message she puts across. It flows nicely and will have you laughing out loud, and occasionally having to hold back a tear or two. If you feel the need to hold the tear back, don’t. Just let it flow and be happy in the presence of your own vulnerability, as this will make you a stronger and happier person.