Ooh… I just watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability for the first time.
As she talked, I felt a chasm splitting wide open in my chest – something deep and wide and alarmingly relevant to this year of focus on wisdom.
I’ve written recently about a list under which I live, and the constraint of that list. It’s a list contrived to convey perfection – or at least a very specific image – to the world around me. It’s a list that dictates never wearing glasses in public, washing my hair any day in which I might be going out in public, and obsessively scrutinizing the fit of any and every piece of clothing I put on.
If acknowledging the problem is the first step to recovery… I’m there, but I’m not sure what comes next, though I have an inkling it has to do with the message of Brown’s video.
I also have an inkling I’ll be a bit like Brown herself and go, not quietly and gracefully, screaming and kicking toward vulnerability.
My initial thought is the necessity of knowing myself if I am to be authentic with others. Which is unsettling because I spend more time thinking about how I can be others – or, pick up pieces from others to craft this close-to-perfect image – than I do about how to be me.
Being myself should come easily – it is that with which I was born, and that with which I have lived these thirty years. Yet, I find the same mechanism for knowing myself (perceptiveness) is the mechanism I’ve most employed in order to be like others. I spend hours – yes, hours – reviewing things I’ve seen or read throughout the day and figuring out how to imitate those things. If it’s an outfit, I deconstruct, compare against items in my closet, mentally rearrange my hair and try on three different pairs of shoes, then adapt whatever tiny molecule of sameness I found attractive in whatever it was I saw. This process is mostly – almost exclusively – in relation to my own appearance and behavior.
If I trace this back, I can name specific events at young ages (certainly starting by my sixth grade year) in which someone compared me to a standard which I did not meet and conveyed my lack of worthiness to my face in the sly manner of a middle school girl.
In fact, now that I think this through, it was the same girl in each of my middle school years that repeated these actions, in different form, each year of middle school. Ironically, if I’m true to myself, it is that girl I have always wanted to be – it is her standard, or a standard very close that I have adopted as my own, that I want to meet. It is her hair I want to mimic, and her clothing style, and her innate glamour.
Of course, she was not the sole deliverer of my own crafted standard. Many others, even complete strangers, contributed regularly along this path, and I, ultimately, must take responsibility for the person I am and the way in which I view the world – especially the ways in which my view of the world restricts the ability to simply be myself.
Perhaps this recognition is actually an opportunity to practice vulnerability. Under the list, I a) wouldn’t have shared all this; b) would’ve wound the verdict around to some pleasantry, or c) would’ve eaten chocolate while attempting to sort out my feelings / emotions on this realization. However, if I’m looking vulnerability in the eye and taking steps toward it, I know forgiveness needs to live in my heart toward this person, and I know that the chastisement I’m directing toward myself at the moment has it’s place but mustn’t turn into self-berating.
I feel stupid to have taken over a decade to come to this understanding. I’m mad that I let the words of a middle school girl live in my mind for so long. I feel robbed of the ability to be pleased with myself simply as I am – and this both the fault of her’s in acting as though I was somehow less-than and of mine in allowing her actions to connect with my self worth.
I feel a bit of freedom in this, and I also wonder how many other voices are lurking in the back of my mind long past their time.
I want, as I am sure I will throughout the year, to tie the concept of vulnerability to wisdom. And, from Brown’s talk, the effects of vulnerability are feeling the highs and the lows as they should be felt… and in this I find a kernel of wisdom. To live in such a way that allows the highs and the lows to leave an impression, we are living as God created us to live – and as He, himself, lives – and in that, we are bringing glory to Him. Which, in this year, I find to be the purpose of seeking wisdom.
Goodness. Friends, this is how I make it through life – I sit down, write out all my thoughts, ask the questions I don’t want to answer, and push myself to go further with the answers (usually late at night). So, there you have it. A front row seat to the beginnings of my process to understanding how vulnerability and wisdom interplay which begins with understanding that vulnerability must come from knowing myself – or being willing to know myself – even when that’s messy or different or not quite how I originally pictured. Thank you for walking with me.