I recently watched a TED Talk and it might have been the best one I have ever seen. And if you think I’m overexaggerating, I looked it up and, this TED Talk is one of the top five most viewed Talks in the world.
Brené Brown is a researcher and storyteller. She has dedicated the last 13 years of her life to researching vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. You may be wondering how someone studies these human emotions and perceptions of oneself. But Brown said it best when she said, “Stories are just data with a soul.”
When we think about the word ‘vulnerable,’ we synonymize it with words such as weak or defenseless, even naked. But when I think about the word ‘vulnerable,’ I think of strength and courage, compassion and connection.
Warning, this is my attempt to philosophize over different ideas so bear with me and ask questions if need be.
We are hard-wired to struggle. We are destined to fail and seek do-overs and grow. Yet, society has taken desperate measures to strip away this humanity and label it with shame. Society has told us to be perfect the first time, to hide our blemishes and pretend they were never there. Instead of allowing ourselves to connect with others over our imperfections, society has taught us to keep them in a dark closet of shame. Society has become a contradiction.
The Latin meaning for ‘soc’ translates to comrade or partner. The idea that society’s original meaning is contextualized with bringing people together as brothers and sisters is far from what it is considered today. Today, society often coincides with expectation, right and wrong ways of doing things or the allusive thing that determines what it takes to fit in. Society’s purpose is to bring individuals together, yes. But what we have come to think of as ‘together’ is what gives us the problems we face today.
We are not all the same. We, the human race, cannot fit into one, cohesive box of boy pegs and girl pegs. Because when we try to put everyone in a box, more times than not, people end up in a box alone.
The fear that showing the rest of the world who we really are we might place us in a lonely, empty box gives people reason to become something they are not. We turn from humans into masks. And then where do we find ourselves but alone.
So what keeps us from ending up alone?
Vulnerability, that scary word I mentioned above. Vulnerability gives us the permission to say no to the mask and yes to yourself.
But this is a hard concept. It takes courage and connection from others to encourage us and tell us it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be ourselves. This is what we’ve come to. The most depressed, addicted and obese generation is at dire straits.
At the end of her Talk, Brown talked about how we view our children when they are born. Instead of holding the perfect infant, seeing all of their successes in your mind and wishing for them to be perfect, we acknowledge their imperfections. We note they’re wired for struggle, and that we will love them anyways. We will accept them as they are, they won’t be forced into a box. That they are enough.
She asked the crowd to imagine a world where we have a generation of children raised like that.