I’m a new years resolution kind of woman
In fact I’m a new moon, new phase, new season kind of woman. I simply love the “new dawn” bandwagon and I will jump onboard any celestial, seasonal or astrological phase of beginning, if it means shaking up my old ways and habits and inviting something new. I can’t say I can claim to have a deep understanding of the energetics behind such new phases, only that I welcome each new chapter as an opportunity to colour my world with fresh intentions and ideas. I think there’s something fundamentally healthy and harmless about this.
With this in mind, New Year’s Eve is not an event I approach lightly. From the moment Christmas day has drawn to a close, the following days are met with an expectant level of excitement and anticipation, as I begin to strip back a years worth of baggage in preparation for a phoenix style rebirthing of fresh-startedness. Every year as part of this process I approach the task of outlining my new years resolutions with the same commitment and reverence as one would outline their will. The resolution process often undergoes several drafts, culling intentions from ten or more to a manageable four or five. This year however, I simply had one.
As you may have already picked up, it may be said that I have an issue with control. I like things tidy, I like to create method from madness and make order from chaos. Be it my time, my work, my family or my personal relationships, I feel most at ease when dynamics are clear and uncomplicated. Of course, the human experience is rarely tidy. Life is messy, emotions are contradictory, people and relationships are wonderfully complex and life is endlessly transforming (thank god!)
You may be familiar with the she-god that is Brene Brown, and her earth shaking TEDX talk on The Power of Vulnerability. If not, I wish for you to stop reading immediately and go and invest the next twenty minutes of your life watching her talk on Youtube. It may just change your mind, or indeed your life. It has certainly had a profound impact on mine.
Brene Brown explores the idea of vulnerability as the key to authentic human connection and the backbone to love and belonging. For us to experience connection, we must allow ourselves to be seen, truly seen. This is very difficult. Everyday we wear many different masks, which we present to the world as how we wish to be perceived. We fear asking the hard questions, of rocking the boat, and of revealing our deepest desires, because to take off our mask opens us up to the paralyzing possibility of rejection. Brown asks the question, Why is it that we shy away from exposing our true nature, warts and all. Even when know it is the key to unlocking more meaningful relationshipswithin our lives? The answer lies with Shame.
Shame is the fear of disconnection.
As humans we are hardwired for connection. The desire to be connected, to belong and to be understood is why we are here. In order to experience connection, love and belonging we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. However to be vulnerable is to risk experiencing shame, rejection and ultimately, disconnection. This is the challenging paradox of vulnerability and possibly the most important risk we may ever take.
Vulnerability for me looks like this:
- Admitting my weaknesses at work
- Admitting when I’m wrong
- Apologizing when I let someone down
- Saying yes when I’d rather say no
- Accepting fault gracefully
- Confessing my feelings at the risk of rejection
- Having difficult conversations that I’d rather avoid
- Accepting humiliation graciously
- Embracing the unknown
- Investing energy in projects that may fail (including this one)
We naturally avoid these uncomfortable feelings as a means to numb discomfort. As individuals but also as a society we numb fear, grief, guilt and regret through denial and addiction. However as Brown’s revelation reveals, you can’t selectively numb emotion and as we numb vulnerability we also numb the other emotions of joy, gratitude, bliss and love – what a tragedy this is!
Vulnerability does not equate to weakness, but to strength. It is daring to show your whole self to the world, fearless in the face of rejection. In a world where perfection and certainty are glorified at the expense of imperfection and mystery, the ability to be vulnerable and to admit we are imperfect is a revolutionary act. By opening ourselves up and laying ourselves bare for the world to see we invite richer, deeper and more rewarding relationships into our lives. Furthermore we inspire those around us to join us and engage in a more authentic human experience.
When we embrace vulnerability we grant ourselves permission to make mistakes. We allow ourselves the opportunity to experiment, to fail, to try again to fail again and to create better. Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. A workplace that encourages trial and error over perfectionism, inspires work from a place of passion rather than dry obligation.
This year I’ve made a commitment to “lean into the discomfort” and to let myself be seen. I have only the possibility of a half-lived life to lose, but so much more to gain. I begin my challenge within my safe circle that I call my friends and family, who I trust will love and accept me no matter what. From here, I will reach further, into my work and into my relationships, it is here that I expect the unpredictability to begin.
Lastly, let us talk about blame. As Brown explains, Blame is simply a way to discharge pain and discomfort. We shift blame to turn the spotlight off ourselves and shine it onto someone else, because we are scared of what people will see if they look too closely. To accept blame, to admit fault and to step up and say we’re sorry, is a rare and noble display of vulnerability. Imagine what society would look like if we raised a generation of leaders who embraced humility and accountability rather than certainty and blame.
In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. My dear friend George Orwell was right. Speaking our truth and allowing ourselves to be seen is neither comfortable nor easy, but it is damn courageous. When we open up ourselves to humility and realness, we shatter the perfect shiny glass illusion of life that we have created for ourselves and grown so comfortable with.
What is the reward for such courage? We experience more authenticity in our relationships, more bravery in our creative life, more openness in our friendships, and most importantly, a kinder and more honest relationship with ourselves. These rewards are not simply important but are essential, if we are to wholeheartedly participate in this messy, joyous thing call life. So here’s to vulnerability and allowing myself to be seen. With an open heart and guns blazing I walk into the fire, perhaps I’ll see you on the other side.
This article was written on the 1st of February 2017, exactly a year ago today. Like many of us and our resolutions they are an ongoing works in progress. Here's to another new year of trying hard, perhaps failing, but failing better.