When vulnerability is good

When you have a year like I just had, you learn to pay attention. Like, when my old friend Kara, who is not someone I regularly talk to, happens to send me a text with a link to a podcast, I pay attention. Even though listening to a podcast is something I’d never imagine myself doing. I always thought they’d be boring, which really isn’t fair of me, considering there’s about a million different ones out there, but it is what it is. Let me backtrack a few steps… I hadn’t spoken to Kara in months, when she crossed my mind the other day as I was buying theater tickets. I thought it would be a nice way for us to catch up, seeing a show and spending the night in Boston. I bought the tickets without asking her, and next thing you know, she’s texting me, telling me she’s listening to one of Brene Brown’s podcasts and thinking of me. I ignore the Brene Brown part, because I have no idea what she’s talking about, and I tell her how weird it is that she’s texting me the same day I’m thinking of asking her to get together. She says yes, and we chat a bit and the conversation ends.

A few hours later, she shoots me another text, letting me know she’s coming into town (she lives a good hour away) and asked if I had a free hour or so. Totally last-minute, and her text came as I was in an appointment, so I didn’t answer right away. By the time I answer her, 20 minutes had gone by. I tell her which town I’m in (which is a good half hour away from the town I live in, the town she expects me to be in) and she just so happens to be coming upon that exit that very minute. Ten minutes later, we are sitting having an unexpected dinner together in a town neither of us are normally in. The stars aligned perfectly, so I paid attention.

She talked of these podcasts she was listening to. She commutes to work, so has plenty of time for them. As she’s talking about it, I’m thinking, “I never have down time for listening to someone talk”, but of course, I don’t say that out loud. I listen, and honestly, they do sound kind of interesting. Dr. Brene Brown has spent her career studying shame and guilt. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Anyway, she said one of them made her really think of me, because they spoke of how most people think that the worst part of sexual abuse/assault is the physical act itself, but really, the worst part is the shame that follows. People can get over the physical part, but the shame never leaves. I nodded my head, knowing all to well what she was talking about. I looked at my friend as she described how it affects people’s lives forever, especially relationships, because that shame doesn’t allow us to be vulnerable. And we don’t allow ourselves to become vulnerable by sort of walling ourselves off. It’s a protection type of thing. The gist of it, as I interpreted it, was that people who have relationships with me, platonic or romantic, don’t get the whole me, because I don’t allow that vulnerability. It’s too risky. Or I don’t deserve it. Or I know it’s never going to work out, so I don’t put myself in the position of being hurt. God, that was spot on. Not so much in regards to the me right now, but it sure as hell described me for most of my life. And honestly, it takes a lot of work even now to allow myself to be vulnerable, but I do. Of course, with vulnerability comes the risk of shame…

So, dinner ends and we hug and go our separate ways. She ends up sending me links to the ones she was talking about, where Brene Brown was on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey, and even though I would never normally listen to them, I knew I was supposed to…because the stars don’t align things up for no reason, right? And plus, she had me at Oprah…

I listened to them. Twice. And then next thing you know, I’m asking her if she has the link to Brene’s TED talk podcast, which started it all…and my life shifted. Just like that. You see, I have been struggling with feelings of rejection, insecurity, shame and guilt…well, pretty much my entire life. But more recently, it’s been a struggle due to a few specific relationships in my life. The struggle has sort of come to a head in recent weeks and left me in one of my funks that’s pretty hard to shake. It’s the result of me allowing myself to become vulnerable, and the risks did not pay off, and I easily slipped back into the swamp of shame. It’s crazy how it’s not even a conscious effort to go back to shame. It just happens. You wake up and there it is. Like it never left. I am unworthy.  It took me a bit to claw my way out of that dark area… in a sort of “fake it till you make it” kind of way. I still felt the feelings, but I made some decisions based on the knowledge I’d gained in my practice of therapy and mediation…my journey… and prayed I’d eventually get my heart to match up to this intellectual knowledge and decision. You know… when you know what you need to do, in your brain, but your heart yearns for something else. It’s tough, but the pain of it never working out for me was enough to make these decisions. And once I made them, I found myself wanting to wall off my heart so it wouldn’t be hurt again. Nope, I’m not ever going to put myself in that position again!  But, listening to these podcasts, well, damn… I felt the shift that day! I don’t know if it’s because it’s coming from an analytical researcher or what, but Jesus…was it validating! And it opened my mind to a new perspective. Creativity, growth and joy breed from vulnerability. I think I just found the key to opening my heart without regret. Without shame. Without guilt. Yes, I think someday I just might put myself in that position again! I know I will not ever be able to do this subject justice, so please, if any of you have even a hint of wonder or recognition about this, just click here . 

Because, if any of this resonates with you, then the stars are aligning right now by having you stumble across this post. Watch the podcast. You won’t be disappointed.


The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Aug. 26/17



19 thoughts on “When vulnerability is good”

    1. Synchronicity is often the only thing that keeps me going. I always look at it as a sign I’m headed in the right direction, especially when I’m filled with doubt…which is often.

  1. “The stars don’t align things up for no reason.” I had to tweet that. For me, this topic brings up that I was too vulnerable for a healthy relationship after my divorce and barely aware of the shame burning away in my subconscious. As a result, I ended up in a toxic relationship I call “the rebound from hell.” Thankfully it didn’t last more than a year, but added to my shame. Every relationship teaches us things we need to learn. That one taught me to be more careful who I open myself up to. Vulnerability is good with the right people. Making a list of traits I was looking for in a relationship helped me with my boundaries. I am so happy for you, Jami ! You are growing by leaps and bounds!

    1. Wow, the rebound from hell sounds like just about every single relationship I’ve ever been in! I’m still waiting to see what a healthy one feels like. All of them have added to my shame along with many other scenarios in my life. I was just feeling the same again over the past month or so, and I am so happy I was able to realize it, on my own, for the first time in my life. I’m just going to hope I am strong enough and aware enough to put myself out there and stay vulnerable, with the right people, to see what happens. If it doesn’t work, then I will cry, put on my big girl pants and try again.

      Also, I just realized that I don’t even follow you. Sorry about that

      1. After two unhealthy rebounds that added to my shame, I took a break and focused on friendship and loving me. The universe complied, because God had a plan. I imagined a healthy relationship full of comfort and joy. (i wrote about this process in the middle chapters of my book) My relationship now is not perfect, of course, but I am comfortable and content most of the time- going on 6 years. Anything is Possible! That’s funny about the follow. No worries. ?

        1. Well, looks like you weren’t following me, either…so we’re even, ha ha!

          I’m focusing on friendship and loving me, as well. As much as I’d love to have a companion and be loved in that way, I don’t NEED it. I’m keeping an open mind that God has something in store for me, so we’ll see….

  2. Great post! I love Brene Brown, but I read her book a few years ago and need to have a ‘refresher.’ And because the stars aligned and it’s 3:30 am and I can’t sleep, I’m paying attention! It just so happens that yesterday I had been writing about addiction and shame. Some of the same feelings of worthlessness stay with you long after you stop drinking, and that is the real cost of addiction.
    Once again, Jami, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I also struggle with being vulnerable, but I think I was just raised that way. At the same time, it’s harder to really connect with people when you’re always keeping a safe distance.
    I’m so glad you’re finding strength through vulnerability. ?

    1. Well, I was finding strength when I wrote that post…today is a different day, ha ha. Though I have faith that there will be more ups than downs. I have to. I’m not even really having a “down” right now, it just ebbs and flows. I wonder if that shame ever truly disappears? I think maybe some trace of it needs to stay with me, just to keep me on my toes. I think it kind of grounds me. When I have an episode of it, and wallow in that swamp for a while, something changes in me when I finally find my way out into the sunlight, and that change is like an awakening…and I love that feeling:)

        1. I think a part of the shame is meant to be permanent. Not sure why…maybe to keep me grounded? Trying to find a good excuse, as it doesn’t seem to want to take flight.

          I briefly read this comment earlier today while I was working. As typical for when I read your comments, it was as I was pulling into a patient’s home. I got out of my car after reading it, without reading the link you posted, and looked down… I don’t have to tell you what I saw

        2. Oh, I almost forgot…a few hours later, I met up with a friend at meditation. We always randomly buy each other gifts for no reason. She bought be a pack of paper bookmarks…shaped as feathers. Today this happened….

  3. Beautiful! I love Brene’s work. Wish I had her for a sociology prof ( it was my major in college). Yes, shame is what gets us more than anything else. Shame is a belief that we’ve not only done something bad, but that we are bad because of it. We create judgment that we assume others would feel about us. For decades I judged myself shameful and guilty of allowing myself to be molested because I forgot the terror I felt when it began. To this day, I still have no memory of when it began. But I see the bigger picture of how I was perfectly set up to be molested. How I grew up unable to speak up for myself, and how the molestor groomed me from day one (we were both very damaged by our mother).

    I’m so glad Brene speaks to you. Her books are great. I read one, and bought her second as an audio book so I could listen to it as I drove around running errands.

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