When was the last time you did something courageous?
When we take the time to think about it, most of us realize that we commit acts of courage, big and small each and every day. Whether we are speaking up for something we believe in, doing something for the very first time, or having that challenging conversation that we’ve been putting off for way too long. Our courageous acts are often some of the most meaningful moments in our days.
If we know the importance of our courageous acts, it might help to think about what we need in order to continue to accomplish them. According to academic researcher and author of several books on the subject of courage, shame, and authenticity, Brene Brown, says that we can’t have courage without also having vulnerability.
Think about the last time you did something new. Were you worried about how people would see you? How about the last time you confronted someone or stood up for yourself? Were you worried about what people would think of you?
Of course you were. It’s natural for us be concerned with how we are perceived. How much we care or to what extent is certainly debatable and unique to you.
When we move forward in a purposeful way, despite those concerns, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can be defined as being, “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” In other words, when we put ourselves out there for the world to see, we are opening ourselves up to potential criticism and/or harm. So, it’s no surprise that many of us hide behind vulnerability and instead of being authentic and true to who we are, we put the person we believe people want to see out there.
In my book, Om Sweet Om, I share the story of how I did this for many years while working in the corporate environment. I worked really hard to try to be the person I thought everyone wanted to see, instead of allowing the real me to show up. I was more focused on playing a role and looking the part than I was about being true to myself.
I didn’t have this realization until I started writing the book and putting my thoughts onto paper. It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself when you start to write your stories! No wonder so many life coaches and therapists encourage you to journal.
As I began to replay my life in my head and through the keyboard, I realized that I wasn’t always living in a fully authentic way. Luckily yoga helped me to reconnect with my inner self so that I could begin to show up in my life with more authenticity, but it certainly wasn’t without some aches and pains along the way.
Writing out your story and putting it out into the world for anyone to read and respond to, are two very different things. One takes patience and persistence, the other takes courage. One is therapeutic and healing, the other can be terrifying.
I’ll never forget the feeling when I realized that people might actually read my thoughts and the words I put out onto the page. I don’t mean to say that I had an overwhelming concern that people would care that much about what I have to say, but it is interesting to realize that pieces of you that people don’t normally see would suddenly be out in the open. I was experiencing what Brene Brown refers to as a “vulnerability hangover”.
I was suddenly regretting being so open as I worried it could lead to criticism - and it did. For that I hold onto the following quote, by Brene Brown “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” I did get my butt kicked a bit, as I had expected. But I also got so much more.
People came out of the shadows to show me I’m loved and supported. I’ve heard from people across the country that my words have connected with them and helped them in some way. My students have shared that they feel like they know me so much better (and still like me!).
The rewards have outweighed the fear, tenfold. The call to courage is something we all have within us - and it takes the willingness to be vulnerable to bravely walk the path that is meant for you.
Are there areas in your life where you are playing small or not allowing your true self to shine through? Is your fear of being vulnerable keeping you from courageously following your dreams?
Check out the resources below for more info:
Brene Brown’s Website and info on her documentary The Call to Courage