May 8, 2019: It takes Courage to be YOU!

It Takes Courage to be YOU!

I watched the new Brene Brown Netflix special, “A Call to Courage”, with a friend the other day and was blown away — again — by her candor, humor and the combination of brilliance and basic common sense – after 20 plus years of research. While I’ve read most of her books, it had been a while since I’d watched one of her TED talks, so it was lovely to re-connect.

I love watching this self-proclaimed introvert regale the live audience with story after poignant story of courage, shame and vulnerability. It takes a lot of courage to stand on a stage and speak to thousands of people about anything, much less about shame! So, yes, she walks her talk!

I wondered: What would it take for each of us to do that? Not speaking onstage, necessarily. But being the authentic, courageous, vulnerable and unique individual that we know we are deep inside. What would you just love to do or say or be, if there weren’t any restrictions? If you weren’t afraid of being vulnerable or shamed? Just think about that for a minute.

One of Brene’s main points in her talk is that you can’t have courage without vulnerability. We all like to think we can have the courage without including the vulnerability. As if we can just tough it out. Just use our will and push through. Or something like that. She describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk or emotional exposure. Her research states emphatically: no, no one has one without the other. It’s a two-fer.

She speaks extensively and has been asking most of her audiences a brilliant question to prove her point: “When have you ever seen an act of courage that didn’t involve some degree of uncertainty, risk or emotional exposure?” And no one has yet raised their hand with an example. So basically, she rests her case. Courage always involves vulnerability.

My question is: Why does the vulnerability have fear attached and is there a better way? If the courage is saving someone’s life or running into a dangerous situation, there will be uncertainty and risk. Those situations are givens. And we admire the courageous souls who perform those acts of bravery. That’s physical bravery. And thankfully, those instances are rare.

What about the everyday instances we encounter – that don’t require a physical bravery? It’s more emotional or fearful or stressful than physical. Situations like defending a spouse/child from insult or intimidation, speaking up when a co-worker uses demeaning language to you or a colleague, helping a stranger in need of help, or performing an act of kindness that no one else will see?

I would suggest that those acts of courage do make us somewhat vulnerable, but they probably stem from authenticity. Being who we have to be. In the moment, standing up to insult, bullies, one of the -ism’s, and making our authentic voice heard – whether it’s a whisper or a shout.

I won’t say that being authentic is equal to vulnerability. Vulnerability still involves risk. But I will suggest that vulnerability is a lot easier and a lot less scary when you are being authentically you because you know who you are and what you stand for.

Most of us face vulnerable situations only occasionally. But others will face it daily because of their culture, race or career. As Brene Brown asks: “Will I choose to be brave today?”

It’s a choice we all have.

In case you haven’t seen Dr. Brene Brown’s work before, here’s her original TEDxHouston talk on Vulnerability. Just 20 minutes and well worth it!

“The Power of Vulnerability” from 2011 at TEDxHouston
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