I grew up with a strong, hardworking mother. I can count on one hand the number of times she allowed herself to shed tears in front of my brothers and I. My father, while incredibly supportive and the funniest person I know, was always well composed. Among the many lessons my parents instilled in me, there is one that governed my life for many years. It was not one they intentionally taught, and they likely aren’t aware that they did.
Nevertheless, I grew up believing that allowing myself to be vulnerable was a weakness. Showing weakness was debilitating. Unfavourable emotions were to be had in private, honesty was not easily given away and verbal appreciation meant admitting defeat.
I thought strength was something to be admired and that my hard exterior would attract friendships. But, for most of my life, I struggled to make friends. I often wondered why I was always left out. I was intimidated by other girls, who appeared confident enough to be unapologetically themselves. On the interior, I desperately wanted to connect with others, but my exterior remained distant, closed off and uninviting. Each failed attempt at meeting someone new left me ridden with failure and shame.
My experience working at the Nugget has been the most challenging, stressful, and difficult position I’ve ever held. I’ve repeatedly put myself in positions of vulnerability and been forced to not only acknowledge, but to face the feelings of unworthiness that I bring upon myself.
Each time I say something unplanned in an interview or my articles are returned to me filled with edits, I’m equally filled with shame. In the beginning, I didn’t recognize this emotion that left me feeling unworthy. I’d become so good at avoiding shame that I’d forgotten what it felt like. It took me months to understand that the shame I felt came from a feeling of failure; I felt I was unfit and incompetent in my skill.
Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she studies vulnerability and shame. She explains that the act of creating and sharing that creation with others can generate extreme feelings of vulnerability.
“To create is to make something that has never existed before. There is nothing more vulnerable than that,” said Brown in a TED Talk. “I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty.”
Brown also states that shame is most often felt in areas where one is most vulnerable. Since writing has always been a passion of mine, I felt especially exposed sharing my articles. Nevertheless, I did my best to swallow my shame and learnt to ignore the pang of vulnerability.
However difficult to face, I reminded myself that vulnerability is the breeder of creativity and growth. “Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous,” said Brown.
I’ve recently learnt that vulnerability does not equate to weakness. In fact, vulnerability is the complete opposite of weakness. Creativity, success and connections are made through allowing oneself to be authentic, without fear or expectation. By becoming comfortable with vulnerability, recognizing moments of shame, melting my unfriendly exterior, I’ve learnt more about myself and grown more in the past 5 months, than in my entire life. I’ve developed close friendships and connections I never thought that I would, and I’ve gotten more out of my position at the Nugget than I ever expected.
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. To be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.”
– Shawna Bannerman, Assistant Editor