Daring to be vulnerable

Throughout my high school years, I was the girl who liked to run, but never joined the cross country team — the one who liked to shoot hoops in the driveway, but never tried out for the basketball team. I told myself — and anyone who asked — that I wasn’t “into” joining a team, I wasn’t that serious about it, or I liked to play on my own.

The truth was that I was afraid of failing. Failure petrified me and, as a result, it limited me, too.

My motto used to be “better safe than sorry,” which is OK to a point. Yet, when it takes over your willingness to try something new and put yourself out there, it’s no longer a wise adage and becomes a debilitating excuse.

After reading Brene Brown’s groundbreaking book, Daring Greatly, I realized what I was really afraid of was vulnerability.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable meant that I might not be good enough and I might fail.

Facing shame

According to Brown, the biggest obstacle to being vulnerable is the shame we experience. And like it or not, we all have shame.

Shame is that critical inner voice of doubt that whispers: You’re not good enough, or hisses: Who do you think you are?

We each have our own customized shaming voice that specializes in pushing our buttons. To combat shame and open ourselves up to vulnerability, we must talk about shame, not bury it and allow it to fester.

Brown recommends reaching out to trusted confidants to share our stories.

“If you own this story,” she writes, “you get to write the ending.”

We must also love ourselves. Not in the vapid, “Yay, me!” style of a ’90s self-esteem seminar — but in a truly genuine way.

To do this, Brown says we need to: Talk to ourselves the way we’d talk to someone we really love or someone we’re trying to comfort in the midst of a meltdown.

Following this advice is more challenging than it may seem. Many of us, myself included, can dish out some scathing self-judgement.

By acknowledging our shame, and meeting it head-on, we open ourselves up to being vulnerable, taking reasonable risks and living out our true potential.

Taking risks

When I think about it more, I can pinpoint important times in my life when I took the plunge into vulnerability and dared greatly — even if it was a frightening experience.

For example, if I (a self-described book nerd) hadn’t dared to join a co-ed sand volleyball team, I wouldn’t have met my soul mate. If I hadn’t dared to get pregnant again after a miscarriage, I would have missed out on the joyous birth of my third daughter. If I hadn’t dared to leave a comfortable, corporate career to fulfill my dreams, I would never have discovered my passion for education and literacy — not to mention some amazing students and friends.

It’s OK to fail or to endure disappointment (and even heartbreak).

It’s courageous to be vulnerable.

Failure won’t destroy me and I’m working on getting comfortable with vulnerability. I’m making it my mission to not allow fear of failure to limit me.

Even if — especially if — it’s not the perfect time or I’m not perfectly prepared. I can’t afford to wait until everything is perfect, or I risk missing out on some wonderful experiences. That would be the greatest loss of all.

So I encourage you to own your story, open up to vulnerability and dare greatly.

Laura Ramsborg lives in Bloomington, where she dares greatly by being a wife, mother of three daughters and freelance writer. Follow her @RamsborgWrites.