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The Power of Vulnerability

Every now and then you hear a message that has a profound impact on you. The TED talk on the power of vulnerability I saw the other day is such a message. Brené Brown calls herself a researcher-storyteller and some years ago, she did research into human connections. That research quickly turned into research on shame and vulnerability. She made a discovery that changed the way she lived her life.

I urge you to take 20 minutes to watch this video of her talk about what she discovered on why some people seem to be able to live ‘wholehearted’ and why others can’t:

Brené Brown discovered that the difference between people with a strong sense of belonging, of worthiness and people who struggled with being good enough to be loved was just one simple factor: the belief that they were worthy of love and belonging.

The belief that you’re worthy of love and belonging makes all the difference in the world

Brown did extensive research into these ‘wholehearted’ people as she called them, what did they do that made them connect with others? It all came down to this: having courage to be imperfect, having the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, and having the connection with others as a result of authenticity.

They were willing to let go of who they should be in order to be who they were

This was a sentence that really hit me. Vulnerability means letting go of who I think I should be to just be myself. And out of that vulnerability comes true connection with other people. I cannot connect with others on a deep level if I’m not myself, I need to be vulnerable in order to connect.

But we so often fight vulnerability by trying to make everything perfect, by making everything that’s uncertain certain and by numbing (e.g. drinking, medicating, spending). But we can’t just numb the bad feelings, like shame or fear. You can’t selectively numb, so we numb everything, including joy, gratitude, happiness. By our fight against vulnerability we miss out on the good things in life.

This talk has lots of applications for us as youth workers. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • If we want to really connect with young people, we’ll need to be authentic. How can we let go of who we think we should be and just be ourselves?
  • How can we teach youth to do the same? In a culture where they are bombarded with images of what they should look like, how can we convince them they should be themselves?
  • In which ways do we see youth ‘numb’ their hard emotions? How can we help them cope with feelings of anger, fear or frustration in a healthy way?
  • If ‘the belief that we are worthy if being loved’ is what makes the difference, what can we do to teach young people they are worthy of being loved? Or in the words of Brené Brown and what she says should be our message to our children, instead of trying to make them perfect:

“You are imperfect and you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

  • And last but not least, wouldn’t this apply to our relationship with God as well? How vulnerable are we when it comes to our relationship with Him?
Like I said at the beginning, this talk struck a chord in me and I’m not done by far analyzing it and applying it to my own life. I’ve also bought Brené Brown’s book on the same subject, called The gifts of imperfection: letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are  and I’m sure it will give me even more food for thought.

Lots to talk and think about, let me know your thoughts and reactions in the comments!