Brene Brown spent six years doing extensive research on vulnerability, connection, and shame. She found that people could be divided into two groups, those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, a sense of connection with others, and those who struggle for this sense of love and belonging, wondering if they are good enough.
One of the amazing things she found was that people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. Conversely, those that don’t have a sense of love and belonging, believe they are not worthy. Can you believe that?! What keeps us from feeling loved is the belief or sense that we are not worthy.
But wait there’s more…She goes on to say that those who feel worthy have certain things in common. For one, they have courage, and people, she is using the original definition of the word as it first came into the English language. Courage: to tell the story of who you are, with your whole heart.
“So these folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves, first, and then to others, because as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat our selves kindly. They had connection (and this is the hard part) as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to fully be who they are, and you absolutely have to do that in order to have connection.
The other thing they had in common was this: they fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating, they just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after you’ve had your mammogram, the willingness to invest in a relationship that might not work out, they thought this was fundamental.”
The biggest problem is that “you cannot selectively numb emotions. You can’t numb hard feelings without numbing joy, gratitude, happiness. Once we begin numbing, suddenly we feel empty and then we are looking for purpose and meaning, and we feel vulnerable, and then we numb again. We need to look at how and why we numb ourselves.” The challenge is to move away from these habits toward full range feeling, toward vulnerability. And the pay off? Deeper connection with others and a sense of love and belonging.