The Power of Vulnerability
Brene Brown is a social worker by trade who researched “wholehearted” people. Her research showed that people who feel whole:
- Have the courage to be themselves (even though they aren’t perfect)
- Are compassionate toward themselves and others
- Have connections
- Are willing to be vulnerable
She goes on to report that people strive to protect themselves from pain by shutting out feelings of shame and failure. However, in doing so, they also deny themselves the opportunity to experience “good” emotions like joy, love, and hope. Because (big surprise here), we can’t deny ourselves some feelings without shutting ourselves out to all of them.
As a result, by attempting to keep ourselves safe, we are also limiting our opportunities to create positive, meaningful experiences. Thus, by learning to face our fear of vulnerability, we actually increase our opportunities to connect with others and lead a more fulfilling life.
So how can we cultivate the ability to be vulnerable? One strategy may be to start a Loving Kindness meditation practice. Loving Kindness is the practice of meditating on positive wishes for others while also cultivating the same attitude toward ourselves. This trains our brain in the ability to speak positively about ourselves and counters habitual negative self-talk. People who practice Loving Kindness meditation have also reported feeling increasingly connected to others after their meditation practice. This practice may be especially beneficial for people suffering from depression, as research is showing that these people may have decreased mirror neutrons in the brain (brain cells responsible for allowing us to feel empathy). Thus, cultivating practices that strengthen mirror neutrons may improve ability to relate to others and increase positive relationship experiences.