Vulnerability is at the heart of our ability to experience happiness. Researcher Brené Brown studied shame and unworthiness and found that at the heart of these feelings was vulnerability.
There are those who naturally experience a sense of worthiness, love and belonging, and those who struggle to feel that they are good enough. Brown realized that the difference between these two groups, their sense of worthiness, was linked to a fear of connecting. Those who experienced worthiness and had no fear of connecting, she says, have the courage to be vulnerable. These people accept their imperfections, are authentic, believe that their vulnerabilities and imperfections make them beautiful.
We all struggle with vulnerability. But our ability to live whole-heartedly, happily and genuinely hinges on our willingness to accept it. Those willing to accept that there are no guarantees and go out on a limb, willing to invest in ideas, willing to stop controlling and predicting, are the happiest. They accept vulnerability without numbing it.
At the root of our physical and mental problems, Brown says, is the numbing of vulnerability. We cannot selectively numb it, reach for coping mechanisms or ignore it. By being mindful of how and why we numb ourselves to vulnerability, we are able to open up to it. By realizing that we aren’t meant to be and don’t need to be perfect, that life is sometimes going to be difficult and uncertain and embracing that fact, we can embrace vulnerability along with our worthiness of love.
Brown calls all of us to let ourselves be seen, let ourselves love with our whole hearts, let ourselves practice joy even though there are no guarantees in life. If we stop fighting vulnerability, we will free ourselves to be kinder to our wonderfully imperfect selves and live lives of happiness.