Courage Lives Here

“The world breaks everyone
And afterwards
Many are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

BrenĂ© Brown, the so-called shame researcher, blew me away again. In her second TED talk, she expounds on what shame is…and what it is not.

Shame is not guilt. Shame is about you. Guilt is about your behavior. So when you feel shame, you feel you are unworthy. When you feel guilt, it’s because you believe what you do isn’t right. It’s that simple.

Guilt is based on the actions you take. You feel bad about this or that. You think you could do better, should know better, should be better. But it is always based on the things you are doing — or you think you shouldn’t be doing.

Vulnerability is what we feel when we know we’re not perfect, but we’re willing to step into that wide open space anyway.

Vulnerability, Brown says, is the most accurate measurement of courage. And here’s the good news. People don’t want to see perfection; they want to feel connection. When we try to present ourselves as the most perfect version we can possibly be, we leave no wiggle room for creativity or innovation. Because it is in the effort of trying without the fear of failure that we know what works and what does not.

If we feared failure, we’d never get to try out all those things that don’t work such as all the ways a rocket won’t fly. Life is more interesting when it is juicy and rich and a tad messy. Your life isn’t a gift-wrapped Tiffany box. I hate to break it to you.

When we lay wide open with our hearts completely present, we display our inner beauty in such a way as to move other people to tears. Actors do that. In another TED talk, Thandie Newton, a devastatingly gorgeous actor who played in such films as The Pursuit of Happyness, shared her greatest pain at being a biracial child growing up in England without a sense of self. The very thing that made her feel so small as a kid is what makes her so great now.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s not your picture-perfect self that makes you who you are. It’s all the shadows and shades of grey mixed in with light and warm pockets of wonderfulness that present the fullness of you.

Courage lives in those spaces inside ourselves that Hemingway called broken. The difference between those who become a victim of their lives and those who step up to the challenges that life offers them is the choice to enter the arena full out.

I don’t know about you, but I am willing to be vulnerable, to keep myself open despite the knocks life has served me. I want not only to feel the length of my life, but as Katherine Woodward Thomas says, I want to feel the width and the depth of it too. And I want to share the richness of my life because profound connection is what I am here to experience.

One thing is for certain: we don’t come out of this life alive. We might as well live fiercely with all that we have and with all that we are.

Courage will get us to those places yet unimagined. I want to go there. Do you?

1 Comment

  1. Power of Slow | The Power of Vulnerability

    January 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    […] ** For more on vulnerability, see this post. […]

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