brene brown

LifeTip: The Power of Vulnerability

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In our culture, vulnerability gets a bad rap, and can often be associated with words like “weakness,” “pushover,” or “danger.” In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown begins to redefine what it means to be vulnerable in our relationships. And the best part? Her concepts are deeply rooted in years of research and experience.

Brown puts it quite plainly by saying that “To feel is to be vulnerable” and suggests that the opposite of vulnerability isn’t strength, it’s disengagement. When we push others away for fear of exposure and turn away from ourselves in an attempt not to feel, we disengage with the world around us.  This can often cause problems because humans are hard-wired for connection. We are not meant to be completely isolated. So why is being vulnerable so dang hard then?! Perhaps it’s because it asks us to be genuine in our relationships which means that others will see the real person in us – flaws and all. Unfortunately for many, feeling vulnerable is tied up in feeling shame, guilt, or disappointment, but Brown sums of the challenge of vulnerability in saying  that “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”

So a great place to start your path towards vulnerability is to answer this for yourself: Vulnerability is ___________.

You can learn more about vulnerability and wholehearted living in some of Brown’s other books:

  • Rising Strong

  • The Gifts of Imperfection

  • I Thought it was Just Me

  • Connections

sympathy vs. empathy

We hear these words get tossed around, almost interchangeably, all the time. So what's really the big difference between sympathy and empathy, and why should it matter to a teenager?

Here are some common definitions:

sym·pa·thy

ˈsimpəTHē/

noun 

1

. feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune

em·pa·thy

ˈempəTHē/

noun 

1

.the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

One way to help really get the difference between the two is to think of sympathy as feeling sorry for someone and empathy as feeling sorrow with someone. Climbing into the space where a friend is hurting and just being present with them. Sitting close to a friend whose crying and allowing the sadness to just be. We want so much to help our loved ones not feel pain, but oftentimes our efforts can have the unintended consequence of leaving a friend alone with their feelings. We dismiss, or minimize, or try to put on a silver lining, when what a friend really needs is to know that you are there for her and that you know that sometimes life is hard.

Rather than jumping in to fix it when your friend or your daughter or your partner is hurting, try just allowing yourself to be in the moment with them. Allow yourself, and your loved one, to have all these feelings without trying to rush past them back into the happiness zone. Here's a great video from the always-awesome Brene Brown that highlights the critical differences between sympathy and empathy: