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The Power of Vulnerability—pt. 2  

Last month we looked at characteristics of people who live with minimal shame and how the embracing of vulnerability is central to that. This month we look at ways that people try to avoid or “numb” vulnerability, as Dr. Brené Brown says in her TEDx talk on vulnerability.

She thinks our attempts to numb vulnerability in this country have led us to be the most in debt, overweight, addicted, and overmedicated (not sure there is a distinction in the last two) country in the world.

I would like to focus on two things Dr. Brown talked about that we try to do to numb the experience of vulnerability. The first is we try to reduce ambiguity and make the uncertain certain. It feels vulnerable to not know something, to be uncertain, or to not be able to predict what is going to happen next. A solution is to embrace certainty, even when certainty isn’t warranted. This takes away any kind of productive dialogue about differences and is toxic to relationships. It is kind of the model in our national politics at the moment. There is little engagement of differing ideas, just embracing of the certainly of one position and, often, demonizing those who have different ideas.

The other thing we do is try to make everything perfect. Mistakes make us feel vulnerable, so removing mistakes should take away vulnerability. Unfortunately, the pursuit of perfection often leaves people paralyzed, unable to take action because they can’t guarantee a “perfect” outcome. And when we try to impose perfection on others, particularly children, but also partners, we put too much pressure on them. We also don’t prepare children  for the real world when we try to sanitize experience so it is “perfect.”

Let go of certainty and perfection. Embrace vulnerability.