From the Blog

3 ways to overcome vulnerability

This summer, our marketing team is reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. We’re working with COURAGEworks, Brené’s online reading community, to help transform the way we lead.

Daring Greatly: Chapters 3 and 4 continued

In Chapter 4 of Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown dives into “the vulnerability armory” — aka how we shield ourselves from feeling vulnerable in our everyday lives. Below are three pieces of armory that I’ve tried on before and am ready to leave behind.  

1. Bask in joy (don’t run from it)

Joy is a feeling we should invite into our lives with open arms. However once within arm’s distance of joy, we flinch and turn away. Instead of celebrating when something great happens, we assume things are too good to be true and disaster is lurking nearby.

“Foreboding joy” is the concept of how we try to protect ourselves from being caught off-guard. We’d prefer to be disappointed by our own hands rather than have fate beat us to the punch. We can’t allow ourselves to feel joy since it leaves us open and exposed.

Dr. Brown suggests “Don’t squander joy. Stop allowing yourself to turn joyful moments into seeking despair.” (p. 126)

How ridiculous would it be for an Olympian on the podium who just won the gold to be thinking “What if I didn’t win Gold? What if I don’t deserve this?”

That’s basically what we’re doing when we withhold joy from ourselves. Bask in joy instead of running from it. Joyful moments don’t come every day.   

2. Set boundaries

We all struggle with anxiety from time to time. Your job’s “busy season” is inevitable and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with work.

A noteworthy tidbit from Dr. Brown’s research on anxiety notes how participants defined the problem of anxiety: Group A sought to find ways to manage and soothe the anxiety, while Group B attempted to change the behaviors that led to anxiety.

Group A: “I make a pot of coffee after I tuck in my kids so I can take care of all the emails between ten PM and midnight. If there are too many, I wake up at four AM and start over again. I don’t like getting to work with any unanswered email in my inbox. I’m exhausted, but they’re answered.”

Group B: “I’ve simply stopped sending unnecessary emails and asked my friends and colleagues to do the same. I’ve also started setting the expectation that it might take me a few days to respond. If it’s important, call me. Don’t text or email. Call. Better yet, stop by my office.” (p. 143)

It’s clear to me that the Group B participants value their time and self-worth enough to establish clear work-life boundaries. They understand how important it is to put their foot down and claim “these are my rules of engagement.”

Set boundaries. By doing this, you might upset some people or risk being known as the person who doesn’t email back immediately. However, you’ll get to dictate how you live, work and communicate rather than put other people’s interests above your own. It’s a liberating feeling to reclaim your turf.

3. Keep your shadow comforts in check

“Shadow comforts” are what author and personal growth teacher Jennifer Louden calls our numbing devices. Dr. Brown adds, “When we’re anxious, disconnected, vulnerable, alone and feeling helpless, the booze and food and work and endless hours online feel like comfort, but in reality they’re only casting their long shadows over our lives.” (p. 146)

Shadow comforts can be anything — food, alcohol, video games, a website, an app. It’s worthwhile to take a moment and understand what shadow comforts you turn to when feeling stressed, anxious or helpless.

Ask yourself: are these activities fostering my well-being or are they convenient distractions from addressing certain emotions? Keeping these shadow comforts in check during stressful periods is one more way to shed your vulnerability armor and begin living a fuller life.