We inherently have this fear of being known, but still want to be loved, be happy, and successful in what we do. The problem is, as Dr Brene Brown — a researcher of human connection — points out, without embracing vulnerability and uncertainty we can’t truly have any of those things we want.
We’ve discussed uncertainty before, pointing out that it makes for better ideas and overall plans. Accepting the unknown for what it is appears to create happier people, as well. In Brown’s TED talk (see video above), her research found that people who felt deserving of love, belonging, happiness, and success in life (however they define it) had a few common beliefs. They felt that the things that made them vulnerable made them better and beautiful. They believed that what they didn’t know was scary but also exciting and important. They wouldn’t hesitate to say “I love you” first, or acting when there were no guarantees. It wasn’t necessarily they didn’t fear the outcome, but that they believed the risk was worth it since they deserved the potential reward.
When summarising what Brown has to say, it can sometimes come across as a little sappy, but the reality of her findings from years of study is more a fascinating look at human struggle than what you’d find on a greeting card. While you’ve probably heard that you need to let go, be yourself, and feel deserving of love in order to receive it, you’ve also possibly ignored these because they sound like an excessively emotional destination to which you don’t want to travel. In some ways that may be true — being vulnerable will lead to more emotions, but you don’t want to stay in a place where you’re numbing yourself and ignoring what really exists as a part of who you are.
Ultimately you have to — as Brown puts it — accept that you’re imperfect, hard-wired for struggle, but still worthy of love and belonging. If you need some tangible proof, think of the person you feel closest to and ask yourself if they’re also the person who knows you the best. If you want to make an effort to accept your vulnerability and the unknown with other people in your life, just try being honest about little things that scare you. Give your real opinion about a movie you liked that everyone else hated or thank someone for something you never thanked them for. It’s not an easy or short process, but to get started you have to take the first step.