This is Part 1 in a series exploring my reaction to “Daring Greatly,” by Brene Brown, and how vulnerability and shame can get in the way of living life.
The question seemed easy enough. “Will you come talk to our group? About vulnerability?”
I so know about vulnerability. After all, at the time my friend asked the question, I had just finished one of the wildest professional roller coaster rides of my life. I was both exhausted and exhilarated, after spending months writing, producing and then performing my first one-woman show, “Come Dance With Me (But First Can I Borrow Your Pants?),” as part of a theater festival in my hometown of Indianapolis.
I had experienced brilliant highs and aggravating lows while performing six shows in 10 days. I was challenged beyond my expectations – emotionally, mentally and physically. Needless to say, I was feeling like an expert on vulnerability (and everything else that comes with it). In fact, I was secretly hoping someone would give me a tiara with a flashing sign, “She Survived!”
So of course I said, “Yes, I’ll do it! Tell me more!”
Turns out this group of amazing women was reading “Daring Greatly,” by author, researcher and chord-striker Brene Brown. I bought the book and plunged in, thinking I had some serious research to do. What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself in the process, particularly when it comes to such a dirty little word: shame.
I kept humming, “What’s shame got to do, got to do with it?” in my best Tina Turner impression as I read the paragraph that punched my gut:
“You’ve designed a product or written an article or created a piece of art that you want to share with a group of friends. Sharing something that you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living. It’s the epitome of daring greatly. But because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self-worth to how your product or art is received. In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t, you’re worthless.”
Holy Nail on The Head, Batman! She had my attention. As I continued to read, I thought three things:
- How did this author know how to read my mind? Was she hiding in my brain?
- Why does everyone relate so intimately with shame? So much so, that this book hits home with millions of readers?
- My one-woman show experiences could serve as the perfect case study for this book. It was like looking in a mirror through the written word. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
By the time I showed up to share my story of vulnerability with a room full of women (who were amazing and inspiring, by the way), I was armed with a handy dandy list I called, “Ten Difficult Ways to Create a One-Woman Show, or: What the Hell Was I Thinking?”
But I’d like to think this list applies to life, in general – not just to us creative types looking for torturous projects. So I’m going to share this list with you over the next month or so. I hope you’ll join me! Thanks to Brene Brown for the inspiration. It's gonna be a bumpy ride!
Michelle Freed is a journalist, humorist, public speaker, playwright, and sometimes … a cheap therapist. She is an Indianapolis Star correspondent, a corporate communications specialist, and is a closet disco queen. She is passionate about women's issues.
©2013 Michelle Freed
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