Brene Brown believes that it is difficult to feel lovable if you constantly wear a mask. It is then the mask, and not oneself, that receives the confirmation. Vulnerability and authenticity are therefore the bravest thing we can do – the risk of disappointment is large but so is the reward. It is a cowardly way to go when we keep everyone at a safe distance and have an exit plan for all situations and relationships. Life, in fact, consists of family and close friends. The reason we are on earth is to carry our species forward and to create relationships (“connection is why we’re here”).
THE SCARCITY-IDEA IS A DESTRUCTIVE FRIEND. What counts are friends, security, a good job and love. But often we take it for granted. When we wake up, we have slept too little, during the day we do not have enough time and in the evening, we only have time for the most necessary things. We tell ourselves we have too little of everything. This thought loop becomes a friend who is always there, but one who does not want us well.
VULNERABILITY = EMOTIONS = WEAKNESS? Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, togetherness, courage, empathy and creativity (Brown defines vulnerability as insecurity, risk and emotional exposure). We often appreciate when someone is vulnerable toward us. But vulnerability is often the last thing we want others to see in ourselves.
“Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable”
IT IS EASY TO LIVE UNHAPPY. Living dissatisfied means reduced joy but also reduced pain. To fully enjoy what is good at the moment is risky as the situation can quickly change. Joy and vulnerability are strongly linked to each other and to minimize vulnerability, we often quickly choose pessimism. A study has shown that people feel most vulnerable to loving their job, their partner, getting married, having children, being happy or loved. When you are at the top, it is easy to prepare for a downgrade to take place.
FEAR OF ISOLATION. Humans are hard-coded social beings, which makes it difficult for us when we end up on the “outside”. Some researchers have stated that they believe that the most horrible and destructive emotion a person can be exposed to is psychological isolation. Another study showed that pain from social adversity is as strong as physical pain. According to Brown, shame is a fear of “disconnection” from those close to us. To think something like “if I said x maybe they like y about me and no longer want to hang out with me anymore”.
PERFECTION IS THE ENEMY OF DONE. Sending something “good enough” is more difficult than sending something perfect. Perfectionists have often grown up with much praise for grades. They have learned early on to look at themselves and their lives as if they are what they succeed at. Studies have shown that perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and “life paralysis”. It creates a fear of failure and means that we rarely dare to invest when it really matters. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.
SHAME GROWS OUT OF SECRECY. In the 12-step program (AA) there is a step that says you are only as sick as your secrets. Experiences of shame from childhood change who we are, how we look at ourselves and the value we place on ourselves. Shame keeps us small, contemptuous and scared. More people die from medicine overdoses than from heroin, cocaine and meta combined. Men in particular grow up with the message that they should never be perceived as weak. Women can complain about this, but in practice they often do not want men to show weakness.
“We ask them to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in, and we plead with them to tell us when they’re afraid, but the truth is that most women can’t stomach it. In those moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust. And men are very smart. They know the risks, and they see the look in our eyes when we’re thinking”
BEING COLD IS DOUBLE-EDGED. Statistics have shown that more soldiers committed suicide when they returned home from the war in Afghanistan than died during the war. This shows the problem of post-traumatic stress. There are also studies that show that police officers are at greater risk of committing suicide than the average citizen. Like the military, police officers are trained to act “cold”, which helps them in the service but not in private life. This also applies to other professions where you have to put on an emotional shield (lawyers, for example, have a 4 times higher suicide rate than ordinary people).