If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown yet, let me introduce you to this wonderful woman! She is an American qualitative researcher who has spent nearly 20 years studying shame.
I had actually heard one of her TED talks a while back, however it was only recently that I carefully (re-)listened to her material and came to really appreciate her work.
In April 2019, I drove to Kingston after work to meet with a group of inspired women interested in talking about the current challenges of our healthcare. I was invited to this dinner after I reached out to a physician I had met during a NP student clinical in the summer of 2018.
I had reached out to her because I knew she owned/worked at a semi-private clinic and practiced lifestyle medicine. I was interested in speaking with her about her experience with this clinic, because I was starting to realize that working within our current healthcare system was quite frustrating.
To make a long story short, it seems that around the same time, she had a number of other similar conversations with other healthcare workers. As a result, she asked us all to gather to exchange ideas and network.
When I got the invite, I was so thrilled! And when I showed up at this dinner, I felt totally out of place (imposter syndrome much!). This group of women consisted of middle aged women with SO much professional and lived experience. What was I, a young 28 year old and new graduate NP, doing amongst this group of well accomplished women!?
I put my fears aside and networked my little butt off. Fake it til you become it, right? (Another great TED talk you should listen to: Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are http://go.ted.com/AQBU5A)
As we did a round table and shared our professional resumés, reason for being here and our dreams for the future, I felt even more intimidated. These women were incredible!! How would my experience and ideas even compare to theirs!?
So it was my turn to talk and off I went with my little shpeal about my nursing experience and blah blah blah. But soon I found myself talking about my experience of depression and anxiety, and how I felt that our healthcare system hadn’t really been able to address my needs. I also talked about my frustrations as a healthcare professional and how I felt that I didn’t have the education, resources or time to really address the needs of the people I provided care to. And that was really bothersome to me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t settle for that.
Without realizing it, I got all choked up and tears filled my eyes (you’ll see this line often in my stories 😅). I tried to stay professional and switched the subject to my future aspirations, and left it at that. This was not the time and place to breakdown (I must mention that I was like one week out from my breakup with my ex, and extremely emotionally unstable).
We were all done doing the round table and we went on to converse casually for the rest of the evening. Towards the end of the evening, the lady sitting across for me leaned towards me and looked me in the eyes and said, “I think you are incredible. You have a real gift of being vulnerable in a group of complete strangers. And that is wonderful”.
Me? Incredible?! Haha.
It felt so uncomfortable to receive such a compliment from a women that I admired. I blushed and shyly said “thank you”.
She went on to suggest that I check out Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. Which I did, as soon as I got in my car. I listened to her two TED talks on my way home to Ottawa, thinking they were interesting, but honestly not feeling extra-ordinaliry inspired.
It wasn’t until last summer, when I re-listened to her two TED talks and her Netflix special, that I really started to appreciate her message. Since then, I have listened to 5 of her audiobooks and her research and writing has very much guided me in my growth and transformation.
And it’s only now, January 2020, that I know where I want this blog post to go, about 6 months after I started drafting it.
There is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that Brené Brown often refers to. It is the founding principle for one of her books, Daring Greatly. And it so accurately captures the power of vulnerability and how absolutely difficult it is to practice vulnerability, especially when every ounce of your being screams “get the fuck out of this situation!!”.
I am less than 48 hours from relocating my life to Northwestern Ontario, and I am going through some pretty intense emotions right now. I am feeling a mix of gratefulness, but also deep sadness about what I am leaving behind in Ottawa. Especially considering that in the recent few weeks, I have just reached a point where I am very content with so many things in my life. It feels crazy to leave when everything is finally falling into place.
Or do I have that perception because I am leaving?
Either way, I am saying goodbye to family and friends, and to romantic partners as well.
And I am having a really hard time with one partner in particular. I took a chance and reached out to this partner with what if felt was a very vulnerable text – letting them know I was feeling anxious about moving.
Their response was nice, but also indicated that they weren’t ready to explore my anxious feelings with me. They put down a boundary in our friendship, which is fine. But it hurt my inner child/ego/wounds.
My reflex is to feel stupid, naive and needy. To retreat to a safer place where the walls are tall and thick, and no one can see my soft side.
But then I remember everything Brené Brown has taught me, and that quote from Theodore Roosevelt. And I remember why I am on this journey. Why I choose to wear my heart on my sleeve. And why vulnerability is my superpower 🙏
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
– Theodore Roosevelt