Avoiding Vulnerability…You Shouldn’t Be

Posted February 4, 2013 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

Our shame chat continues on this lovely Monday and what I want us to explore are what Brene Brown calls “Vulnerability Shields.” She says they’re what we put up when we’re trying to avoid vulnerability.  Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about vulnerability? While most people perceive it to be scary and try to not experience it, it’s really what makes us feel connected, engaged and successful.  But if we believe that vulnerability is miserable, we’re super likely to put up some of these “Vulnerability Shields” in order to sidestep being vulnerable.  Her book describes a ton of them and I’m just picking out two that seem to really resonate with women.

  1. Perfectionism.  Yep. Lots of women resonate with this one.  It shows up everywhere.  We walk around hoping that if we give the perfect presentation, write the perfect blog, wear the perfect heels then………. But then what? We will be ok? Our lives will be perfect? Perfectionism never has an ending. It’s driven by the idea that if we do it perfectly then we will avoid judgment, blame or shame.
  1. Numbing.  Using chemicals, food, exercise, isolation and/or busy-ness to avoid feeling.  Brene makes a joke about how if there was a 12-step meeting for all of the busy addicts in the world, the meeting would be packed. We start to buy into the idea that if we jam pack our lives with things to do then we will (again) avoid judgment and find approval.  We will also be so busy that we might not realize what’s actually happening in our lives. It’s a great way to avoid the realness of life.

Relate? Something you used to do? I find myself slipping into both of these occasionally.  The perfectionism one finds itself in my thoughts especially when I perceive that I’m taking risks in the work that I’m doing.  And I have totally been overly busy and completely unaware of how busy I’ve made myself until I crash with a cold or exhaustion and my body physically says “enough is enough.”  Brene suggests it doesn’t have to be like this and offers ways to “Dare Greatly” and get around our perfectionist tendencies.

These ideas are simple but require your brain power and regular attendance.  They don’t take as long to explain but pack the greatest punch for living your most loved life.

  • The idea that something is better than nothing.  That taking a risk and doing something horribly is better than doing nothing at all.  An Arthur Ashe quote resonates greatly with me around this idea.  “Start where you are.  Do what you can.”
  • Practicing mindfulness and gratitude.  My most recent favorite resource for this comes from Tara Brach.  Her website (http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html) has tons of FREE meditations.  I’ve been pulling them up like crazy and working on being present.

Next week we’ll talk about some of the other awesome ways to Dare Greatly!

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”