I had my eyes opened a bit this week. I discovered that the emotions I've had, and to some extent continue to have, about sharing the details of some of the darkest, most personal and most embarrassing experiences in my life have a name, or at least the act of going ahead and sharing the "whole of who I am" has a name… and the name is courage.
I have always thought that courage was a synonym for bravery, it turns out that courage is quite different. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was "to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart".
The decision I made to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart was difficult. I had spent decades crafting a "public image". I saw that image as being important to my business and how I wanted to be perceived by others. Another much more honest way to say it is; I was afraid that if people saw too much of the "real" me they may not want to do business with me, or like me as much, or at all.
By nature I'm a pretty confident guy, I am very comfortable blazing my own path through life and still I spent decades not living "wholeheartedly", that is, not having the courage to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart.
Of course there are many things that are just inappropriate for certain conversations, and just because I have developed the courage to live wholeheartedly doesn't mean I will share the "warts and all" of my life with every person I talk to, but it does mean that those aspects of my life hold no power over me. I have the courage to tell it like it is.
I love the way Dr. Brené Brown addresses this subject in the TED Talk I have inserted below.
Dr. Brown began by studying human connection. As it turned out, looking at human connection led her to human vulnerability. She saw that many people struggle for a sense of worthiness – people who live with feeling that they are somehow not good enough. And Dr. Brown discovered that these folks who struggle for a sense of worthiness feel an excruciating sense of vulnerability.
But Dr. Brown also found something else.
In her research she also saw many people who have a basic sense of worthiness. And she discovered that these people are also deeply in touch with their own vulnerability, but that these folks embrace their vulnerability. These people who have a basic sense of worthiness – people who Dr. Brown describes as “whole-hearted” – these wholehearted people understand that vulnerability is necessary. These whole-hearted people understand that the things that make us vulnerable are also what make us beautiful. She describes these folks from her research as having the courage to be imperfect, as experiencing connection born of authenticity, and as embracing their vulnerability.
It is not easy to stay with ourselves in those places where we are most vulnerable. It is not easy –but it is the path to whole-hearted living.
Dr. Brown’s research led her to these conclusions:
- Vulnerability is at the core of a person’s experience of shame, and fear, and the struggle to feel worthy.
- Vulnerability is also at the core of love, courage, innovation, creativity, spontaneity, belonging, tenderness, and joy.
It is our vulnerability that allows us to live whole-heartedly. I hope you will take the time to be educated and inspired by her Ted Talk-