Vulnerability and the Necessity of Failure

Through suffering and hardship, a resilient and beautiful soul can be born. This idea is extremely hard for me to comprehend at times. We are taught to seek out the very best in life from an early age. Winning is what makes us different, unique, and successful. And to make us feel better when we fail, children are given participation ribbons at events with the encouraging words, “Try, try, try again.” The phrase is beaten into our brains repeatedly throughout life, so we might as well get used to it. Rainbow ribbons are so often stuffed into tiny denim pockets with memories that will take a while to fade away. Failure is intimidating and painful.

Somewhere between being rewarded for simply putting out an effort, I started to shy away from any form of misstep on the tightrope that has become my life. I’m not sure where it started, but I’ve finally noticed in the past few months that it has made me into a rigid and stiff individual. Perhaps it stemmed from failure in past relationships, or from the mere idea of getting my hopes up only to have them crushed. All I know is that in the past few years, I have been afraid of making a wrong move, toppling off into the abyss.

A very dear person in my life reminded me last week of the importance of “vulnerability”. By very definition, the act requires one to be capable and open to being hurt. That is so frightening to me. Nothing is more wounding than putting yourself out there and facing rejection. So, as woman, I have conditioned myself to avoid these “missteps” in life, work, and especially in relationships. It is easy to take the final chapter of Proverbs, The Wife of Noble Character, and misinterpret the words to fit my need to remain strong. I say it to myself often. “She is clothed with strength and dignity.” But I think this is a mistake because that verse is incomplete without the counterpart– “And laughs without fear of the future”.  The full verse of Proverbs 31:25 sends a very clear message. It takes a certain openness and courage to find strength. At moments when I have seen women who are my role models, like my mother, be their strongest, is when I see them vulnerable and willing to embrace a weakness. It’s beautiful, to watch someone turn from a moment of pain to strength. The importance of experiencing pain cannot be overlooked, and I think I have been trying to divert weakness for quite some time in my life.

In the past few months, I’ve experienced more failure in my life than I ever have before. You have to know that in your first job, there are going to be plenty of mistakes. But I think the key is learning from them.  The verse from Isaiah 49:11—“And I will turn all my mountains into a road.” – really speaks to my feelings on vulnerability at this time in my life. I must be willing to take failure as it comes and embrace the idea of defeat in order to continue on my journey. Even though it can be so frightening, I’m ready to be open and take a step, even if it the wrong one.

If you’re looking to have a little bit more information on vulnerability, I highly recommend checking out the TED talk by Brene Brown titled “The power of vulnerability”. It is truly eye opening to consider the amount of compassion and connection that can stem from opening yourself, letting go of any armor, and simply allowing vulnerability to radiate in every aspect of your life. You can find more information here: https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown.

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Cheers!

Taylor

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