On Being Vulnerable in a Very Public Place

Last month I spoke at the New Mexico Library Association‘s Young Adult Luncheon (Shh…don’t tell I don’t write YA!). It was wonderful and satisfying and kind of embarrassing.

I broke down three times while talking to this room packed with people I’d never met before. Why? I shared three things that really struck a chord in me:

  • My story about coming home to New Mexico and visiting my childhood library.
  • Words Inspiring Words,” my poem about Sharon Creech‘s beautiful verse novel, LOVE THAT DOG.
  • My three-o’clock-in-the-morning thoughts about a former student, a girl I know I failed as a teacher.
In other words, I shared my heart.
I apologized several times for being so emotional. It made me uncomfortable that I’d lost control so publicly. Yet everyone who came to talk to me afterward shared how much they appreciated what I had to say and the honesty that I brought to the presentation. 
I emailed a friend about the event, and she sent me a link to this video, Brene Brown: On Leaning into Vulnerability. Here are some things I’ve pulled from watching:
  • On vulnerability: “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen…It’s not comfortable but is beautiful.”
  • Defining courage: “Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
I’m the tenderhearted type. I’m trying to learn to be okay sharing this side of myself with others, especially when the sharing is unexpected and isn’t on my terms. It’s not comfortable, but it is real and can be beautiful. Will you join me in finding the courage to be vulnerable?

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  1. says

    I know exactly what you mean, Caroline. I’ve only been in a few situations like that, and I find it very difficult–like you said, when the sharing “isn’t on my terms.” I went to a college full of very spiritual people (many of whom thrived on sharing their deepest and most intimate feelings), but it tended to make me curl up into an even smaller ball to protect my privacy. Oddly enough, even beyond the theology and philosophy that I studied, the one class that most encouraged me to grow in virtue was an acting class. My first assignment was “Take a risk–do something you don’t normally feel comfortable doing.” I decided to sit at lunch with people I had never met. (Any extroverts reading this can stop snickering now…) It turned out to be so comfortable that I decided I hadn’t done the assignment properly. So I kept escalating my task, going more and more out of my comfort zone, sharing more of my true self. And I gradually realized that so much of the “risk” was completely in my head. That even though being vulnerable allows you to be hurt sometimes, the fact that it gives you the chance to reach out to and touch others far outweighs that.
    Still…I don’t think it’ll ever get easy!

  2. says

    “…the fact that it gives you the chance to reach out to and touch others far outweighs that.”

    Oh, Faith. I love this. And I’m so happy I’ve had a chance to truly “meet” you through email. Thank you for sharing a real part of your life with me. It has been a gift.

  3. says

    I think it’s great that you opened up like that. People want people to be real. That’s the only way we can truly connect with each other.

  4. says

    I’m still trying to embracing this definition of courage, this level of vulnerability. Baby steps. I’ve been crying a lot today, so there’s that. :) So now, after listening to this interview and watching her TED talk, I’m very much looking forward to reading her 2 books: “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly”. Hmmm, maybe I’ll do a blog read-along like you’re doing with LMM (which I need to do some catching up on by the way…) Anyhoo. Enough hijacking of comments…xo

  5. says

    I’m so glad you shared this experience. I feel so bad when I break down, but it’s usually because I wear my heart on my sleeve. And there are certain subjects that do it to me, and my writing is one of them. I agree that we need to be real, show our own vulnerability. That is when connections are made.

  6. says

    I enjoyed your presentation at the conference luncheon. You made it more real to me. I went that afternoon and bought the book for my Kindle and read it the next week. It was such a great read!! I have a copy coming for my library now at Alta Vista and can’t wait to share it with the kids. :) Thank you for being “real” in your presentation. It was excellent!

    • says

      Thank you so much for this, especially since you were there that day. It is such a thrill to realize my book is in NM schools. If I could, I’d go back in time to pinch my fifth-grade self!

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