Vulnerability

Brené Brown’s talk (see previous post) has gotten me thinking a lot, not just within the context of the new eugenics.

I’ll need to read her book on the topic (even though what she is saying has been said by many others before her).

In the past few months, I was reminded rather harshly a few times of the fact that men seem to have a great need for women to be vulnerable. (By this, I mean that they’re uncomfortable around strong women and often try to tear them down verbally – though the other explanation of this sentence is equally valid.)

Not all men, but men who… feel vulnerable and have a hard time dealing with it.

For example with not measuring up to either their own or the world’s ideas of who they are supposed to be, professionally.

Though, of course, the story is often much uglier than that (see not only the first but also particularly the second part what Sallie Krawcheck said on LinkedIn recently).

So, at first sight, the problem with vulnerability can seem to be that it needs to be censored, and also that it needs to be dished out in measures, instead of freely.

If you make yourself appear too vulnerable, it can backfire greatly, because it makes some people focus on your vulnerability to such a degree that they believe that you have no strengths whatsoever (or that you view yourself as worthless).

That may sound like a problem, but it isn’t. As long as you surround yourself with strong people, things will be fine. And if you run into weak people, their response may upset you briefly but that’s fine too, and maybe you’ll inadvertently help them grow.

Strength is the willingness to make yourself vulnerable and admit that you’re vulnerable. Some people, however, tell themselves that strength is the absence of any vulnerabilities. That means that they’ll never be who they want to be. How frustrating that must be.

We’re more than bits of software designed to tun on electronic equipment. Vulnerability makes us beautiful.

You can see this reflected in the valuation of handmade items over mass-produced ones. The process of making something by hand exposes the creator to the possibility that the process might fail. The end product could be seriously flawed, all the time and attention “wasted”. (It won’t be wasted as it will likely have resulted in learning and possibly produced relaxation, and hey, the joy is in the journey, not in the reward.)

We inherently value the risk that the creator takes as much as the wonderful result of the process when it doesn’t fail. We sense the fragility in the end product.

Mass production has been optimized to minimize flaws and products with flaws are removed in a quality control process that we hardly ever think of as consumers.

Consider flawless mass-produced drinking glasses over exquisite hand-blown glass ware.

Some time ago, someone wrote to me “It must be difficult for someone so thoroughly talented/blessed, to not be able to take a compliment without examining it for booby traps?!?!”

And I thought “What the hell is this about?” because I had no idea. (I still haven’t been able to identify the “compliment”.) The message came from someone who appears to have a great need to feel superior to others. I suppose that my willingness to be open about my vulnerabilities over the years must have led to the idea that I don’t believe that I have any talents?

Maybe I should add that the other person is in a country that has a very different culture and style of communication than the one that I have been in for nearly fourteen years now. I surely have assimilated many of the mannerisms that I am surrounded by. That’s only logical.

Okay, so I probably often do come across rather oddly to people in other countries these days, because they expect me to behave the way I used to in the past, the same way they do. That causes a mismatch that is unidentifiable for them and that likely makes them feel slightly uncomfortable. (Look at the Brexit negotiations, for instance at Angela Merkel’s frustration with Theresa May in this context, to see how differently people from my current culture communicate. David Cameron had the same problem, by the way.)

I on the other hand had been thinking he might be taking the mickey because he’d suddenly sent me a puzzling series of messages, in which he partly seemed to be parroting me in in a strange way. I thought that the parroting in itself was already quite odd. It’s something people do when they want to make fun of you, after all.

But then again, come to think of it, parroting may also be something certain men do automatically when dealing with women, probably because they subconsciously want to be liked. Maybe that was the compliment.

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown

 

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