For as long as I could remember perfection was the driving force behind my life. Everything I sought to achieve was precisely calculated down to a T leaving absolutely no room for mistakes or failure. I was comfortable, unhappy, but safe because with the certainty for success everything would be okay. Eventually nothing was okay. The pressure I placed upon myself ultimately engulfed me: my physical health was sacrificed at the hands of stress and I was forced to face a new reality. I had no other choice but prioritize my well being and learn to cultivate genuine happiness.
I knew where I had to start: Vulnerability. A delicate word with too great of an impact; an impact so terrifying I came to desensitize myself. Revealing my fears, frustrations, and failures to others, let alone to myself, was something I simply couldn’t will myself to do. Rather, I mastered the art of building walls out of fear of saying too much or feeling too deeply. Someone had recommended reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, but I continuously avoided opening the book because I never seemed ready to hold up the mirror and acknowledge my authenticity (which included imperfections). Months passed and the book remained untouched on my bedside table.
It wasn’t until a very precise moment— my solo junior year at Milken’s annual dance showcase— that all the walls I had so consciously constructed came crashing down. Leading up to the fleeting moments on stage, the hours practicing in the studio were filled with frustration; despite knowing the dance like the back of my hand a key element was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it. The problem? I was dancing with my head rather than my heart. On stage every ounce of pain was alleviated with an unfamiliar sense of liberation, and though tears blanketed my face I couldn’t help but smile the entire time. As the song came to an end, a single sentence dominated my thoughts: “that— that is how it’s supposed to feel.” Drained by the high emotions from that evening my head was begging for sleep, but my heart wanted nothing more than to become acquainted with the wise words of Brené Brown— and that it did.
Choosing to read Daring Greatly was a life changing decision—one that I regret waiting so long to start. Brown’s wit and candor allowed me to deeply empathize with both the ample research as well as her personal experience. By the end of each chapter my trust in Brown grew; so much so that by the end I was willing to confide in her. Brown’s captivating writing challenged me consider the steps of allowing vulnerability to take the wheel and courage to steer me in the
right direction scariest direction.
1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go Numbing and Powerlessness
4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self- Worth
8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”
These ten “guideposts” outlined in the introduction were the catalyst for transforming my life from one of fear to one genuinely lived as myself. Vulnerability truly is the birthplace for love, creativity, and courage: it’s what challenged me to wear my heart on my sleeve, put my art out into the world with no expectation for acceptance, and most recently choosing to take drawing rather than photography as my first college art course (simply because it was the option that scared the shit out of me, and because for me it’s no longer about acing or failing the class— it’s about showing up and courageously accepting the challenge despite the outcome).
Today, and every day since the start of my senior year, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced vulnerability, and while I sometimes still struggle to reveal my fears I recognize that doing so is emotionally liberating; there’s truly a raw power in opening yourself to the risk of rejection— one that will clarify our purpose and deepen the meaning of our lives.