Courage is the savior that marches alongside us when fear shows up. It can inspire bursts of boldness that help us speak our minds, follow our hearts, and bare our souls to others. Without it, we can’t grow or thrive. Sometimes we get caught up in the mistaken notion that being courageous means overcoming fear. But courage isn’t looking past fear; it’s recognizing and even embracing it. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s being scared, worried, unsure, and ready to run, and yet still finding a way to do what you really want to do, what others need you to do, or what you believe is right—despite all that fear. But how do you cultivate the courage to be vulnerable?
The Call to Courage
Bestselling author and research professor Dr. Brené Brown believes that you have to be willing to lean into your discomfort to invoke love into your life while discovering joy and finding a sense of belonging. That’s the topic she explores in her new Netflix special, Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, where she reveals how she too struggles to confront embarrassment head-on. Brown’s special highlights the link between courage and vulnerability, which she describes as “having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” The special is available to watch now.
Here are a few lessons that we learnt about courage and vulnerability from the special.
1. Courage is not a sign of weakness
Vulnerability allows people to assess fearlessness. “Vulnerability is our most accurate way to measure courage, and we literally do that as researchers. We can measure how brave you are by how vulnerable you’re willing to be”, according to Brown.
2. There are many benefits to opening up
Brown sees vulnerability as the “birthplace” of things like love and joy. After highlighting the risks of love, Brown asked the audience: “Are you 100% sure that person will always love you back, will never leave, will never get sick? How many of you have every buried someone you love? How many of you have lost someone you love?”. In addition, to love is to be vulnerable. To give someone your heart and say, ‘I know this could hurt so bad, but I’m willing to do it; I’m willing to be vulnerable and love you,’ that is vulnerability.
3. Vulnerability is inescapable
“You do vulnerability knowingly or vulnerability does you”, said Brown. Even those who think they are avoiding being vulnerable are in fact experiencing the emotion. You cannot avoid being vulnerable according to Brown. You can try to avoid it but *spoiler alert* it will haunt you down either way.
4. Don’t be scared to be happy
“I’m here to tell you that joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions. We are terrified to feel joy. We are so afraid that if we let ourselves feel joy, something will come along and rip it away from us, and we will get sucker-punched by pain and trauma and loss. So that, in the midst of great things, we literally dress rehearse tragedy. Often we’re afraid to be grateful for what we have, especially in front of people who’ve gone through great trauma and loss because we think it’s insensitive”, said Brown.
Stop blaming fear for stopping you and recognize the strange paradox that exists: your fears will never completely disappear, and you will never win the battle against them. When you can finally accept fears and invite them in, it makes courage more accessible.
And be vulnerable. It leads to courage. Sharing your fears and anxieties with others can make them seem far less scary and insurmountable. You’ll soon realize you’re not alone, and once you feel the strength of a community surrounding you and the empathy of others who understand your situation, it’ll be easier to take that leap.