The Power of Vulnerability: How having a stutter helped me embrace being vulnerable

(Click  above to watch)

In 2018 I’m trying to gradually expand my horizons by reading more books, experiencing nature in different places, and simply trying to be a better, more open person. Some of those are going better than others (sorry to the stack of books I have on my floor).

I recently watched the above Ted Talk on Vulnerability, not really knowing what to expect, but knowing that I would put myself into the category of being comfortable being vulnerable – sort of.

I thoroughly enjoyed it ( I actually watched it twice) and if you have twenty minutes, I’d highly recommend it. If you can’t I’m going to pull out some segments that spoke the most to me.

I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, though much more at ease on the court or field… #SPORTS. (This is a random aside but if sports were real life, it’d awesome…also exhausting but ya know…)

I believe that my parents did a superb job in teaching my brother and me not to be jealous or envious of what others have and to be grateful for what we do have (other than not having cable growing up. Forever scarred). With this foundation in place, it set us up knowing not to value people based on what they possess around them but what they possess within them.

We’re All Imperfect

There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better.

Furthermore, growing up with a stutter taught me at an early age that I 1) wasn’t perfect and 2) either had to embrace it, work at it, or never talk again. I went with options one and two. ted talks

Stuttering isn’t one of those things that you can get out of easily. It materializes out of thin air and by not being afraid to let it happen, I was being as authentic of a person as I could be. I also couldn’t kick myself for it. It was who I am and knowing that those around me supported me, definitely made it easier.

Be Authentic

And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language —it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

Having a stutter also made me incredibly vulnerable including getting picked on as a kid or not being taken seriously in a job interview.

Everytime that I opened my mouth, there was a strong likelihood of some sort of a stutter occurring. It might not have always been noticeable to the people I was around but I sure knew when I was stuttering. (As I have gotten older, I’ve realized that I probably make a bigger deal out of it than it really is.)

What this also did was give me confidence that even if I did stutter, what I wanted to say was worth it no matter the ensuing laughs or comments. I’m also incredibly stubborn so maybe that’s it. *shrug emoji*

Try Your Damndest

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

The last two sentences from above really speak to me. Even if things don’t work out, it’s the journey, the effort, and the heart you put in that truly matters. That is all you can control. The final outcome, while out of your hands, can be shaped by the amount of effort you put in and I’d never want to look back knowing I didn’t try my damndest.

This unknown can be a scary time but if you went the extra mile and know you put everything you had into keeping that fire alive (about whatever), hold your head high and be content with whatever the outcome is.

ted talks 2
Brené Brown

That’s one of my life mottos: Don’t leave something you care about without giving it your all.

Frankly, I’m not afraid to crash and burn (again monetary issues aside) because I have realized (over many rejections/sports losses) I have the mental fortitude to bounce back and things usually work themselves out.

I’m not sure if this makes me unique or an alien, but as the saying goes, ‘You’ve gotta risk it for the biscuit’ and I’ve always really, really liked biscuits.

My Perspective

Looking back at my childhood, it would have been nice to not have to deal with a stutter and everything that came with. It definitely did affect certain things growing up, but I feel most of those issues have been left behind.

It, though, gave me a unique perspective on how I judge others with much more impactful disabilities as well as disadvantaged people/issues, how I handle myself, not letting things get under my skin, and lastly, as this has shown, comfortable opening up about issues that affect me.

I write this not to boast about being vulnerable or where I’ve come from but to hopefully be a resource to those who may be going through issues much more serious than mine. If my experiences can help just one person live a better and happier life, I’d forever be happy.

I may have gone off on few too many tangents but I hope the point was still conveyed: Take risks. Don’t be afraid to get hurt because it could result in the best thing ever. Be authentic.

You’re all amazing in your unique and weird way.

Embrace it.

Don’t let social media ruin your joy.