Three issues of GirlSense & NonSense Magazine have come and gone and in the process of receiving submissions, we had at least one artist every issue ask that we not to share her name. She understood there was power in her writing or art but could not bear the shame, guilt, and fear that came with claiming her story as her own. She could not bear the vulnerability.
Neither could I. I still can’t.
Sharing poems with my friends, peers, and professors was okay but at the mere mention of publishing, I still feel my stomach turn. I continue to justify this response by telling myself that it is just a young artist wanting to protect her words and her stories, and the people and events wrapped inside of them. My stories are sensitive. I am sensitive.
But are we really artists, are we really storytellers, if our stories are never told because we never gave them the chance?
I’ve been feeling this, dealing and not dealing with the concoction of shame and fear for a long time, and I only recently ran in to the writing and presentations of vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown. Brené has written several books and spoke at two TED events on the subject, and has mentioned this 1910 Teddy Roosevelt quote several times (a quote that she said changed her life):
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
So here’s what Brené & Teddy have taught me:
Vulnerability means letting yourself be seen, your wholly imperfect self.
Vulnerability means stepping into the arena and failing over and over, then wiping the sweat and grime from your face and going back in again and again.
To be vulnerable takes courage and as Brené defines it, “courage means telling your story with your whole heart.”
And I’ll add something of my own: to be vulnerable takes courage and courage means sharing your story with your whole heart and your whole name.
I know that it is so much easier said than done, but let’s make a pledge to be vulnerable and courageous together. Let’s make a promise that every single day, we’ll at least try to step into the arena and to ‘dare greatly.’
Write. Create. Share.