Just Show Up

Have you heard of Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead?

If not, maybe you have watched or listened to her Ted Talk from 2011 on vulnerability.

If none of the above sound familiar, I’ll quickly sum up who she is and why she’s important in this context.

Per her website, she describes herself as:

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation-Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.

She has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers – The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly, and Rising Strong. Her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone, will be released Fall 2017.

I am currently reading her book on vulnerability and wanted to share how I believe it has already helped in my life.

Stepping back about three years, I had been living in Canberra, Australia for almost two years when a very special person entered my life, who we’ll call “Nikita.” We met during a chance occasion when both of us didn’t want to be present and we become incredible friends over the common need to paint with someone else.

During one of the last few weeks before I moved to Bahrain, I enlisted the help of a local art supply store to figure out how to realise an idea– A 4d painting of my face. That is, a painting where my face literally blasts through the canvas. The girl who helped me had a certain quality about her that I hadn’t remembered seeing in anyone else.

If you watch enough movies–specifically romantic movies– there are moments when a man meets a woman and it’s as if time slows down around her. This actually happened. While showing me something off the bottom shelf at the store, she looked up at me and time seemed to literally slowed down and I couldn’t hear what she was saying.

Immediately my thoughts went to “ask her out, ask her out, asker her out!” In fact, they persisted through the remainder of our transaction, all the way to me walking out the door and to my car. But I didn’t.

How could I have met someone that I referred to as “Dragon Eyes” and just walk out the door when everything inside was screaming to court her?!

The truth is, I was scared shitless. This was the same fear that talked me out of making a move to progress a relationship in my teens and the same fear that talked me out of sky diving or bungee jumping.

I was vulnerable and that wasn’t O.K..

This is where Brené’s book comes back into the picture. Vulnerability is being present, as you are, and authentically you. It’s showing up and accepting that you are not perfect, but nothing in this world is.

Having read through her book over the last month or so, and in line with other steps towards shedding a lot of baggage, I made a decision.

Currently I am back in Australia for Nikita’s wedding party. Though the party is only a few hours on one night, I came here for two reasons: Celebrate her and her partner’s love and embrace the fear of rejection.

Today, I went back to that art supply store. Guess who was there to help me? Dragon Eyes and I worked out a new project, which is meant to be a wedding gift for Nikita. The hours leading up to my visit were filled with striking fear and anxiety. As I have learned new ways to deal with emotions, instead of trying to numb or suppress them, an idea came across. If a friend was in a similar scenario and had the same sort of reservations about asking the girl out, what would I tell them? My honest advice would be to show up, embrace the fear, and ask the question.

My experience in anxious moments (e.g. public speaking, expressing inter-personal problems, etc.) is no matter how hard I try to numb the feelings, there are only two options: show up and move through the anxiety (advance) or cower and retreat (decline).

So, after many questions about different products, techniques, and methods– which were really ways to delay the real question– I asked if she was free the following week.

Her response?

“I’m sorry but I’m taken.”

Hmm, I suppose I should have asked her out three years ago.

“I was still taken.”

Failure? Not at all.

In fact, I am quite proud of myself for showing up and having the courage to do what was necessary. Maybe I was turned down, but I made a move towards something that the Quiet Voice told me to pursue.

This is all part of the process of showing up, being present, embracing the fear, and being vulnerable.

After 30 years of accepting what I get and not pursuing those goals which truly excite me, all in the name of vulnerability, I’m re-working the habit.

What’s your experience with vulnerability and fear? Has it prevented you from pursuing a goal or a mate which you felt was too lofty or out of your league? How do you think it deterred you in life? Have you found a strategy to move through the fear and anxiety?