heavy machinary and vulnerability

by blogasana on March 16, 2011

photo credit

Stopped at a red light yesterday, I looked at a construction site across the street where a tower crane was hoisting a giant steel beam from one spot to another on top of a new building.

Looking at the tiny man in the cab some 75 feet up (and not knowing the first thing about the mechanics of a tower crane) I wondered about the degree of danger in this job. I’ve heard of tower crane accidents and it seems like a pretty delicate system of pulleys, weights, and counter balances.

My gut thought was How does he do it? Go out everyday knowing the risk? Risking himself.

Ordinary scenarios start running through my head: I’m driving a car, I ride a horse, I’m in relationship as a wife, a stepmom, daughter, friend. Which turned into the reflection that each of us risk ourselves every day. To share your thing, to raise your hand, to smile and say hello. We put ourselves out there. We make ourselves vulnerable.

Vulnerability and Shame

Brené Brown has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, authenticity, and wholeheartedness. She talks in her work about how shame is the biggest obstacle to living a life rich in these qualities.

Shame shows up in our fear of being laughed at, in thinking we can’t do enough, in feeling unworthy. So to protect ourselves, we stop making ourselves vulnerable.

The most compelling piece about vulnerability as Brown describes it is this: we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable for fear of embarrassment, failure, discomfort, or judgment, but the other possible result of vulnerability is joy, fulfillment, gratitude, growth, and connection.

And here’s the thing — you can’t exclude just one set of emotions. If you block vulnerability because of the possibility of disappointment, you also block the possibility of joy. The outcome is not selective.

Out of my comfort zone

This perspective is coming at me through a megaphone.

Although Brown doesn’t address it in the work I’ve seen, I suspect the more one makes herself vulnerable, the easier and more comfortable it becomes. Likewise, once one shuts down vulnerability, the more impossible and frightening it seems.

Post-sabbatical, going back to teaching felt like a giant leap of vulnerability. For a month I hid behind the computer, in front of the TV, in the back of the class, and I didn’t have to put myself out there. The longer I went, the harder it was to think of going back.

Knowing yourself is not as important as loving yourself

This is my favorite piece out of Brown’s recent PBS special.

Yoga practice is arguably all about knowing yourself. But for whatever you find, none of it matters, none of it will change your life if you don’t love yourself. In spite of, because of, or anyway, you gotta love yourself.


How does this all settle for you? Thoughts? Reflections? Step out, make yourself vulnerable. The result might be a deepening of connection, intimacy, and friendship.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy March 16, 2011 at 4:41 am

I wrote about this recently, in terms of one of my “defense mechanisms” which is keeping score in order to not be vulnerable. I’ve been working on this a lot lately, in being real about the fact that I want that closeness and vulnerability but it takes awhile to get there and is so damn scary. I’ve got no answers, just a desire to get there in my relationships.


blogasana March 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm

aren’t we creative with how we’ll avoid intimacy/vulnerability? kudos for calling yourself out and working on it. remember the love part =)) xo


Teacher Goes Back to School March 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

this one knocks it out of the park. maybe because vulnerability is so on the forefront for me lately.

did i mention i am not a fan? although we are starting to make friends, vulnerability and i.

i’ve watched brene’s tedtalk so many times, i believe it may be a stalking crime by now. the part that struck me is the same as you mentioned – you can’t numb the bad without also numbing the good. when she said it {right to ME} the 48,000 times, i got tears in my eyes. every.single.time.

dude, this is HUGE.

on the other hand, opening your heart, is quite scary and can lead you down unexpected paths like – why so mad, sad, grumpy etc and wanting to not sit with it, but make.it.better. NOW, dammit.

pink of perfection talked about sitting with what is and not trying to coax yourself to be anything other than what is right now. it’s the same conversation we had the other day, but she wrote it down. – french friday: vegetarian casseolet and how she’s dealing with bad moods. definitely check it out.

do you think brene would come give a talk at the studio so i could stalk her in real time?


blogasana March 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

seriously. think she’d come? we’d all get along fabulously.

that’s the thing about her work. when she says something it’s like i’ve been hit in the chest — lump in the throat, tears in the eyes… Truth is undeniable and she is speakin it.

thanks for sharing and being one of the people i can just be ‘me’ with.


geanette March 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Wow! I just love this and can’t wait to get into some of Brene’s work. For me, this has been a project for the past few years, which, by the way, started ‘today’ in 2008…The first day of learning vulnerability. The day I walked into a beautiful yoga studio in Sacramento.

Just the other day someone just gave me a very thoughtful observation/complement… “how are you able to just let go of things and accept with a warm heart”. My response… it took a long time to get here, and it requires work everyday, thank you! Vulnerability! Yes, it’s really a gift if allowed.

Now… I’m going to look up Brene’ =)



Mel March 17, 2011 at 12:40 am

I’m here via an RT by Briana Aldrich on Twitter – what a wonderful & timely post. This is all on my mind a lot lately & I think I’m getting it in bits & pieces (I get it, and then I have to work to accept it, let go – I make almost everything step a struggle!). The work of learning about myself is hard – loving myself is even harder – but even though it comes in bits and pieces, it feels like it is shifting everything. Disconcerting and scary – and amazing. I agree, loving yourself IS more important. and maybe I can’t even know myself entirely, until I can love & accept all that’s there and all that might be there. Thanks so much.


Elizabeth March 17, 2011 at 1:07 am

I just (just!) journaled about vulnerability this morning after Shiva Nata. I wrote something similar. I am afraid to be vulnerable because it hurts so much that I closed myself off. Except that the joy that is possible is worth any amount of pain so it is time to slowly open to vulnerability again.

But I have found that knowing myself and loving myself go hand in hand. The more I learn about myself, the easier it is to love myself.


blogasana March 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

@g – i am fortunate to know about your journey with vulnerability… i think one of your first posts in tt was about the topic. and what a change it’s been!! look at you now… open to love, willing to take the ultimate risks to live moments to their fullest! we miss you so much here, but i’m so amazed by you and your wide open arms.

@mel – thank so much for stopping by and sharing a piece of your story. yes, i find that dance of back and forth so much of the process. i recently experienced that “shifting” you talk about and it was like meeting a whole new person inside myself where both the knowing (graciously meeting that person) and the loving (accepting her) was so important. all the best to you…

@elizabeth – “the more i know myself the easier it is to love myself”… wow – that’s powerful. when i read that i thought maybe the opposite was true for me, but i don’t think so. with that knowing comes a kind of confidence… like, this is truly me, take it or leave it. if you haven’t listened to brene’s work, i think you’d really like it. xoxo


Tracy March 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Interesting about the crane, Michelle… as two blocks away from my house an apartment building is going up, and a BIG crane is these hoisting steel up–it’s almost scary to watch for too long, for then the mind wanders…LOL! Also interestingly, is that thought about vulnerability and comfort zones has been on my mind this week. I’m branching out in my creative life and it feels good. At first is was hard though, as staying within my comfort zone was comfortable. I realized I’d lived too long in this cocoon and it was time to break free! So that’s where I’m at now, chipping my way out of the cocoon. Some days still spook, but with each day I’m loving the new found freedom–especially the freedom within. You always share wise, important matters here, Michelle…thanks! :o)


Kelley M March 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I’m too scared….but working on it. Looking up this Brene Brown now. Thx.


blogasana March 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

@tracy – on the same wave, we are! i love the image of ‘chipping your way out of the cocoon’… such an innocent and pure idea. we need time in the cocoon, and of course we need to know when it’s time to chip out. i’m hoping for you the kindness of love of rumi’s “pickaxe.” xoxo

@kelley – scared is ok. like i’m scared about the stuff going on with A that i told you about. but i reached out anyway. i think that’s the courageous part (not that i’m all courageous:). xoxo


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