A universal and very human struggle is how we can feel less alone and more connected to others. Attachment is hardwired into our brains. Like it or not, we are all social creatures in need of connection. It's a basic need for survival, dating back to when we are newborns and are so utterly dependent on another human being to continue life.
In a now famous lecture on TED.com, Dr. Brene Brown spoke about the important concept of worthiness. The fear that we are unworthy, she says, keeps us from fully connecting to others in our lives, and keeps us isolated and afraid. Dr. Brown's research shows that people with a sense of worthiness believe they deserve love and belonging, have self-compassion, and possess the amazing courage to be imperfect. People who have a strong sense of worthiness are also willing to take more interpersonal risks - they are willing to make themselves vulnerable in relationships while being comfortable with the idea that there are no guarantees and certainties in relationships. They allow themselves to be seen and known by others while embracing their imperfections.
As a society, we are obsessed with perfection. This also means obsession with appearing not-vulnerable. Perfection can mean an unhealthy preoccupation with trying to make all the uncertainties in life certain - a futile quest. When we realize that we are indeed vulnerable human beings, we tend to try to numb this often scary feeling - by acquiring material goods and overspending, turning to food and drugs, avoiding responsibility and blaming others (just to name a few examples).
Dr. Brown says we all have an immense fear of disconnection from others; she calls this the definition of shame. This fear is part of being human. She suggests that in order to improve relationships and have that real connection, we could consider making ourselves vulnerable:
- To let ourselves be seen by others as we truly are
- To love with our whole hearts even though there's no guarantee
- Practice gratitude and joy in everyday life
- Embrace the belief that we are enough, that we are worthy of love
The power of vulnerability - what a concept!
Dr. Brown's full lecture is available here.