Archive for April, 2013

Vulnerability has been a topic of conversation this past week,  a concept or “feeling” that I am trying to get a handle on, not only as a teacher to help guide students but also in the wake of facing my own vulnerability as I currently wrestle with career, personal life and my ever-evolving art process.

I am always pondering what it means to live a fully authentic, artful life and vulnerability, the willingness to step into fear with the potential for disappointment and hurt, is a big piece of that puzzle. I have witnessed how fear can paralyze a person from reaching their goals, dreaming big dreams and sabotage meaningful, loving relationships. I like to think that I experience and feel fear quite a bit, I just don’t let it hold me back. I try to step into it, but often it’s only after several Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a couple glasses of wine and several shopping trips to muster up the courage to finally attack the dragon that lay simmering in my soul.

Art and being an artist is really all about relationships – to each other, our space around us, our emotions, the objects and trappings of life and our environment. We cannot possibly have a relationship to someone or something (including our art), without being fully present to it…and that means being vulnerable.

I’m sure we all have experiences in our lives that brought about the feeling of shame, of not being worthy, which then leads us down a repeated path of fear, not wanting to feel that “less than” feeling. But what if we all did something every day that scared us? What if we just one time, allowed the voice inside our head to say “I am an artist!” “I am worthy of my success!” “I am a strong, smart, ____, (fill in the blank) person!” Think of all the positive energy that would be transferred from yourself to another, and to another, etc.

In reading and questioning my own struggles with allowing myself to be vulnerable, I stumbled upon the work of Brene Brown, a researcher and social worker in Houston, Texas who has studied vulnerability and shame extensively. Her TED talk on the topic is one of the most watched talks ever. And it’s worth it. She is humorously self-deprecating and wonderfully insightful to what we can do to be more loving, more authentic and certainly more artful. I’m now a big fan!!

Brown speaks of leaning into the fear. I think of the classic Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” and wonder if instead of buying stock in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I can start buying stock in ME, Inc. I often write down a goal or desire and then next to it note what I fear about it. I walk through the various outcomes and inevitably come to the realization that often what I fear the most is success! It’s silly that our society focuses so much on perceived failings, we don’t know how to trust our successes. There, I said it. Trust. Vulnerability’s partner in crime. We can’t wage war with our vulnerability if there is no trust. Instead of focusing so much on outcomes, maybe we should just trust that we are our authentic, amazing selves, regardless of outcome. Maybe if only we trusted that.

What do you think? What makes you feel vulnerable? Does fear hold you back from being in the studio? Do you make excuses that deny your creative self? Stop. Take a leap of faith, do one thing that scares you each day, and lean in. You might be pleasantly surprised when someone leans back.

Brene Brown TED talk



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