Telling the Truth is Hard
Are you a bad storyteller? I’m a cringeworthy one who stumbles over words, dates, names, and then ends abruptly… with the hope that, in that jumble, the truth somehow stumbled out too.
That’s my aim in storytelling: getting to the truth.
While telling the truth can be really hard, feeling the truth is even harder.
Protecting Yourself From the Truth
I bet your familiar with the feeling: the shattering, stomp-on-your-heart pain that’s pretty much unbearable. Or, the one where your heart pumps itself up to make space for love and joy and hope.
Both are super scary. Feeling the truth requires you to tap into something most people have shut off — this thing Brene Brown calls vulnerability [AKA embracing those feelings of truth].
Most people shut vulnerability out of their lives because it’s just SO much easier to pretend. To live in a false reality, a shallow and emotion-less world. A place where you call strangers “friends” and friends “creeps” (it’s weird to care too much — okay?). A place where there is no loss because you have nothing worth losing. A place where there is no love because being neutral is easier, less painful.
It’s easier, yes, but is it living? Are you alive if you choose to numb the pains and joys of life? What are you really protecting yourself from?
I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.
- Brene Brown
How to Feel the Truth
Step 1: Recognize what the truth feels like.
It’s normally associated with a strong emotion — one you may have been resting on the back-burner for a while.
Step 2: When a strong emotion floods your body, embrace it.
When I say this, I mean try to not hold back. Try to not let your fear of being vulnerable take over your actions and emotions.
Step 3: Try again (and again).
My roommate literally just came into my room and I hid this article because I didn’t want him to see what I was writing about. Clearly, vulnerability takes time and practice.
Does Your Audience Matter?
When I’m telling a story in-person, it feels almost impossible for me to be vulnerable. For some reason, words on paper are different. My audience isn’t right there — I don’t have to deal with the odd reactions of most people when they experience someone else’s vulnerability.
Do we need to spread awareness about how to react to vulnerability? Brene Brown speaks extensively about the dangers of expressing vulnerability to someone who will react in a negative manner. I just don’t know how easy it will be to anticipate somebody’s reaction, and whether or not that should determine your willingness to be vulnerable.
I encourage you to check out the links below to her TED talks and interviews (they dive very deep into the topic of vulnerability):
- The Power of Vulnerability: A TED Talk by Brene Brown
- Listening to Shame: A TED Talk by Brene Brown
- Why Vulnerability is Your Greatest Strength: An Oprah Interview with Brene Brown (this one’s part of an entire interview — watch the others too!)