If you watch one TED Talk, and you have Netflix, what happens next? You immediately watch another. Netflix automatically starts playing the following episode, so as a viewer you really aren’t responsible at all for the many hours you binge watch shows. As a result of this automatic play start, I’ve been watching a lot of TED Talks lately. It’s like I can feel my brain growing branches and leaves with each talk as I get smarter and more confused about everything generally too.
The confusion element of TED Talks is good though, that’s what keeps you thinking and asking questions like if this woman reached Nirvana, then maybe Buddhism is the way to go? or so, in essence, my dog is not my pet, but rather, I am her service animal? Pretty cool stuff. One talk that lingers in my mind is Brene Brown‘s lecture on vulnerability and shame. I think she has a few. I know I’ve seen her speak about vulnerability on YouTube too. She’s onto something surely.
As an artist, I work in a vulnerable state. As a person, I’m naturally sensitive. As a survivor, I’m naturally ashamed. Then Brene Brown pops up on TED Talk with evidence, logic and experience at her side, explaining to the world that vulnerability rules and shame sucks. This I know. And this I deal with everyday.
Dr. Brown knows her stuff. She validates my life, my obstacles and my thoughts. So many people have connected to the content of her lectures, I think, are we all fighting these demons that don’t exist? And are we all trying to fight them alone?
The pride of publication is always present, but so is the shame of unabashedly telling my stories. At this moment in our society, as Brown points out, the welcoming of vulnerability is not only generally discouraged, but also it is accompanied by shame. So, basically, once you have the balls to be openly vulnerable, it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve pulled a chunk of yourself out and given it to the public, you also have to cope with the inevitable shame that visits you afterward.
One part of me, the logical part of me, is proud to identify with the term, “survivor.” Another part of me is ashamed because to be a survivor means you have admittedly encountered hopelessness, fear and difference. There’s an unspoken assumption beneath all the “you’re so brave”s and the “thank you for sharing your story”s. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, and I’m sure most would deny making the assumption at all, but I can roughly translate it as, an assumption made by others that the survivor, though “fully recovered” and “empowered” is always a “fixer-upper” that’s been fixed up.
This assumption is so silently prevalent that I internalize it. I see myself as an automobile once totaled, now shiny and functional. And there’s a little package of shame that comes with me, hiding in the trunk. The same way a used car dealer doesn’t want you to know that five years ago the original teenager that owned this vehicle rammed it into a tree and got a DUI, I don’t want people to see my hidden scars, my shame in the trunk.
If the shame that currently arrives with vulnerability is so painful, why be vulnerable then at all? I ask myself. But then, I’ll watch another TED Talk. I’ll listen to a woman tell the story recovering from a stroke or a man explain the challenging process of his “coming-out.” I’ll witness a speaker who accidentally breaks into a sob after using a personal experience to make a strong point. I’m inspired. I’m impressed. I admire them. I admire their vulnerability. It reminds me of why I keep my vulnerability well fed: for others.
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