The Power of Vulnerability

By now, you may have seen Brené Brown’s wildly popular TED talk from 2010. I remember watching in 2012 and I recently revisited it as she has been promoting a new book, Rising Strong (which I have admittedly not yet read but plan to in the near future). In case you haven’t seen it, feel free to view it here.

I recently gave it another watch and thought about how vulnerability (or lack thereof) affects us as students, clinicians, and in our lives in general.

In the video, Brené talks about “excruciating vulnerability”. Take a second and consider a time you’ve felt this. When I think of those words, I have a visceral reaction. It’s like there is twine pulling my heart down into my gut. Or perhaps the other way around. And it’s always been related to my connections with other people:

  • “I’m sorry”
  • “I love you”
  • “I don’t understand”
  • “This isn’t working”
  • “I don’t agree”
  • “This really hurt me”
  • “I need help”
  • “You need help”

I can think of times I’ve leaned into this, and of times I’ve rationalized my way out of it.

What Brown suggests is that vulnerability is tied to a belief of worthiness. I think that in this profession, and in others, many of us wrestle with worthiness in one or more areas. Here are some examples that come from my own experiences:

Am I really worthy of:

  • A job in X facility/hospital
  • Being a contributing team member
  • Speaking and having relationships with “rockstar” physicians, therapists, professors, etc.
  • A good salary
  • Vacation
  • High-quality instruments
  • Leadership positions
  • Helping this patient/serving this family

Ever had any of these thoughts? Most of them occurred more frequently early on in my clinical career, but still creep in every now and again.

I think Brown would say that we can do more, accomplish more, and help more people, if we operate from the belief that “we are enough”. In the video, she states:

“We can’t practice compassion with others if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.”

This post is not meant to be particularly prescriptive. Even Brené talks about going to therapy for a year before being able to sort out vulnerability and how she was or wasn’t leaning into it.

The point of this post is simply to get you thinking about the situations in which you experience these thoughts, and especially, to echo Brown’s words: “You are enough”. 

I’m asking you to be a bit vulnerable in the comments. When have you leaned or not leaned into vulnerability? When have you felt unworthy in your professional career? What have you done or not done about it?

Thank you.

-Matt

PS Please share this with any new music therapists, as I suspect they might really resonate with this article.

PPS Want to hear more of Brené Brown? Check out this podcast she did with one of my favorite authors and podcasters, Tim Ferriss: Brené Brown on Vulnerability and Home Run TED Talks

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