Monday, November 18, 2013

Vulnerability & Self-Preservation

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos


Several months ago, my good friend, Jen, recommended to me Brene Brown's TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I jotted down a note to self and fully intended to watch it. But as with so many things that would benefit me, I delayed. But I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately. I mean, as a writer, we put ourselves out there every day. From the first words we lay on the page to sharing our work with critique partners and beta readers, to querying agents or seeing your words appear in publication. How can we make such a regular practice of something so uncomfortable?

For me, that reason is connection. As someone who's always been incredibly shy, the written word has given me a way to connect with others. Yet, I didn't do any writing last week. I wasn't sure why at first, but I soon recognized the feeling: my old self-preservation response to feelings of vulnerability. I reacted to a positive response to my work. Instead of celebrating, I started pulling away from my projects, separating myself from the work, preparing myself for future disappointments by telling myself that I don't really care and none of it really matters anyway. Yeah, it was an odd reaction that led to a rather depressing week.

"Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives." - Brene Brown


Then, Jen reminded me about that TED talk. (I told you she was a good friend.) And this time, I watched it. The timing was perfect. This was my first introduction to Brene Brown, but her words served as a timely reminder to something I learned long ago, and that is, "You can't selectively numb emotion. We can't numb vulnerability without numbing joy, gratitude, and happiness as well."

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity." - Brene Brown


The time I spent last week trying to convince myself that my writing doesn't matter, was time spent kidding myself, trying to become less vulnerable by raising the old walls of self-preservation. In doing so, I was blocking my own creativity. No wonder it was such an uninspired week.

Photo courtesy of Free Artistic Photos


This Monday, I have a better plan. I'm going to take Ms. Brown's advice. I'm going to try my best to embrace creativity, authenticity, and yes, vulnerability.

How do you feel about vulnerability? Have you ever had a negative response to positive feedback? Do you ever hold yourself back in order to avoid possible disappointment?



27 comments:

  1. I think I'll be querying in the next three months or so, but sometimes I think maybe I should wait longer, tinker more w/the manuscript, b/c once it's out there, it's out there. If I hold it back, then I can just keep dreaming about that 'yes' and never have to experience all those 'no's'. Ah, well. Perseverance! =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Putting yourself out there in any kind of way is so, so hard. I'm inspired by my daughter who plays basketball and always has an audience, even at practice. People are evalutating her at every turn, but she knows it's what makes her better.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm constantly haunted by vulnerability and drive myself insane. I feel very vulnerable when I have to communicate in person. I am so much an email communication type person! As far as having a negative outlook on positive feedback... that's my middle name. I really can't seem to take a compliment or positive feedback as just that! I always seem to doubt it. Grrrrrrrrr

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can be like this too. I mostly procrastinate when it comes to writing, but I think the deeper issue sometimes is feeling like my writing isn't good enough or doesn't measure up. I do my best to forge ahead and trust the Lord to work it out (easier said than done sometimes!). For the record, I think you are a wonderful writer. I'm so thankful we've met and get to "talk" to each other this way. Have a great week! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. For sure. I hold back but then something inside me erupts eventually. It just can't stay in, so I've learned to try not to bottle up too much. The results of doing so are worse than the gradual seepage of vulnerability. Love the post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm with you when it comes to social shyness and the power connectedness gives us. I must say that positive feedback always makes me stronger and more creative, though. The problem, for me, is how to pick myself up after harsh or careless respondents throw crumbs my way...
    I've noted that the people I've known personally who have always done well in this world tend to assume the best. They assume they are liked, they assume things will work out, and setbacks barely faze them.
    We just adopted three rescue cats from the local shelter, and one of them is just such a character, while the others are not. I'm learning for my kitty!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, I've pulled back to avoid disappointment. I've also come so very close to quitting, because at least with quitting it's my choice, I'm in charge. I do my best and fail, not only did I fail, I also lost control. At least that was how I saw it. I didn't listen then and I won't listen now. But I might check out that TED talk.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for sharing this powerful post, Ruth. The other day I decided to make a list of the agents & publishers I had submitted query letters to in the last seven years. I was surprised to realize the number was only nine. That's right. Even though I have written, revised, and had edited three manuscripts. At first I told myself (and my critique partner) that I was selective about where I wanted to submit. That was, and is, still true. However, upon a deeper look at the reason for my lack of query letters, I discovered the bigger reason was I was pacing the amount of rejection I felt I could handle. I guess that amount is very small! I will definitely check out the TED talk on vulnerability. Have a great week of writing, Ruth!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Another introvert here. It always takes me a while to convince my self to go forth. Once I have, I wonder why I waited so long. :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. When you unveil a hidden part of yourself for others to see, there's also the chance that your words might heal someone who's emotionally wounded or uplift someone who needed a boost. There might be someone who felt or thought the exact same thing you have, and they might be grateful to you for articulating it out loud for them. That's how I feel about some great books I've read where authors took risks.

    And that's great someone gave you a positive response to your work! =)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I never connected the dots that I was pulling away because I feared vulnerability. I can be outgoing, but sometimes I close off. When success occurs, there's this whisper, "...but can you do it again or was this just a fluke?"

    It helps to lift every success up to the Lord, and thank Him for the favor He's given me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have been riddled with doubt before and started to back away from what I want to do. Luckily- others have helped me see that I shouldn't give up and I have also pulled myself out of the negative space (usually a new day helps me to see things in a new light). It is hard putting ourselves out there, but it is something we writers need to keep on doing. :)

    So glad you got such a positive response to your work! Yeah! Embrace it. :)
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love your post,I agree with Susan J.Reinhardt,I have something in my mind saying :""...but can you do it again or was this just a fluke?" Thanks for the comment:)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think I've found a way to shut it out. I do notice that the self-doubt is still there--it comes out when I'm writing something for a client who makes a negative comment about my writing, then asks for a major rewrite. Most of the time that doesn't happen, but everyone has his/her own individual tastes and not everything appeals to us. Even Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have their detractors. In those times, I think back over all of the positive things people have said about my work and focus on those.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Definitely! You start to think that maybe your ship's about to sail and then it flounders. Positive feedback doesn't necessarily mean that "You've arrived." But it also doesn't mean you're a failure if someone else doesn't see the merit in your work. I think the real trick is learning to see rejection as "This isn't right for me at this time," and not "You're a loser."

    I think, deep down, if we're being honest with ourselves, this is a very tough thing to truly accept. I know I struggle with it daily.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is something I think about and struggle with A LOT. The feeling of exposure, whether positive or negative, seems to always feel wrong with me--or I just don't know how to handle it. I don't know. Some days it prevents me from writing, but the way I handle that is switching creative gears to something else like photography or baking. That keeps the spark burning in some way. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Bravo, Ruth! It's hard, but worth it. And here you are always among people who totally get it, because we're all putting ourselves out there too :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think the negative response to positive feedback can happen because we're afraid to *hope* in response to the positive. It almost makes you angry: "How dare you raise my hopes, when nothing will come of it, just like always." There's a specific kind of pain tied to the feeling that we're good but not good enough. Sounds like you've learned a lot this week!

    ReplyDelete
  19. This struck a chord with me. I've felt vulnerable. I push through, though.

    At times, it feel strange to have my work read. What's on the inside comes to the outside.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yes, I feel vulnerable sharing my work, especially when it gets negative feedback. I like your idea to embrace it along with our creativity.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I do my best writing when I feel positive. When I'm insecure I analyze my work too much and I loose my true voice.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think we all feel vulnerable when we share our work with critique partners, editors and agents -- especially agents. The rejection letters don't help as you know most are form letters. Does cause one to wonder. Will have to look at Brene Brown's Ted Talk. Good idea!

    ReplyDelete
  23. You hit it on the head. The part about not being able to selectively numb emotion is something I could think about some more. I would enjoy another post.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think we all experience this type of vulnerability at some point, at least I do. This is great advice and a great reminder to keep the creative flow going and push the negative thinking away.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for this one, Ruth. I'm in the middle of a very selective numbing time right now and it's affecting everything, especially my writing.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Whenever I compare notes with my fellow introverts, I sometimes think extraverts don't know how easy they've got it! :D

    ReplyDelete
  27. play bazaar mainly helping to wealthy people for making so much good money earn and satta king alos in this bike race make money and London and paris

    ReplyDelete