Sometimes I think I’m addicted to self-help books. Call it the ever-dangling carrot of promised salvation (from what, exactly, is a question that many authors seem decidedly unclear about once you get past their respective remedies du jour) or simply a continuing desire to understand the inner workings of my own psyche, I’ve read quite a number of them over the years and have found them to range from being beyond useless to jaw-droppingly insightful. I would put Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly squarely in the latter category.
One concept in particular resonated with me regarding creativity: the need for, and corresponding fear of, feeling vulnerable. As the author explains, vulnerability can be a powerfully attractive trait that we seek in other people, yet one that we also try to bury or disguise in ourselves. What is vulnerability? I think of it simply as allowing our true selves to be perceived by the world around us. That could mean opening up to expressing emotions that we would normally keep hidden, allowing ourselves to try or experience things that we may have avoided in the past because we feared how other people might react to them, etc. Being vulnerable in an artistic sense can allow your own personal experiences to speak through your work and reach your audience in a very deep and visceral way. By tapping into your personal pain, triumphs, joys, sorrows, dreams, and disappointments to color your creations, the audience can catch a little glimpse of who you are as a person, and by doing so, they may connect not only with your work, but also with you, the artist.
Being vulnerable means taking the chance that you can be hurt, ridiculed, taken advantage of, and so on. It’s about reaching beyond your comfort zone and allowing your weaknesses and shortcomings to show, which can be downright terrifying. I think that’s also what makes it so respected and appreciated – not everyone is willing to take that leap. Being vulnerable may require courage, but I think it’s vital to forming deeply resonant connections with people, both artistically and otherwise. By showing your audience that you’ve struggled with the same kinds of things that they may be struggling with, you also show them that they’re not alone – that the experiences that they may have thought no one else could relate to or understand aren’t so strange or unusual after all.