Wholehearted.

Social worker and researcher Brené Brown says the word courage comes from the Latin, cor, and means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

It’s funny how words work. Just the right combination of the scribbles we call letters can sum up everything that matters in your world, and then you can wave them around or hang them like a flag out your window and everyone in the neighborhood knows exactly where you’re coming from that day. Wholehearted would be on one of my flags.

Another might be raincloud.
Hunger.
Buoyancy.
Burning.

Brown has been researching the concept of human connection for the past decade, and she’s narrowed her focus to what it means to be vulnerable, because without vulnerability there is no human connection. She’s found that those who willingly live with vulnerability, those who see it as a necessity, are wholehearted.

Those who think of vulnerability as a highly contagious disease to be avoided tend to live like the old me: trapped inside themselves, critical of life and everyone in it, afraid, closed off, barely able to breathe.

Brown’s research shows us that when you are wholehearted, you have the courage to be imperfect. You are willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to embrace who you are. You believe that which makes you vulnerable also makes you beautiful.

And so, with this, I am pleased to report that my imperfections are numerous, and I’m finding that I am almost shockingly vulnerable – and somewhat happily so – now that I’ve given myself permission to let go of who I thought I should be.

Which takes me back to telling the story of who I am with my whole heart. Back to human connection and the need for it; back to the potential for joy and heartbreak it bears.

Knowing that all of this is necessary if I want to live the life I was born to live pushes me into a new landscape, which is somewhat terrifying. It’s called dating, or, endless-stream-of-potentially-awkward-moments-with-strangers-where-you-have-no-choice-but-to-talk-about-yourself-and-pray-there’s-no-food-stuck-in-your-teeth.

Dating seems important for me because I’ve devoted so much time to avoiding meaningful connections with people – not because I didn’t want the connections but because I didn’t believe I was worthy of them. Inside I believed that once you really knew me you wouldn’t like me, and rejection was too great a risk. But now I find myself craving connection.

The irony is that once you really know me, you might not like me. But that doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s not so much that I want to go on dates in the romantic sense, but no one believes you when you say you’re just looking for platonic connections. In fact I think that may be code for something else entirely and I don’t know what. I haven’t found the courage to actually go on any dates yet. But I am hanging up a couple of new flags outside my window.

They say clearhearted, flawed, exquisite. And there's a lovely summer breeze to lift their frayed edges, to fan the still-smoldering embers in my heart.


PS -- Brené Brown has a beautiful website if you want to check it out (scroll down the page if you want to see the video where she talks about her research on vulnerability): http://www.brenebrown.com/welcome

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