As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed.  We put on armor; we used our thoughts,  emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection–to be the person we long to be–we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.

In chapter four of Daring Greatly Brené discusses the vulnerability armory–the walls of protection we build up around ourselves in childhood.  She breaks it down into different shields (and let’s be real: the shields we carry around = bondage) that many of us use to protect ourselves from being vulnerable, as well as the Daring Greatly countermeasure.

According to Brené, the most common vulnerability shields are:

  • Foreboding Joy “softening into the joyful moments of our lives requires vulnerability…we don’t want to be blindsided by hurt.”
  • Perfectionism “…not the same thing as striving for excellence… [it’s] a defensive move. [It] is, at its core, about trying to earn approval…Perfectionism is a form of shame.”
  • Numbing “…the most universal numbing strategy is… crazy-busy. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
  • Letting It All Hang Out “oversharing is not vulnerability…We can purge our vulnerability or our shame stories out of total desperation to be heard.”
  • Serpentining “trying to control a situation, backing out of it, pretending it’s not happening, or maybe even pretending that you don’t care. We use it to dodge conflict, discomfort, possible confrontation, the potential for shame or hurt, and/or criticism (self or other-inflicted). Serpentining can lead to hiding out, pretending, avoidance, procrastination, rationalizing, blaming, and lying.”
  • Cynicism, Criticism, Cool & Cruelty “…they can be fashioned into weapons that not only keep vulnerability at a distance, but also can inflict injury on the people who are being vulnerable and making us uncomfortable.”

Although Brené explores in depth different strategies to combat each of the vulnerability shields, the basic remedy for freedom is:

  • I am enough–worthiness vs. shame (my notes: as God’s children, we are chosen, worthy, and loved)
  • I’ve had enough–[healthy] boundaries vs. one-upping and comparison (my notes: Galatians 5:13 13 “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”)
  • Showing up, taking risks, and letting myself be seen is enough–engagement vs. disengagement (my notes: Philippians 4:13 “I can through all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” We can do hard things.)

    walls (1 of 1)

    are you just observing life from behind a wall that you’ve built around your heart?

I can totally relate to most of the types of vulnerability armor Brené describes in this chapter–particularly perfectionism, letting it all hang out, and serpentining. I want this to be the year that I drop my armor and embrace genuine vulnerability.  Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?

(This post is  part of a weekly link up series with Carrie at Waiting with Joy.)