I first encountered vulnerability at the end of the school year band recital. I was graduating from sixth grade at a predominantly white school and showed up to the band hall in a 50s inspired white and brown polka dot dress, cream kitten heels, clear frame oval glasses and cornrows. As soon as I entered in the band hall, everything I felt as an African American preteen girl was heightened. I felt the stares from my classmates who saw me as a “tomboy” that only wore witty graphic tees, jeans, and sneakers. Here I stood magically transformed into a girl overnight. This weird feeling of openness washed over me and I started sweating and shaking.
The nerves began to boil up as I sat down on the first chair of the second row. I quickly realized I was the only second flute part that had showed up to the end of the year concert. At that moment, I had thought the world had ended. Primarily, because the second part was written as an opposing force to the first part and, as such, it was supposed to sound out of tune to the angelic and pretty first part. Suddenly, I had no armor and sixth grade me sat on that stage exposed playing all of second part for 30 minutes.
I felt as if I was going to pass out. After the final piece the director told the band to rise. I thought the audience would be upset because made the piece, which was written for dissonance, sound bad. Finally when I arose, I didn’t pass out or get burned at the stake but was greeted with applause from the audience of parents, director, and fellow band members.
In that moment, I realized being vulnerable does not always result in the negative but can yield unexpected positive results.
Dr. Brene Brown states in her book Daring Greatly that “vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them”. This logic is crucial and essential to work in our communities. Whether it be on-campus, local, state, or national we have to be courageous in being vulnerable with one another.
Our vulnerability is our greatest strength. It allows us to connect with people who I might otherwise have nothing in common. As well as open the pathway for others to share their story and inspire others in their community to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not always going to feel good, in order to be vulnerable you have to be open to being wounded, hurt, criticism, and attack. Yet the connection and openness yields far greater results than being closed off and impersonal.
Dr. Brown says that an “act of vulnerability is predictably perceived as courageous by team members and inspires others to take suit”. In order to bond and became a part of our community to enact change, we have to be vulnerable and share our true self, whether that be a sixth grader in a white and brown polka dot dress or a undergraduate student in Abilene, Texas.
Let’s make a promise to be vulnerable. To be open to the criticism, judgment, and harm but also be receptive to all the connection and openness created because of it. I pledge to be as vulnerable as I can be in my fellowship, community, and self.