What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

Vulnerability is a word you probably hear thrown around a lot, but do you really know what it means? I recently watched Brene Brown‘s Netflix Special, “The Call To Courage”, and it opened my eyes to a new perspective on what it means to be vulnerable. Real vulnerability is achieved when we feel scared but push through the fear and do it anyway. When we feel ashamed about our past, but we choose to talk about it instead of hiding it. When we say “I love you” without knowing for sure if the other person feels the same way.

One of the defining characteristics of vulnerability is the presence of some kind of risk. According to Brene, “Vulnerability is the feeling you get when there’s uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.” If you don’t feel a little bit uncomfortable or scared in your life, you may not be letting yourself be vulnerable often enough, and this can actually have a negative effect on your ability to connect with others and have a fulfilling life!

One of the main misconceptions about vulnerability is that it is a sign of weakness. However, it’s actually the opposite. As Brene says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” It takes a lot of courage to be truly vulnerable, because it usually means making a decision that could lead to failure. Asking for a raise, starting your own business, telling someone you have feelings for them. You don’t really know if you will succeed in any of these moments, and in fact, you are likely to fail. But if you never try, that’s the real failure!

In Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, she says the word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart. The original definition of “courage” is: “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” I absolutely LOVE that definition! I’d never thought of courage that way before, but it makes total sense. It takes great courage to be authentically you, to let people in to what you’re really thinking and who you really are. To tell your story. That’s vulnerability!

One of the main things that hinders vulnerable is shame. Shame is a feeling we all experience, and the only people who don’t have “no capacity for human empathy or connection” according to Brene. We’re scared to be vulnerable, because we’re ashamed of ourselves, ashamed of our past, of our feelings, of our desires. We’re afraid of being judged, of coming across as weak, of not being liked. But in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen. We have to harness that courage, push past the fear and shame, and let our voice be heard.

As I wrote about in this post, it’s always been difficult for me to open up to people. This blog has helped me with that immensely, and has been a great source of comfort for me when I need to get things off my chest. Finding my voice and being vulnerable isn’t easy, and I still struggle with wanting to bottle everything up and be the person I think people want me to be. Watching Brene’s special and reading more about her thoughts on vulnerability has been a huge eye-opener for me, and I feel ready to fully embrace my vulnerability moving forward! I know it won’t be easy, but nothing that’s worth it in life ever is.

What does vulnerability mean to you? When was the last time you felt truly vulnerable? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

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Welcome to the first-ever Table Talk Tuesday, a new interview series I’m starting where I talk to bloggers and entrepreneurs that I admire. But before I get into talking about my first interviewee, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my friend Lindsay for creating the cute image you see above!

First up in the hot seat this Tuesday is Anna Gordon, social media manager and creator of House of Hashtag, a platform for female entrepreneurs. She also has a brand new website in the works, so I will share that link when it is live.

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To start off, can you tell me your life story in three sentences or less?

My background is in art, design and photography. I have certainly had a lot of trials and tribulations in life but I am grateful for my struggles as they have led me to where I am today, and I am happy!

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

I would tell myself not to worry so much and to never miss out on an opportunity for the fear of being disliked. Up until the age of about 23 I was so insecure about my appearance, I would often avoid going out with friends and attending any social event. Looking back, I feel I missed out on a lot.

If you had a life motto, what would it be?

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

What is the most important thing for people to know before starting a business/blog?

Done is better than perfect. It’s important that we get things right for our businesses and blogs, but spending forever on something until it is perfect is a waste of time. Just get it out there! Also I think having a positive mindset is crucial as well.

Sometimes our failures/setbacks teach us more than our successes. Can you talk about a time when you failed and what it taught you?

Honestly, I have experienced so many ‘failures’ and setbacks but like I said in my first answer, I am genuinely grateful for those times because I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life. I think going through rough times and experiencing failures helps mold you into a more compassionate person to others. Ultimately, sometimes we all just have to roll with the punches when things don’t work out.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My mum (she is literally my best friend) 2. My partner, David. 3. Finding my passion

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Oh tough one, I have so many “girl crushes”. At the moment I’d have to say I’m crushing on Mariah Coz the most. She really knows her stuff, gives away so much free content and she comes across as genuine and down to earth.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’d have to say travelling solo around Australia and South East Asia (which was amazing by the way). I have always been such a shy and anxious person. So for me to step out of my comfort zone to that extent and follow my dreams makes me proud.

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. What is your go-to karaoke song?

Prince- 1999

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I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Table Talk Tuesday with the very inspirational Anna Gordon! Be sure to follow her on Instagram, and keep your eyes out for another interview next Tuesday.
Interested in being featured? Email me at shelly@shellyray.com.

Book Review: I Am Malala

Book Review: I Am Malala

“It was as though they wanted to remove all traces of womankind from public life.”

I’m back with another book review! Like I mentioned in my last review, I joined a book club. I’m excited to share my thoughts on our first book with you: I am Malala. 

I am Malala is a memoir written by a young girl named Malala, who grew up in Pakistan. She tells her experience fighting for the right to get an education, which ultimately lead to her being shot by the Taliban. The book includes a lot about the history of Pakistan, as well as Malala’s own family history and details about the Islamic faith. I enjoyed learning more about a culture that I didn’t previously know much about. It was definitely eye-opening to read about the struggles young girls and women face in other parts of the world.

Despite the many cultural differences I saw between the United States and Pakistan, I was surprised by how many similarities there were. For example, Malala mentioned the book series Twilight, which caught me off guard because I would have never thought girls in Pakistan were reading Twilight just like American girls. A quote that I loved was when she said “sometimes I think it’s easier to be a Twilight vampire than a girl in Swat.”

One of the most moving aspects of the book was Malala’s relationship with her father. Though she is close with everyone in her family, her bond with her father was really special to read about. They appear to be very similar in many ways, most notably their passion for women’s rights. Malala began campaigning for women’s rights alongside her father, and it was evident how proud he was of her, especially when he declared in one of his speeches, “In my part of the world most people are known by their sons. I am one of the few lucky fathers known by his daughter.”

Malala’s pure bravery was another thing that stood out to me in this book. Even when it was known that she was being targeted by the Taliban and could very well be in real danger, she claimed to not feel scared and she continued to fight for what she believed in. She said,”My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a [member of the Taliban] or cancer. So I should do what I want to do.”

I will admit this book can be a bit dull and difficult to get through at times, especially when she goes into detail about the history of her country and her family. However, it was worth it to me because I really learned a lot and I feel like I gained a better understanding of another culture, which I always find beneficial. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you like true stories, and if you are looking for something semi-educational but still interesting to read!

Let me know in the comments if you have read this book, and what you thought! If you haven’t read it, let me know what the last book you read was.

 

 

Fear, taking risks and embarrassing stories

Welcome to my blog! For the next 5 months I will be studying abroad in Seville, Spain (or Sevilla as I will be referring to it in an effort to not come across as incredibly un-cultured). This blog is meant to be a way for me to share my experiences abroad with my friends, and possibly strangers if they care. If I feel particularly inspired, I may continue blogging after I return from Spain, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I leave for Spain in 9 days and I am feeling…a mixture of fear, nervousness, anxiety, stress and excitement. Yep, notice excitement is the only positive word in the mix. This is not because I don’t want to go, or because I don’t think I will have the time of my life studying abroad. It’s more because I have some very prominent personality traits that make it extremely difficult for me to take risks in life.

For those of you reading this who know me well, you know that I tend to have a hard time staying calm and often get worked up over little things. Adapting to change is not exactly my forte. If I had it my way, everything would stay the same always. Maybe not stay the same, but I would at least have powers like in That’s So Raven where I could see the future and prepare for my inevitable doom. That would be pretty sweet. But as I am just a normal girl, living a not-so-Raven life, I have to deal with changes like the rest of you. And I am not always very smooth when dealing with said changes.

To prove how un-smooth I am, and give you a glimpse into who I am, I will give an example of how much I suck at dealing with change. And what better way to accomplish this than by telling a story that will bring laughter to your life while simultaneously bringing embarrassment to mine? Let’s do this.

From first grade until eighth grade I went to a tiny private school that people either A) Have never heard of B) Have heard of but have entirely wrong ideas about i.e. thinking it is the real-life Hogwarts (I wish!) or C) Have heard of and actually know a lot about it. C is pretty much reserved for people who attend the school and close friends of people who attend the school.

Anyway, after a lot of discussions and school visits, my parents and I decided it would be best for me to attend high school at a “real school” instead of continuing at the unfortunately-not-Hogwarts private school. I was having a lot of mixed emotions about leaving a school where I knew everyone in my class and going to a school where it would be virtually impossible to know everyone in the class. Unless you are incredibly popular and just casually have 650 friends. If so, please teach me your ways.

So at the end of eighth grade I was still coming to terms with the fact that I would be leaving a class I had grown up with, and naturally, because I am Shelly, I was freaking out a little bit. We had an end-of-year dance as a class, kind of like a Homecoming dance at public schools except way more lame and way less people. Regardless of the obvious lameness of said dance, I was actually having a pretty fun time with my friends, dancing and goofing off.

However, at some point I guess it hit me that these fun times would eventually come to a close, and I would have to say goodbye to my friends. So I did what some people think girls do best: I started crying. Yep, I started crying in front of all of my childhood friends because I was so sad to be leaving them. Now, hopefully some people saw this as sweet and endearing, the fact that I loved them enough to cry. But I’m pretty sure most people saw it as crazy and mental breakdown-y and were probably thinking “wow how is she going to be able to navigate through four years at public school if she can’t even handle one eighth grade dance without falling apart?”

I ended up doing just fine at public school, and I am still close with my private school buddies to this day (hey guys, hope you got a good laugh from that walk down memory lane!) I don’t regret leaving the comfort of private school life to venture into the unknown world of “real high school” one bit. And I think that even though I was scared, I knew at that dance that taking the risk of going to a new school would eventually pay off. Fear is a very mysterious and often largely inhibiting emotion, and as with most emotions, we don’t have much control over it.

The idea of spending a semester abroad or starting a new school are not things that scare the average person because they think they are a bad idea or because they don’t think they will have fun, but rather they scare us because the outcome is unknown. Because none of us have Raven’s powers, we are held powerless over what the future will hold. And that is why the future is so scary.

I know that studying abroad in Spain will be one of the best decisions I make in college. I can see myself five months from now, gushing to my family and friends about how amazing my time there was and how glad I am that I went. Like transferring to a new school, I know that I will eventually look back and feel so glad that I made the decisions I made. But until the day comes when my now-future experiences in Spain become past experiences, I am forced to deal with the crippling fear of the unknown. On the upside, I haven’t cried in front of people about it….yet.

Hope you enjoyed my first blog post! I am going to try to post every week, so the next time you hear from me I will either be a few days away from Spain, or maybe even IN SPAIN!! How exciting! (And scary…) See ya then!

–Shelly

Me and my friends after the dance. If you look closely, I think you can see some tears in my eyes.
Me and my friends after the dance. If you look closely, I think you can see some tears in my eyes.

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