On Courage and Vulnerability

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Photo Credit: Jessica Lucia

I’ve been unsure of what to say about what I am currently going through.

It’s been a rough couple months. Financially, emotionally. If it’s just a financial struggle, it’s simple, but I also had some family problem which I am not going to share here, for privacy reasons.
I cry almost every day. Some days because I feel helpless, some days because I’m grateful. As I wrote recently, I pray every day, and almost every day I want to ask WHY all these things are happening to me.

Deep down, I know why. Because I need it. This is yet Another F$#*ing Growth Opportunity. I hate it. Then I think about Brene Brown’s TED talk. I hate things not going the way I want it to. I hate not able to do what I want to do. I hate not being in control.
But I’m old enough to know that there is no magic pill to make it all go away. All I can do is to put one foot in front of the other, and go through the Hell. Keep going. I know this is temporary. So let’s go through this.

Then I came to a point that I couldn’t do it alone any more. I needed some help. And it took me tremendous courage to speak up and admit that I needed help. (Note: and I’m overwhelmed with everyone’s support. Thank you.)

Recently, I read “Think Like A Freak” – the third book from Freakonomics guys. It was a fascinating book overall, just like the last 2 books by them, but one story stood out to me. In a soccer game, when you have to do a penalty kick, statistically, your best bet is to kick the ball right into the center of the net. The data prove the keeper stays in the middle only 2% of the time. But players rarely do that. Why?
Because you will look so bad if the keeper happens to catch it.
“What was he thinking?!” the crowd would say. “What a stupid move!”
The point of the story: People would do almost anything not to look bad.

And this is where vulnerability and courage comes in. As many people already know, everybody wants to look good. Especially on social media. We all know half the stuff we see on Facebook is not a true reflection of who they are. As C.C. Chapman said, if our first selfie attempt automatically got uploaded on the internet? Your stream will look very different. 🙂

Why is it so hard to be vulnerable? Because you are afraid you don’t look good anymore. You are afraid people might think you are weak. You are afraid people would judge you. But all the self-help books say, “Don’t worry! Be yourself! Be brave!”

Do you know how freaking hard it is?

I’ve had many conversations with close friends around this topic. One dear friend said that she remembered her mom was always worried about her losing face and it had made an impression on her. One friend said she wasn’t pushing her nonprofit project because she was afraid of failing. I, myself, almost found myself laughable – You’re so broke, and you’re still worried about looking cool? Stop being ridiculous, Yukari.

It was really, really hard for me to admit that I needed help. I felt embarrassed and felt like a failure. I still do. Then why do we share it?

Because many people are going through the similar things.
They need to see that they are not alone.
I had so many heartfelt conversations with friends reached out to me and said “Me too! I’m struggling…”

Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly is like my bible, but one of my favourite stories in the book, is the Marble Jar.
Brené’s daughter, Ellen’s teacher had a marble jar in the classroom. She had put some marbles in the jar at the begging of the school year. And she said if the class did something great, she’d add a marble. If the class misbehaves, she will take marbles out. When the marble jar gets full, they will celebrate with a party.
One day, Ellen had a little embarrasing incident and told some of her close friends about it. The sad thing is, the story spread out, and by the lunch time, all of the girls in her peer group knew her secret and were giving her a hard time. Obviously, she was devastated and the teacher took some of the marbles out of the jar that day.

It is a heartbreaking story from a parent’s point of view, and it is very tempting to feel “Fine! I will never share anything with them.” But I love the lesson from this story by Brené. She says,

I told Ellen to think about her friendship as marble jars. Whenever someone supports you, or is kind to you, or sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar.When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out.

Also, this.

Trust is built one marble at a time.

The chicken-or-the egg dilemma comes into play when we think about the investment and leap that people in the relationships have to make before the building process ever begins. The teacher didn’t say, “I’m not buying a jar and marbles until I know that the class can collectively make good choices.” The jar was there on the first day of school. In fact, by the end of the first day, she had already filled the bottom with a layer of marbles. The kids didn’t say, “We’re not going to make good choices because we don’t believe you‘ll put marbles in the jar.” They worked hard and enthusiastically engaged with the marble jar idea based on their teacher’s word.

In other word, you have to have the courage to be the first one to trust your friend and open up. I put marbles in my jar for you, for all of us.

This indeed had been a freaking growth opportunity, as I learned so, so much about pride, ego, courage, vulnerability, honesty, grace and kindness.

It’s okay to ask for help. And you are not a failure. Life is messy. Love it.