I’m obsessed with TED talks. I listen to them when I’m cleaning my room, at the gym, on the bus, literally any time of day or night, my podcast app is open and on play.
Out of the hundreds of hours of ideas I’ve heard, there is one talk that stands out in my mind not simply because it was delivered in the unmistakable captivating TED rhythm, but because it fundamentally transformed the way in which I view my relationships. Listening to Dr. Brené Brown, a PhD social worker’s, talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” was a turning point in my life (it is the most-watched TED talk in the world for a reason). Alone on the stage, she convincingly explains how being vulnerable facilitates deeper connections with those around you and how this leads to a greater degree of happiness.
During my first year at Pearson United World College, an international school designed to foster leadership potential and global cooperation through education, I’ve had to fully embrace this idea.
Those who know me well would describe me as a complete and committed extrovert. Yet at Pearson, with the opportunity to build bridges with 200 people from over 100 different countries, I initially struggled to find my friends. my people. During my first few months on campus, anxiety would often fill my chest and my mind would race. This was a new and uncomfortable feeling. For the first time in my life, I felt small, introverted, and I quickly realized that making friends at Pearson wasn’t the same as making friends at home. Here, people craved deeper connections that many of my other friendships had lacked. I began to realize that up until I moved away from home the only person I had been truly vulnerable with was myself. In the past, if I had family problems, I fixed them. If I had relationship problems, I fixed them. If I had a “me” problem, I fixed them. I was the only person I had let care about myself and while I would sit and console my friends for hours, I’d hesitated to share what was causing me pain or worry because I didn’t want to be a burden. Over the past year I’ve had to reconcile my innate relational prototype and learn to accept that there are actually people who want to know about me, people who want to help me and people who care about my wellbeing. Being completely honest, this was terrifying. I started telling people things about myself that I’ve never told anyone, and it turns out that sharing these stories brought many new things into my life: people, connections and opportunities.
When I practiced being vulnerable my world changed. I was happier when I embraced the person I was and stopped trying to be what I thought everyone expected from me. I came to realize, when I came to Pearson, that I had yet to push myself outside of my comfort zone, because that, for me, was opening up to my community. My confession, I guess, is that I’m still learning. I’ve gotten much too comfortable with my everyday routine and consistently fall into the trap of believing I have fully come into my own, that I understand myself and that I am 100% content with the person I am. Yet here, I admit to myself, I confess that I have a long way to go, that I need to find experiences that will push me outside of my comfort zone and that I have not yet become the person I think I am.