Vulnerability: Strength Or Weakness

AJW writes about the relationship between vulnerability and running.

By on January 6, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomOn the day after Christmas, a gentleman named Colin commented on one of my November columns about vulnerability. In his comment Colin recommended Brené Brown’s work as something worth considering in the context of my thoughts on vulnerability. Having been consumed with the topic ever since my Hardrock experience last July, I quickly ran out and bought Brown’s 2012 book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Even the subtitle inspired me!

In this great little book, Brown presents fascinating research on vulnerability and in the process turns conventional wisdom on its head. Confirming much of what I have been thinking about since the summer, the author presents tangible data to strongly suggest that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness or some kind of deficit but is rather a condition that can most often lead us toward more courageous decisions, meaningful engagement, and purposeful connections. In one of her most poignant passages, Brown asserts that “vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat but rather it’s understanding the necessity of both, it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”

I’ll admit, I had never really thought of vulnerability as being “all in.” Rather, on the contrary, I thought it was more like being “all out.” But the more I thought about it and the more I reflected on my life as a father, as an educator, and, most especially, as a runner, the more I agreed with it. In a way, I make myself vulnerable each time I head out for a run. Sure, sometimes the vulnerability is more in my head and heart than in my body and yet each time it’s there nonetheless. Then, of course, there are the times when I put it out there a bit more courageously and perhaps with a bit more risk. Whether in a race or simply in a challenging workout, there are times in every runner’s life where the sheen wears off and the body is laid bare. In these moments we learn much about risk and hope. At those times we have to be “all in.”

As I look personally ahead to the new year and another year on the run, I cannot help but circle back to the simple idea of that which breaks us down the most ultimately builds us up. That which tests the limits of our emotional and psychological limits also tends to bring the most meaning and purpose into our lives. Often it’s messy, imperfect, and confusing, but it’s always real, authentic, and raw.

Especially when we run.

So for me, I hope in my new year to embrace my own vulnerability. In the final year of my forties, I plan on living my life fully, keeping my head up and my heart open, even on my most difficult days. And, each morning when I stride off my doorstep and plunge into my daily run, I intend to seek that part inside me I do not yet fully know but that is inexorably revealed, bit by bit, each time I do this thing I love so much.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Red Hare Brewing Company Gangway IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from the Red Hare Brewing Company in Marietta, Georgia. Their Gangway IPA is simply excellent. Balanced, appropriately hopped, and eminently drinkable, this should be on any list of top Southern IPAs.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you read Daring Greatly? If so, what are your thoughts on the book?
  • Do you let yourself be vulnerable? Or have you found yourself in a vulnerable situation? If so, what came of it?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.