Vulnerability and Weakness, Growth and Connection

Doubts (Photo credit: Rickydavid)

The decision and process of learning a language can initiate an internal change that leads to becoming a more confident, innovative, and creative person.  I have noticed more discussion about the positive aspects of delving into the areas in our life where we are least comfortable.  Anyone who has learned a foreign language has very likely experienced discomfort and even embarrassment.  That element of vulnerability can transform us into a better person.

Brené Brown‘s TED talk demonstrates that becoming vulnerable opens up oneself and others to creativity and dynamism.  (Brené Brown: Listening to shame)  Dr. Brown says at one point, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. ”  Most of our life, we run from vulnerability; we hide from shame.  This reaction prevents us from being great and courageous, and so by avoiding our weakness, we cannot fully tap into our strengths.  When you speak to another with the halting, imperfect, even accidentally insulting words of a foreign language, you enter into a space where you confront your weakness and open yourself to deeper learning.

In the article, “Sure Enough” by Diana Rico (Ode July/August 2012, vol. 10, no. 4 [article not on line yet, but I hope it will be soon]), we see that uncertainty fuels knowledge, as doubt releases us from conflict.  She describes how confronting her doubt that she can perform a particular yoga pose “gives way to the most delicious feeling of spaciousness in my hip.”  Once she confronted her doubt in herself, she came into a greater feeling of strength.  Rico also presents the results of a study, in which scientists and philosophers identified “uncertainty” as the scientific concept that “would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit.”  Opening oneself to the fact that one may not be correct–doubt–one becomes open to new knowledge.  One who practices doubt with others learns.  A language-learner never knows if he or she is saying the right thing, and so becomes a person who is learning constantly.

Peter Blomquist at TEDxRanier describes the way to become more innovative (specifically in the area of global development) by entering into other another culture.  He makes three suggestions: 1) Challenge your assumptions.  2) “Zip it”–listen and learn.  3) Accept the hospitality of others.  This challenge equals doubt, which allows one to be the learner I mentioned above.  Blomquist moves one step beyond the others above by mentioning hospitality.  I see this movement also applies to language-learning.  By doubting and learning, one enters into communion with another; you join together at the table of the other.  Much language can be learned when all are open to one another, learning from each other, spending that time together.  Those who have become fluent in a language have surely spent much time at the table of speakers of that language.

I invite you to tap into your strength by confronting weakness and vulnerability.  You can become more creative and more innovative, and ultimately move into closer relationships with others.

When has your moment of vulnerability brought about more closeness with others?

7 thoughts on “Vulnerability and Weakness, Growth and Connection

  1. Pingback: Living Abroad–Learning Languages?–Enhances Creativity « Loving Language

  2. Pingback: Benefits Of Learning A Foreign Language | learn a language online, online language learning, learn to speak another language

  3. Pingback: What I learned about language-learning: 2012 « Loving Language

  4. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is an act of courage. It’s one of the toughest things a human being can do, but also one of the most rewarding. Thanks for posting about this. I adore Brene Brown, by the way. She’s fantastic.


    1. Thank you. Vulnerability is a great way to exercise courage. In addition, it teaches me how to identify with the powerless. I’m a 1st world white guy. We rule the world! But if I don’t learn how to sympathize with someone who does have the privilege of turning on and off his vulnerability, who lives in a vulnerable situation every day of his or her life, then I become a self-satisfied monster.

      For me personally, I have to learn languages to be a full human being, to connect with those who are different from me.


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