The Power of Vulnerability

At first glance, vulnerability seems to be a disempowering notion. Why would anyone even consider embracing vulnerability! I have learned that there is nothing more freeing than living life in the moment without regrets. I challenge you to live life like today is your last. We should all live each day and put our everything into the day as if it’s our last. As physicians, vulnerability is definitely not encouraged in our training and definitely not when we are out in the other real world. It is, however, a game changer with my patients. Patients need to know that their doctors are human. We cry, get angry, worry, get afraid just like the rest that somehow we are taught to push that aside. As a doctor, I embrace the whole gamut of my emotions and I am not shy to share with my patients. Of course, I am not referring to doing an emotional dump but I encourage my students and colleagues to live life wholeheartedly, live in the moment, enjoy at the moment and be free in the moment.

Brene Brown said it this way in her book Daring Greatly, “ Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing with the people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust -building process.”

I was asked to admit a patient to the hospital who came in because his legs were swollen. In the final analysis, I diagnosed him with a terminal illness. Throughout the hospitalization his affect was blunted, he neither smiled with anyone and barely said hi. When I entered his room, I would often place my hands on his shoulder and call him by name and ask him how things were going that day. I remember when I gave him his diagnosis, I was genuinely distraught and worried about how he would take the news.  He took it in stride; I sat at the side of his bed and we talked…from the heart. The following morning, I walked into the room and I said in my ever so cheerful voice, “Good morning Mr. ___”. Though his back faced me, I could see the smile on his face; when I walked around where I could see his face, indeed he was smiling. I remarked that he was smiling today and he replied, “You’re a summer picnic.” I knew at that somehow, our talk the day before impacted him and his healing was well on its way. He may still die from his disease, but his soul was healed in a remarkable way that only a heart to heart can do. He later shared with me how comfortable I made him feel so he could open up and share his fears. That heart to heart went a long way.

Reading Recommendations

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Strong Women, Strong Hearts

Thrive – Adriana Huffington

The Holy Bible