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" And she said, "Well, I saw you speak, and I'm going to call you a researcher, I think, but I'm afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they'll think you're boring and irrelevant." And I was like, "Okay." And she said, "But the thing I liked about your talk is you're a storyteller. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one "opportunity for growth?

So I think what I'll do is just call you a storyteller." And of course, the academic, insecure part of me was like, "You're going to call me a what? " And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right?

So, I'll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. Why don't you just say I'm a researcher-storyteller." And she went, "Ha ha. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. It doesn't matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice, mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that's how we're wired — it's why we're here.

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This led to a little breakdown — A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you, it was a breakdown. And so I said, "Here's the thing, I'm struggling." And she said, "What's the struggle? And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. We numb vulnerability — when we're waiting for the call. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. The other thing we do is we make everything that's uncertain certain. This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen ... " just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough.

And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. " And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help." And I said, "But here's the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit." And it did, and it didn't. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, "How would you define vulnerability? " And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Having to ask my husband for help because I'm sick, and we're newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people. And I think there's evidence — and it's not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it's a huge cause — We are the most in-debt ... Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee — and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ...

There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better.

And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those. I have a slight office supply addiction, but that's another talk.

I want to hack into these things that I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see. Because, by the time you're a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we're here.

And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research?

And the first words that came to my mind were "whole-hearted." These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect.

They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh." That's not our job. You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job.

" And she said, "I'm going to call you a storyteller." And I was like, "Why not 'magic pixie'? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak.

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