Last year writer Lidia Yuknavitch came to visit Agnes Scott for the annual Writer’s Festival. I was assigned her TED talk, “The beauty of being a misfit” as preparation for her talk. Her TED talk, specifically her vulnerability, profoundly impacted me. She talked about being recognized for a national literary prize and sitting at her kitchen table in her underwear with the letter. She didn’t feel like she could ever fit in to the fancy literary world of New York City. I saw myself in her story. I felt the same way when I was awarded my scholarship to Agnes Scott. I couldn’t imagine that I deserved an expensive private education and was kept awake at night thinking about all the people who deserved it more than me. Her story helped me overcome the imposter syndrome I experienced because she was brave enough to be vulnerable and share her own story in front of a room full of strangers. I think being vulnerable about your struggles and the things that scare you brings down your walls and allows you to communicate effectively.
Many scholars and students of eco-psychology have written about climate emotions in terms of grief. Looking at denial and avoidance stages of grief, John Seed and Ruth Rosenheck wrote in their analysis of climate change despair, “the widespread prevalence of forms of denial and avoidance among the population may indeed be defenses against the feelings of despair that the climate science rationally entails.” They also wrote that the way to overcome this grief is not around but through, connecting with others along the way. “whenever a circle of like-minded people join together to challenge this social taboo [repression of negative feelings], participants can easily reconnect with strong feelings of grief, anger, fear, and despair in a cathartic experience that releases the blocked energy. In the aftermath, feelings of helplessness and paralysis become transformed as participants feel revitalised and ready to engage.” Being vulnerable about the emotions to connected to climate change is one way we can help those who deny climate science to open their eyes to the solutions that lie all around them, even in their own yards.