Yes, you read that right. 8 Mile-the semi-autobiographical movie about Eminem’s life and upbringing in Detroit-has a pretty powerful lesson in vulnerability if you’re willing to look for it. I never thought of it from this angle, but after beginning to read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, I’ve found a different perspective and appreciation for Rabbit’s (Eminem’s character in the movie) final battle with Papa Doc.
Walk with me on this one. I realize the cross section of fans of personal growth and hip hop biopics isn’t large, so I’ll try to widen the lens and provide some context for those unfamiliar.
But before we get to 8 Mile, let’s talk about vulnerability. Brown’s book is all about it. In fact, the subtitle of the book is: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Being able to put yourself out there and be okay with it can truly change how you push through barriers of discomfort and excel in this world.
Dictionary.com offers up the following definition of being vulnerable:
Focusing on 1 or 2 here, just being open and being okay with it is the key to being vulnerable.
Now let’s take a look at 8 Mile. To give those that are not familiar some context, Rabbit (again, the character played by Eminem), is an up and coming rapper in Detroit. Throughout the movie we witness him sort of come into his own with his hip hop skills. This is showcased in the freestyle rap battles that occur towards the end of the movie. There is essentially a rap battle tournament set up at a local club, and Rabbit walks through the first few rounds. He makes it to the finals and is facing the reigning champ Papa Doc.
This is where our lesson in vulnerability presents itself. See, freestyle rap battles are essentially a game of who can more artfully make fun of the other guy. Each guy gets a minute and a half to do their best at tearing down their opponent. The winner tends to be the guy with the best one liners weaved together in a comical way. Rabbit ends up going first, but he decides to employ a different strategy. Instead of attempting to embarrass Papa Doc, he turns the mic on himself. He goes on for a while, but here’s a sample of some of his lines:
“I am white, I am a f***in bum, I do live in a trailer with my mom. My boy Future is an Uncle Tom, I do got a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob who shoots himself in his leg with his own gun, I did get jumped, by all six of you chumps…”
As if to say, “I know who I am, nothing you can say can tear me down.” Then he finishes with:
“And f*** this battle, I don’t want to win, I’m outie. Here, tell these people something they don’t know about me.”
Rabbit’s battles Papa Doc (here’s the link to the scene from the movie, look past the language for the lesson)
He puts all of his flaws, mistakes and potential ammo for his opponent on the table, leaving Papa Doc with nothing to say. Literally. When it’s his turn to grab the mic and do his thing, he’s deflated. He’s frozen. By Rabbit putting himself out there, showing that he didn’t care one way or the other about all of his perceived flaws, he gained great power. He won the battle and the respect of everyone in the club.
Therein lies the lesson. If we can learn to be more vulnerable in more areas of life, although it may feel uncomfortable, we can come out more powerful than before. Being vulnerable allows us to be more confident in who we really are, but also let’s everyone else know that they have nothing on us. We are who we are, unapologetically, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
So open yourself up in your relationships, at your work and with yourself. Show the world who you are, flaws and all. There’s far more utility in being authentic and flawed than being fake and perfect.
Perfection is a myth. Be human. Be imperfect. Be vulnerable. You’re life will certainly change for the better.