Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place was a crowd favorite in my household. My sister and I would watch marathons of the hilarious antics caused by Alex (played by an early Selena Gomez), Justin (David Henrie), and Max (Jake T. Austin) with their wizardly powers as the Russo family. I even remember desperately trying to emulate Alex's effortless cool for my friends at school by entering an ever-cringey slouchy beanie phase. Looking back on the Disney classic for Gen Z, I realize that my love for the show would not have come without the odd yet endearing spunk of Alex's best friend Harper Finkle (played by Jennifer Stone) whose homemade outfits taught me the early importance of vulnerability.
Harper's outfits were extreme, to say the least. In a Disney color scheme lined with the solid navy blues and greys of the Russos family sub shop, Harper stood in a rainbow outfit she made entirely of fruit roll-ups. She dared to venture outside in her homemade creations that cast her apart from everyone in her surroundings. She fearlessly embodied her style, subjected herself to the bullies we never saw but probably existed in the fictional Wizards world, and we watched as her fashion expertise evolved from wearing a subtle graphic t-shirt with a hamburger on it to a bubble bath themed dress complete with what looked to be fifty rubber duckies.
We can all infer that Harper had an extreme amount of confidence. But what I was unable to process as a child who laughed at what I thought were simply Harper's silly outfits was that in every episode of Wizards she was being actively vulnerable in an effort to give herself wholeheartedly to the spunky, creative, one-of-a-kind person she aspired to become. She knew that she was relegating herself to a position of ridicule but she didn't care- she dressed the way she did to live fully and truthfully. Harper's utilization of vulnerability as a means of personal evolution speaks to the hallmark teachings of Brene Brown, famous for her 2010 TEDxHouston Talk "The Power of Vulnerability."
Brown argues that vulnerability is "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure" that when embraced enables the vulnerable to achieve a fuller life. We can all infer that Harper's pursuit of fashion embodied the above criteria on a daily basis. But it's more than Harper's outfits that are so inspiring- it's their symbolism. I'm no Harper, but to me clunky yellow clip-on earrings and turtlenecks are trademarks of my risky outfit choices. Though I expose myself to the world of uncertainty that Brown speaks about, those insecurities fade away as I pour my confidence into my outfit. I raise my hand more in class. I'm more daring with my actions. I'm no longer apologetic in the pursuit of the person I intend to be that day.
Vulnerability, though it requires dominating one's fears of rejection, scrutiny, or critique is the gateway to that person's most powerful state. By relegating ourselves to our weakest points we stand to gain the greatest power.
So in that spirit be like Harper and be vulnerable, whether that be daring to wear a crazy outfit, proposing a never before heard research idea, get a haircut, write an article on a topic you're fascinated about but still have much to learn- be daring in the pursuit of who you are meant to become.