Vulnerability: where courage and fear meet
In the new oxford American dictionary Vulnerable is defined as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”. Based on that definition who would want to be vulnerable? I mean no one I know would want to be attacked or harmed.
But there is so much more to it than that.
I resonate so much more to the urban dictionary which defines Vulnerable as “Being open, and genuine about feelings of the heart, mind, body and soul. Trust without self judgement or fear of reaction and judgment from others. Joy, acceptance, love pain, sadness, or illness may come to the forefront of attention and feel overwhelming when one is vulnerable; because of being exposed to pure honest emotions. There is healing, strength and power in having confidence to admit, let go and forgive. Vulnerability is a chance to grow and shed pieces of the past. One can be susceptible to being attacked or influenced if fear is present or in being in a fearful or unsafe situation. That is being defenseless and helpless in not standing in your power.”
Vulnerability allows for personal growth and evolution, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. However not without a lot of work. The concept is simple however it certainly is not easy. It requires deep courage and practice.
Growing up my childhood was good. My parents did all they could to provide for us and make sure we had a great life. I played soccer and basketball, was a Girl Scout, did well in school and had lots of friends and family around. I was the oldest of 3 and my parents had me very young right out of high school.
Life was good yet I don’t remember a time in my childhood where I felt it was ok to be vulnerable. I mean of course as young children, we are automatically vulnerable, we don’t know any better. Physically we are smaller, though I don’t remember really every being small…. I would defend my younger brothers and stand up to anyone that I felt I had to like that bully on the bus that picked on my brother for instance. Kids say things without thinking about it first and share things we hear and feel to our family and friends without censoring them. I am sure there were times I was vulnerable. However, I can not remember an actual instance in my life that I knew I was being vulnerable and shared it anyway. I always felt a fear of judgment from others and a desire to be tough. I am not yet sure where that fear originally stems from though – still working on figuring that out. Though not sure if I will or not. Some may be from being the oldest child of young parents, some from what I witnessed in others. Most people I know have fear of judgement from others.
Do you have a fear of judgement? When did this fear start? How did it impact your life and does it still impact your life? Does it stop you from being vulnerable?
I spent most of my life feeling as though I needed to be super independent and do everything myself. I had such a need to be strong. And being vulnerable was weak. I always put on a brave face in front of others and cried alone in my room. I hid from my true feelings and pushed them down deep, only to explode at times when my emotions boiled over. I had a bunch of friends growing up though looking back I truly only had a handful of true friendships where I opened up to them. I kept busy with sports, getting good grades and work once I was old enough. I was always very dependable and responsible. I rarely, if ever, asked for help. I could handle anything that came my way and I would rely on myself. I may be disappointed if I asked for help and didn’t get it so I just didn’t ask for the help. I didn’t want to get hurt so I didn’t open myself up to get hurt very often if ever. I convinced myself that all was good, always. I didn’t practice vulnerability.
I kept so many blocks up over the years. My first boyfriend was not until college and I ran away from him making excuses that he lived too far away (he didn’t go to my school but was not that far and was willing to visit me often….). I had a few superficial relationships but never really put my guard down enough to be open to it. Always letting the fear of being hurt take over. After college I opened up to one man and thought he would be the one I would marry. We had reunited after a few years and I thought it was fate. Crazy what we think we know about love at 22. Well that didn’t work out. So back to superficial relationships I went.
Then at the age of 25, when I knew myself so well (haha!), I met the love of my life. He was introduced to me through a friend and was the opposite of what I was looking for but there was something about him. I let my guards down and practiced some vulnerability. I shared more with him than I had anyone else in my life and I thought wow this must be it. A couple years later we were married and we started a life together. Had 2 children, lived in a nice house and then after 10 years of marriage we were divorced. My world came crashing down. (Ultimately, he was not my soul mate but he was my love for a time and the father to the 2 most amazing children in the world so no regrets...)
My hurt led me to struggle yet again with vulnerability. I opened up so much to him over the years and put so much trust in that relationship and I was hurt. So hurt. Not sure I could be that vulnerable again even if I wanted to.
But then I got to thinking. If I was not vulnerable in that relationship. If I did not share myself with him, would I be the person that I am today? Would I have 2 amazing kids? Would I be on this amazing path that I am on now rediscovering myself and pursuing my dreams? No I would not.
“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” Brene Brown.
In the last few years I finally started asking for some help. I realized that I do not have to do it all and that people do want to help me just as much as I want to help others. And that I am worthy of their help. I have asked family to help me fix stuff in my house when in the past I would always figure out a way to do it myself and stress myself out. I have shared stories with friends and family that I have never shared before. I found a coach and mentor who has pushed me to heal myself. I found a tribe of women who support me and whom I can trust. I dove deep into new spiritual practices that have challenged me to the depth of my soul and helped me to evolve into a better human being. I am honest with myself and I trust myself again. I trust myself enough to give myself the grace to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is a practice. A practice that I still have a tough time with sometimes but a practice that I will never stop. Vulnerability has helped me to form deeper more meaningful relationships with people and most of all with myself. Through the practice of vulnerability I have grown and evolved exponentially and I am truly grateful for the person that I am today. I don’t know where I would I be if I was not willing to have the courage to be vulnerable.
Do you practice vulnerability?