Vulnerability is a concept that has been popularized by Brené Brown in her book, Daring Greatly. This book came into my life at a time when I was growing exponentially and challenging much of what I knew and even who I was. In last month’s blog, we explored healing our minds, bodies and spirits which can feel vulnerable because we are moving outside our comfort zones. Many survivors of sexual assault have learned to separate themselves mentally from their bodies as a way of self-protection. To inhabit and own all of ourselves can feel very uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and that is okay.
Being vulnerable, even to ourselves, can be a stretch, especially in a world where everyone has perfect “Facebook” or “Instagram” lives. Many of us have learned ways to “have it all together” when inside we are exhausted with the façade. My deep sense of unworthiness led me to construct a strong wall of perfection as if all the good grades, degrees, accomplishments and awards would prove my worth. To vulnerably examine those layers and unearth the authentic, real me was deep work.
In Awakening the Light, I talk about how being vulnerable was incredibly difficult for me; yet I loved others being vulnerable with their needs and trusting me to be there for them. On an Outward Bound trip with a senior leadership team, partly due to my role and partly my personality, I felt a responsibility for this experience to go well. Our lead guide decided to scale a rock face even though it was freezing and rainy. When we got the team to the top of the mountain, I was aware that one woman was pale and shaking. I immediately got the guide’s attention, and we had everyone surround her to increase her body temperature. Next, we had to get everyone back down the mountain, and one man was terrified. I got beside him and said, “We are going down together.” Side by side, we rappelled down the rock face with me encouraging this man who was twice my size.
When I got to the ledge where one of the guides was standing, she asked, “Are you OK?” That was when I crumbled. I was grateful for her seeing me and showing concern about my well-being. My pattern has been to be there for everyone else and put my needs at the bottom. I found significance by being there for others, but I couldn’t be “needy” or vulnerable myself. In this moment of being the object of the caring outreach, my heart was touched.
We often adopt self-sufficiency at a young age. No one asks: “Are you OK?” We learn that, in order to not be disappointed, we must take care of ourselves. This was my experience when I was around age five, but what I didn’t know, and had to learn later, is that relationships are built by leaning on one another and being vulnerable to one another. The guide at the leadership retreat and others around me were challenging and gently dismantling my wall of self-reliance. I realized that maybe the world and my life would work better if I didn’t just try to be there for everyone around me but actually allowed others to be there for me.
Being vulnerable means being open to new insights, new emotions, the whole of you. This doesn’t have to happen all at once. One of my favorite phrases is: “Be curious.” If we are curious, we open ourselves up to new expanses to explore. Why is it okay to be available to everyone else but feel we should have no needs? I ask myself: Why is it uncomfortable for others to see the less-than-perfect me?
Our willingness to engage with our vulnerability is a big step in growth. It is a sign of courage to move into a new way of living. On November 15th we will explore how to begin to engage with vulnerability.
At Survivors to Thrivers, we are committed to encouraging and supporting you as you seek to embrace your healing and growth. We would love to hear steps you have taken to open yourself up to being vulnerable. Please know we are here to cheer you on– every step of the way!
“I no longer wanted to listen to the negative inner voice that sought to destroy my God-given potential.” ~ Tambry Harris
Quote from Awakening the Light: A Survivors to Thrivers Going-Forward Story which is available through our book tab or by clicking here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KK8YFDM