What does vulnerability mean to you? Take a minute to think about it.
I remember the moment that I realised that most of my coping mechanisms in my life were to stop my feelings of vulnerability. Vulnerability to me meant weakness. I had a huge internal drive to be independent, super woman, who can handle anything, queen bee in work place, and the best mother in the world. I was opinionated, goal focused and always living in the future, making plans. This coping mechanism had served me well for the first 35 years of my life.
But then, after the break down of my marriage, I had so many offers of help and support, but I didn’t take it freely. In fact, I criticised those who did “take, take, and take”. What I discovered through coaching, was that my I had a belief, that asking for help was a weakness. That receiving help, was taking. That I would not then be capable. I was terrified of showing my vulnerability.
Now writing this I realise how limiting this belief has been in my life. I have put up so many walls to ensure that I am not rejected that I had created a cold iron lady. Super strong, super capable and emotionally stoical on every level. In fact I remember crying during an argument with my husband, and he said, “stop those crocodile tears, you don’t cry”. The truth was, I didn’t. Strong people don’t cry, do they?
The result was that I craved connection, emotional freedom and for people to simply SEE me, but what I had created was disconnection. The way I dressed, acted, spoke and presented my super-efficient corporate climber all screamed “success” by today’s ego based culture. However, the truth was I was disconnected. Me, myself and I.
Brene Brown asked people to finish this sentence: “vulnerability is___________________.” You may see your reply here.
Did you see your response here? Now I ask you, after reading them, do you see them as weaknesses? When I read the responses I see courage, strength, truth, honesty, standing by your values, being true to yourself. I don’t see weakness at all. In fact I would go as far as to say I would admire and be inspired by those respondents for being vulnerable.
Now here is the thing. The fear of vulnerability is a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, I feared being rejected if I asked for help, because I didn’t feel worthy. I became super independent, telling my super woman story to everyone, and people believed that I didn’t need help. If they did offer, I turned them down. So eventually people stopped offering, so that I wouldn’t reject them again. This in turn resulted in further disconnection, and me feeling further alienated and incapable of asking for help. Therefore I depended the fear and strengthen the belief.
I have broken the cycle and found my fierce courage within. You have probably all heard the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway”, let that become your mantra. Of course you will be taking a huge emotional risk when allowing yourself to be vulnerable, but what it the cost of not?
Living a life of mediocrity, disconnection, fear, stagnant and according to others beliefs is an existence. Never taking risks, standing up for what you believe, playing small, is a life half lived.
Embracing my vulnerability, and discovering my inner courage felt like taking the mask off and being uniquely me again. It is scary, terrifying, exciting, exhilarating. It is connection. It is taking of the shackles that bound me. It is being alive.
And to my surprise, my life is so much richer.