"I don't do vulnerability..."
"I don't do vulnerability..." <--- I hear this a lot. And recently, I found myself saying it too. More on that in a mere moment. Vulnerability comes up a lot in my work because for many people practicing vulnerability is polar opposite of what they want to do but need to embrace. If you're not practicing vulnerability, what are you practicing? Control, perfectionism, fear, emotionally closed-off, guilt, avoidance, and withholding? We adopt these behaviors because ultimately we think they will protect us from being vulnerable. But how safe is avoidance, fear, or being emotionally closed off? I teach that in order to have connection with people, to experience empathy, and to get to know the strongest parts of yourself requires vulnerability.
Vulnerability is many things. For example -
- Moving to a new city
- Taking a new position at work you're not prepared for
- Leaving a long-term relationship
- Being a new parent
- Eating alone in a crowded restaurant
- Quitting your job before you have something else lined up
- Sitting with a terminally ill friend or loved one
- Being intimate for the first time with someone
- Falling in love
- Going back to school after 20 years
- Going to the gym for the first time to take your health back
And these are just the tip of the iceberg - vulnerability isn't a 24/7 thing but is a normal part of life. Daily life at that. Like I said, I recently had a run in with vulnerability and it knocked me on my butt. As a life coach and healer it's my job to hold vulnerable space for people and it's also my job to nudge them outside their non-vulnerable box from time to time. So what happens when the life coach isn't comfortable with her own vulnerability? It goes a little something like this...
I woke up about a month ago and realized I wasn't fully living my dream and I wasn't living into who I know I can be. And I decided to change that which meant questioning parts of my life I had pre-determined to be set in stone. The vulnerability is still coming in waves - some I can ride out and be present for, and some require really big glasses of red wine. I have to remind myself that this is vulnerable because it means having hard conversations, it means rewriting the rules, it means changing environments, and it means really going for it. All things I wasn't doing before because that was my safety zone. A place where I could hide without worrying about failing. But it turned out, I was failing myself. Oops.
I've decided to put myself into a vulnerable situation and sometimes it feels like I have a vulnerability hang over - so I get that you don't do vulnerability because it's tough stuff! It can leave you feeling ungrounded, exposed, raw, lost, and unsure. All emotions you would rather avoid which is why you gravitate toward control, avoidance, and withholding. Wouldn't you rather feel in control than raw?! Me too.
Except for this - raw, exposed, ungrounded, lost, and unsure are not comfortable but they are teaching. They are where you get real strength from. You get to learn more about your character and needs when vulnerable than any other time in your life. It requires taking a step back and being present with that's really going on. Vulnerability means getting to see your true colors and decide how you feel about them. How you handle yourself when vulnerable is very telling but not definitive. You may not do vulnerability in your mind but really you are. Instead of sitting in that vat of messy, uncomfortable vulnerability maybe you're numbing, avoiding, or fleeing. So you are doing vulnerability, or rather it's doing you.
Let me help you out. Seeing as I'm living in that vat of messy, uncomfortable vulnerability right now here are a few things that are helping.
Journaling - I am a bit journal obsessed, so I may be a bit biased, but using my journal right now has new found meaning for me. Having a space to pour out all the ungrounded, unsure, raw, exposed stuff is really nice. The important thing is to get it out of your head. Because if you're like me, or most people, you have a really loud bitchy voice in there that feeds on vulnerability and has a thing or two to say about it. Which you listen to! So write it down, all of it. And you will see it's a lot cleaner than expected.
Friends - Go find your friends. We all have those few friends in our life we can share just about anything and everything with and they go, "Ok, we got this. What's going on?" No judgment, no complaints, and no comparison. Go find those friends. They will be your saving grace and they will probably also say something like this, "Oh, you're so not alone! I've totally been there!" And that is one of the best things you can hear because vulnerability has a way of making you feel...a little crazy. Find the friend who can validate, empathize, and normalize what's happening for you.
Reflection - This one may be the hardest because when going through vulnerability it's hard to be alone and reflect but it's also healthy. Give yourself space to do some good ol' fashioned reflection. Sit in the park, take a long walk, or get into lotus and meditate. Now I know I just said to be careful of your bitchy inner-voice because it will be there, but there's also a quite, wise voice and if you give yourself enough space it will come through. Listen to that wise-self and what they have to say.
The funny thing? I don't want this vulnerability door to close just yet because although scary it's giving me new life. When your comfort zone is being totally rocked you get to rebuild it anyway you want. Vulnerability is allowing me to rebuild all the pieces that weren't working anymore. So here's to doing vulnerability!