Vulnerability, a strength or a weakness? Does being vulnerable makes us stronger and more courageous? Is it about naturally showing up as who we are, as opposed to the person we've learnt to be or think we should be? Like the old chinese proverb 'Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are'. Are vulnerability and courage the keys to unlocking more about our truth? Is a greater understanding, insight and appreciation of our resistance and courage whilst showing up, useful to us? Helping us to grow and lead a more fulfilled life?
From a young age, I thought showing your vulnerable side was a sign of weakness. It wasn't until therapy training that I actually started to appreciate the strength in opening up to vulnerability. Vulnerable, from the latin, vulnerare, translated 'to wound' and vulnerabilis 'wounding'. I am really curious as to how the myth about vulnerability and weakness has stuck for so long and still does today. Choosing to stay in our comfort zones, live behind masks maintaining 'we're doing just fine'? Fine - False Information, Nicely Expressed maybe? I wonder if and how inauthentic patterns of the self actually impact on our mental health and well-being. Recent figures from studies in the UK show that depression and anxiety are on the rise. I'm not saying it's all down to disguising our vulnerabilities or hiding our true selves. I wonder if there was less stigma associated with mental health, a greater acceptance of ourselves, our vulnerabilities and more authentic openness, could this offer a more positive societal change for the better.
Often it's the high profile celebrities and media who are the pioneers in promoting such awareness into mainstream society. Helping to inspire others to hopefully do the same themselves. Recent coverage on Prince William & Prince Harry, showed them speaking out and promoting mental health issues for the charity 'Heads Together'. Opening up about the loss of their mother, Princess Diana and the difficulties faced in addressing such issues and the effects on mental health and wellbeing.
Let's flip this idea. Does weakness actually come from a lack of vulnerability, if we're unable to understand what wounds us, are we really in touch with ourselves? Or are we actors in a role-play, living a life we think we should be leading rather than a more natural way of being? How many of us actually take risks, stepping out of our comfort zones and creating change in our lives. A career change, leaving an unhappy relationship, relocate, write a book, take that parachute jump, set up the cookery school, create that vision board, write/complete a bucket list or go on a world trip the list goes on!? Question is, do we really listen to our inner voice or knowing? Live our dream lives or at least make the absolute best of our current situations? Are we happy with our lot or do we find excuses, live shadow lives, unfulfilled dreams, blaming it on circumstances and that we're not ready? Fitting in rather than standing out? Do we offer ourselves an inner compassionate voice when things mess up or do we listen to the inner critic berating ourselves for not taking that opportunity when offered?
I'll own this, it took some real acts of courage and time to actually show up in the world. Still does! As Anais Nin writes 'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage'. I agree, as shining your light can also demand a large dose of healthy self belief too. Appreciating the power of being in the stretch zone with the endeavour for change, careful not to push ourselves too far that we'll end up in the panic zone. Courage is from the french word 'Coeur', latin 'Cor' means from the heart. I wonder, do we choose to lead from our hearts, align with our souls plan, explore our unconscious desires or do we let our head, our conscious and analytical mind carry on instead?
Standing out, feeling vulnerable, what's this in theory? For me, it's showing up as you, not knowing how things will pan out and hoping that you have the courage and strength to see it through? Sounds risky, what if you struggle, embarrass yourself, don't feel enough, too painful, feel judged or disappoint people. Can you really be you right now? How well do you actually know yourself? Can you trust yourself and others? I guess all sorts of fears, anxieties, blocks can surface and resurface over time. Rejection, shame, feeling unworthy, humiliation, exclusion, embarrassment, anxiety, judgement, perfectionism, loss et al. That place of fear, we're not so keen to go, easier to hide our fears than express or show them, so we stay safe and resist change. Saying hello to inertia, whilst distracting ourselves with the mundane. Is cognitive dissonance at play here too? The need to find consistency in our thoughts or beliefs even if what we think is not consistent with our true beliefs or actions? Favouring a comfortable place thats safe, where nothing grows. Maybe instead, professing to have it all, when maybe sometimes we're crumbling with indecision or doubts inside. Wrestling with the emptiness! The false expression and emotion. Carefully pasting up the cracks of the facade, we so readily paint to the outside world. Disguising this self deficit with material gain and skewed scripts of success and other patterns of unhelpful programming? The inauthenticity of our lives eating away at a core desperate to live it's truth, to live and be the real you.
Common humanity, sharing our difficulties by offering self compassion to ourselves and compassion to others. Compassion meaning literally to 'suffer with'. Often we can think that we are struggling on our own, assuming we are unable to cope like others or we're not up to the job. When in fact much of the time, we all may go through similar experiences and feel similar judgments or disappointments in our lives. Empathy can often be a vital component here, sharing common experiences and hearing that others struggle too, making similar judgments on themselves, can open us up to a world of realisations, that actually maybe we're doing okay. The common theme here that we all wrestle with life ups and downs at some point or another, feel vulnerable, over-critical, emotional, cross, scared, disempowered, useless, depressed or anxious. It's life, unfortunately there is no set handbook or online course! Possibly, a more useful growth mindset is to learn through the struggle, be brave, be fearless, let go of expectation, anticipation, control, perfection. Let go of having all bases covered or your ducks lined up in a row! Learning to go with the flow, tune into the rhythm of your life, if you fall down get back up, learn from the lessons and move on.
It's a fact of life that we're pretty much vulnerable from conception to death and whose to say what happens after death? During our lives we can get out of alignment or distracted from finding our gifts or our true calling, we can offer the world. Unhelpful patterns of behaviour and social conditioning from parental influence, school years, friends, our work or society in general, can often unravel what already exists and often stays hidden unless we're lucky enough to find it. I found a photo recently, written on the back 'your days with the magic circle'. In the photo, I'm dressed as a magician performing a magic trick and wearing my sparkly silver top hat. Possibly the heaviest hat in the universe I might add, took most of my concentration to keep it from falling off! As photos often do, it sparked memories, the childhood joy of creativity, drama, magic, free spiritedness, a world of make believe and endless possibilities. I'm not sure how I would feel about standing up in front of an audience now? Although, then it just seemed to flow, so much fun, amazing the audience with my slight of hand! The fear of public speaking and presenting became evident from my late 20's and still a work in progress now. Just a slight digression to illustrate that the courage is there. It can often be conditioning or negative patterns that can reprogramme us to think and behave differently. The power of conditioning can so seamlessly keep us blocked, until I guess the need to change becomes greater than the need to stay the same. Learning to overcome old belief systems, finding the courage to sit with the uncomfortable, feeling strong enough to accept that life is uncertain. It's a constantly changing place. Experiencing the rawness and openness to 'what will be, will be' and hoping you'll be okay. I am enough. Surely, it's futile, trying to cling onto certainty and inauthenticity? Confusing our egos and feeding that need to control. Is the act of courage actually showing our struggle, not holding back or worrying about what others think. Starting before you're ready. So-called ready, a place where the tumbleweed tosses and turns in the wind on a lonely, dusty desert outback!
Does procrastination play a part in the pursuit for change. Grappling with our courage, being brave, zoning into the fear and doing it anyway? I set up self employed a couple of months later than expected as I too was one of the 'not ready crew'! In truth, I felt uncomfortable sticking my head up above the parapet and being visible in the world. Not sure what I was waiting for? The perfect moment? Perfect - something exact or without fault or flaw. Hmm what if everything in the world was perfect? Surely we'd miss imperfection, the vulnerable moments, the times we wing it, flying by the seat of our pants, being fearless, daring not quite knowing the outcome from the outset? Bumbling with our speech, the awkward moments, the shyness, the laughs and the embarrassment. The 'we're only human' aspect. How fun would life be, if run like clockwork? Surely it's more about overcoming our fears, being brave and taking action regardless. Overcoming the trap of what others think, building on and reaffirming our own self acceptance in the world, not allowing the acceptance of others to influence or outweigh our own self belief or needs.
I wonder how we sense or view vulnerability in others, is it humbling, endearing, a strength or maybe attention seeking or annoying, depending on your viewpoint? Or more a place of mutual respect, empathy, having a desire to help as you recognise something of yourself in that moment too, a connection to a place or experience in you, an unconscious insight into their struggle, their truth? Also showing up and asking for help, why is it some have the knack and others choose to hold back. Whats that about? Learnt patterns or programming so deep, you would rather fend for yourself than reach out to others. I'm not suggesting that we just tell everybody, everything with no boundaries or mutual trust and just demand help from strangers like shelling peas. My own experience, is the more vulnerablility, openness and empathy you can show, normally the greater your connection and engagement of trust will be to that person. All boils down to you, can you trust another person to see you in a vulnerable place, will they judge you or choose to walk away maybe? Is this where the inner critic sings their solo, the voice of judgement and criticism at falsetto ringing in your ears! So much so, it feels safer and easier to just not show up!
I'm curious about social media, do they help us to show up or is it a 'cop out'? Interaction consisting of likes and sharing comments, selfies, different beliefs, photos, politics, religion and music etc. Is it look at me, look at what I'm doing and what I've achieved? Plenty of room for comparison, a healthy pastime? A positive or a negative experience, hard to say? Does it lead to overthinking, rumination, resistance and feelings of not being good enough. Or can it actually be positive, help people to show up, give them a sense of community, a common humanity as people share the good and the less fortunate times in their lives online. I'm thinking yes, in moderation.
In summary 'is showing up like entering a boxing ring at times'? If we choose to show up, be courageous and deal with life's experiences, we build our resilience, create change and meet our goals. Allowing our courage to manifest, build and transform us into stronger versions of ourselves. This growing courage topping up the balm to heal ourselves from previous attempts, ready for the next challenge maybe? Enabling us to face uncertainty with a healthier growth mindset this time around. To make a stand in the world. Take on the challenge with love not fear. As often, love itself can be seen as an act of courage. Open our hearts, trade in truth, offer gratitude for the struggle and constant learning. The universe offers us everything we need, is it up to us to take the opportunities presented to us, appreciate this realisation and have the courage to move mountains in ourselves? Help empower others on their journey too. To be proud of who we are, to tap into our intuitive knowing and take those opportunities. Show up, be vulnerable, be brave, draw on our courage, our rawness, be fearless and everytime we fall down, get back up! Stand in our personal power. And congratulate ourselves for showing up as the amazing and multi-talented people we are. Dave Grohl sums it up beautifully 'No one is you and that is your power'