My son texted me this picture from our recent trip to Peru and said, “ if I only knew how to use this Facebook thing…oh, wait I do!” My first reaction was a sense of panic, “oh my god what is he going to do with that picture of me?” My second response was, “I am going to kill my husband for taking that picture.” My last response was to start laughing until my eyes were watering. My son Scott, (who loves to tease me) gave me a big gift without knowing it- he helped me to be and feel vulnerable.
Earlier in the week, I had shared a blog post that made me feel really vulnerable. I shared about how I had lost my purpose in life and how difficult that time in my life was. After I posted it, I literally felt sick to my stomach because I was opening myself up to be judged, and ultimately letting my authentic, not perfect self be seen. I have never been comfortable feeling vulnerable, and for those of us that care about the opinions of others, it is even more uncomfortable.
What started to happen was amazing. I received a lot of emails from people that opened themselves up to be vulnerable. They told me that what I said resonated with them. Even though my heart was touched, I still felt very uncomfortable. I also knew because of my mindfulness practices, that being uncomfortable was okay and that it was important that I allow myself to feel that way and that there was some learning, healing and growing that I was meant to do.
I reached out to my mentor and shared how I was feeling about being vulnerable. She shared a different perspective with me, which shifted something in me. I went from believing that sharing my story made me feel vulnerable to helped me be vulnerable. Do you notice the difference? It’s huge! I had been viewing vulnerability as a sign of weakness. In that shift, I realized that feeling vulnerable while uncomfortable, is a good thing.
The next day I woke up feeling completely alive. It’s almost as if my fear of vulnerability had turned into the greatest gift because if you’re not afraid to be vulnerable, even if it feels uncomfortable, you feel unstoppable.
I love what Brene Brown says in her Ted Talk about vulnerability. She describes how you can’t selectively numb emotions like grief, vulnerability, shame and disappointment without numbing the emotions like joy, gratitude, and happiness.
It’s not surprising that literally 2 days after I had my blog post encounter with vulnerability, I had a chance to be tested. And that relates back to the text that my son sent. Okay, what would a person who is not afraid to be vulnerable do in this situation? They would share even though it feels uncomfortable. Sure I feel more comfortable sharing pictures like this one where I’ve had a chance to prepare the image I want to put out there, but it’s not as real. To be real you sometimes need to feel vulnerable and risk being seen.
The other thing that you can’t tell by the flattering apple picture is what was going on inside of me at that moment. We had spent around 5 hours hiking from 13,000 feet to 16,000 on the Lares Trail in the Peruvian Andes. We had finally gotten to the top of one of the most strenuous physical activities of my life and we were sitting down for a snack. I felt so alive inside like I had accomplished something that I wasn’t sure I could. I was uncomfortable, tired, and almost on top of the world. And as if that wasn’t enough, we had done this trip as a family.
My up close and personal experiences with vulnerability have changed my relationship with it. It’s not easy feeling vulnerable and that’s why it’s such a gift. The next time you’re given the opportunity to feel vulnerable ask yourself, “what am I afraid of.” Everything we want in life lies on the other side of vulnerability.
Do you have a vulnerability story to share?