Do we need permission to be vulnerable? I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m breaking out. I’m exposing my deepest heartfelt vulnerability to you. I’m unveiling a piece of my inner self.
Just recently I read an article about the importance of vulnerability. It was discussing that vulnerability is something that most of us shy away from, we try to ignore and we feel awkward and squeamish just by using the word. But, perhaps it can be our most potent tool for growth.
I was going to post a short Vimeo clip of me to share with you all, which is raw, real and honest, exposing my vulnerability and sharing a piece of my inner self. But, I got chicken shit, and pulled out. I wasn’t ready. Exposing our vulnerability is hard.
Just recently I joined a Women’s Leadership support group and for the first time ever, I recorded a little video introducing myself. It was a video of me, real and completely unedited, introducing myself to this beautiful bunch of powerful soulful women, expressing myself in all my vulnerability and openness. For some reason I felt safe with this group. To just be me.
But, what if we could feel safe to express ourselves in all aspects of our life; to our colleagues, to our family, to our community, to the world? Imagine the healing, the connectedness and the removal of shame that might happen then?
Just the other day, I had my own squeamish experience with feeling completely vulnerable and exposed. As most of you know, I started my Yoga Teacher Training recently and, I am absolutely loving it! It is the start of something very special for me, and marks another chapter in my path of discovery and exploration but it has truly been one of the most challenging learning experiences I have taken so far.
For those who know me well you will know that I love learning and studying. Give me a book on neuroscience or spiritual development and I’ll have it read in a week. Put a text book in front of me and I’ll put in the discipline to study it’s contents from back to front even if it takes me awhile. My friends know that if you give me a project to focus on, consider it done with flying colours. Learning how to be a yoga teacher, has thrown all of this upside down for me.
In Yoga training I not only have to learn the theory (using all the Sanskrit terms and language mind you!) but I have to learn to move my body in a way that is balanced, aligned, strong, and perfectly sequenced AND teach others how to do this. Eeeeek!! Way out of my comfort zone.
I love yoga, but I am not a perfectly aligned yogi. I have a body that wants to do its own thing. I have the body-awareness of a turtle, terrible spatial awareness and physical injuries and anomalies that keep my hips awkwardly tilted and my shoulders pulling forward.
So, when our teacher asked us out of the blue to teach a yoga sequence to the class. I freaked.
My face flushed, my hands started to sweat, my brain shut down, my throat closed over and my body started to tremble. How was I going to be able to hide all my flaws and failures, if I didn’t have a textbook to rely on, a whiteboard to write on, or a powerpoint slide to hide behind?
How was I going to do downward dog whilst explaining to the class all the right inhales and exhales and fancy Sanskrit terminology?
How was I going to work out my right foot from my left foot and which pose was Warrior I and which pose was Warrior II when my brain was in a fog of anxiety?
For the first time in my life, I had nothing to hide behind. It was just me, with my awkward body, my awkward spatial awareness, and my awkward alignment, teaching a gorgeous bunch of fellow yogis how to do sun salutations, downward dogs and perfect chair poses with all the grace and confidence of a yogi master. I was at my most vulnerable, and I was terrified. But, I did it. Red faced, shaking, sweating and awkward. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I did it. Instead of running away, or sinking into the floor (like my brain was telling me to do), I took a few sips of water, found power in my vulnerability and used it as an opportunity for growth and expansion. I felt the fear, and did it anyway.
Many of us try to keep our vulnerability hidden, tucked away safely, buried deep within us. Some of us even try to hide behind a perfect body, an ego, a materialistic life, band aiding over it and pretending it doesn’t exist. All for what? To protect ourselves? To hide our so called flaws and failures? To pretend that everything is okay? To pretend that we’ve got it all together? But, at what expense?
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with approximately 75% of these being young men. We are the ‘land of opportunity’ and yet we have children and young adults harming themselves every day, hurting their bodies, inhaling toxic fumes, and overdosing on medications and drugs, because they haven’t been given permission to be vulnerable, to feel vulnerable and to express their vulnerability within a safe, supportive and nurturing environment.
We have women and new mums fighting a personal battle within the confines of their own homes, suffering and struggling in silence and fragility. Not feeling safe to expose their inner plights. Battling an internal fight with depression, anxiety, fear and exhaustion. Why? Is it fear of being exposed? Fear of judgement, ridicule or not belonging? Fear of being seen as weak? Fear of ‘not being good enough’?
We have men; intelligent, astute, driven, highly successful men, taking their own lives every day. Just the other month I found out that Brisbane alone has had a total of four well-liked, good-earning Doctors, take their own life, since the beginning of the year. Pressures of life, jobs, stress, anxiety and depression all contribute to this sense of hopelessness. But why are these men not able to express themselves? To share their personal battles, to expose their vulnerability and to seek the help they so desperately need?
Vulnerability is not accepted in our society. Vulnerability is seen as a weakness. It cops a bad rap and we have been taught from a very young age to ‘suck it up’ and ‘soldier on’. To just ‘get on with it. It has become our culture, ingrained in us from the beginning. But what does this lead to? What damage is this causing?
A society that is suffering in silence, and disconnected. A society that values ‘looking good’ over expressing your deepest concerns and inner fears. A society that is built on outward achievement, money, and success over deeper heartfelt connections, being humanly fragile, and exposing our heart and soul’s needs and aspirations.
Something needs to change for things to be different. It’s not okay that people are suffering in silence, lost, disconnected and feeling alone in their pain and fears.
We need to embrace that we are all in this together. We all have pain, we all have emotional turmoil and we all have deep inner fears that can plague us at different points in our life, and we need to connect on this level. We need to be okay that this is a normal part of being human. It is not something to be ashamed of.
We all have a story to tell, and we need to be okay about telling this story, so we can heal, move forward and start creating a new story for ourselves. To look forward instead of back, to create a future that is built on the learnings of our experiences but not shackled by the emotional burden. A future that is transformed and moulded by these lessons but not dictated by them.
My learning from the yoga training experience was this.
To feel vulnerable and exposed is okay, its normal, it’s what makes us human. And we must give this uncomfortable feeling space to be there, and room to expand, even when we want to resist, to run away or to curl up and hide. When we embrace instead of resist, we can learn and grow from the experience instead of getting stuck in the suffering. We can feel free to just be ourselves.
Depression, anxiety, pain and emotional burden are often created by resisting and suppressing the bits of life that look unacceptable and unpleasant to us. But perhaps from a wider lens of compassion we can see their value in accelerating us to greater growth and strength.
We need to be okay with exposing our vulnerable sides, the not so pretty aspects of ourselves and our lives, and allow others to do the same. When we embrace vulnerableness with love, compassion and connectedness, we are allowed the space to heal and grow.
When we tell our story, and release and heal the wounds of the past we get to truly rebuild and find a different way to live where we feel safe, connected and engaged with present-moment life, and those around us.
In the later part of 2012, during an extremely challenging time of my life I watched a TED talk by inspirational speaker, Author, Social Worker and Researcher Brene Brown, about “The power of vulnerability”. A colleague had sent it to me in a group message, not knowing about the very personal inner struggles that I was going through at the time. But, it arrived in my inbox at the perfect Divine time, as all life changing things do. I watched it, tears streaming down my eyes. It was the start of a very profound healing journey for me. I finally had permission to be vulnerable. My next step was to learn how to feel safe in this vulnerability, and to realise the true power of this expression; the power to connect on a very intimate human level, instead of feeling isolated and separate.
It has been a challenging road to really integrate this into my life, but oh so worth the cringyness. When we embrace our vulnerable selves, we are able to truly just be ourselves.
For so long I felt ashamed of my inner struggles, emotional challenges and burdens. I tried ever so hard to suck it up and keep going, hoping it would eventually go away if I ignored it long enough. But, watching this talk by Brene Brown changed all this for me.
Vulnerability can be our most powerful tool for change, if we let it. Embracing this is perhaps the very key to a more connected, compassionate world, changing how we live and how our society functions as a whole.
Maybe it’s time to shed our skin, to truly connect and to share a little bit more of our inner selves. Perhaps this is the path to true healing, growth and wisdom.
Please watch this TED talk The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown. It is a very touching, whole hearted talk that everyone should watch.
Maybe, when I get brave enough I’ll create my own Talk to share with the world one day!
Until then, With love and light