The Benefits of Being Vulnerable
Definition of vulnerability. 1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded. 2 : open to attack or damage
I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability over the last couple years from different angles. I think it's natural for us to want to protect ourselves. We've all encountered pain and heartbreak of different kinds, and experiencing those things is never fun. Some people respond to those experiences by hiding, shutting down, building walls, wearing armor, numbing, etc. I've certainly used all of those methods of protection and more at different points in my life. But if you're like me and you crave relationships with a deeper connection, protecting yourself like that can get pretty isolating quite quickly. For me, connection helps to provide a sense of feeling understood and belonging in this world, and isolation doesn't feel good at all. I did not enjoy landing in that spot at the end of my marriage. So much had happened within a four year period (Mom getting sick and having fast paced dementia, and eventually passing....along with marriage stuff) that I already felt as if I could barely keep my head above water emotionally. I was working at being positive each and every day. And I felt, and still feel, that the trials a marriage goes through are personal. I shared bits and pieces with a few people, but I didn't feel like it was appropriate to completely air our dirty laundry with anyone. I didn't want to create a situation in which people felt they needed to take sides, and my main concern was finding a way for us to heal and move forward separately so that the kids felt safe and loved. This path was isolating by nature, but it was right for my family.
In an effort to dig my way out of the isolated place I'd landed, I read books, listened to podcasts, watched videos, experimented with different tools...all in search of perspectives I identified with. Somewhere along this journey, I decided that I was going to choose to live courageously and allow myself to be vulnerable. That didn't mean I was going to throw myself to the wolves, but I committed to being exactly who I am - completely authentic in a way that aligns with my heart and soul. I was still cautious and I paid attention to my gut regarding what felt safe, but I started choosing paths that felt scary sometimes knowing that I'd be okay if my feelings got hurt or if someone judged me. I knew I would survive if people I loved weren't supportive or chose to distance themselves. I think it was more scary at that time because I already felt isolated and I was afraid of permanently losing even more than I'd already lost at that time. But I chose this path because it was important to me to find my way to the version of myself that feels authentic and whole, and to find true connection with people who valued connection with me equally. Even more than that, it was and still is important to me because I want to model this for my kids - both rising from what felt like ashes AND being authentic.
So I started down my path and I did get knocked down occasionally by people I loved. Many relationships changed. Some got stronger, some ran their course, some will never be quite the same, some are forever highlighted and underlined in my heart for the acceptance and support I received at different stages. I started online dating, which is a whole story in and of itself. There were definitely times at the beginning of that process that I took a break and "hid" and rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness that I encountered....but I haven't given up - I'm still at it! Now I'm able to view it as a social experiment and laugh instead of feel exasperated. I've met some nice people that have come and gone, and I've been blessed by some beautiful souls who've stuck around to become a huge part of my growth personally and spiritually. I also went through an amazing coaching program that required all students to be their most vulnerable selves, which was awesome, terrifying, empowering, and excruciating. Participating in that training brought clarity to the way I choose to walk through this world going forward.
If I hadn't had the courage to go down all of these paths, there's no way in hell I would have experienced the growth that I have over this last year in particular. As I continue on my journey through this life, I will continue to honor myself by doing so with an authentic, open, and vulnerable heart because the beauty I'm experiencing far outweighs the risk. In the end, my sense of belonging really lies within myself, but the connections I've made and strengthened where I truly feel seen, heard, and appreciated....those are priceless. It's impossible to feel connection like that without being vulnerable.