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Vulnerability is a funny thing, isn’t it?
It requires me to feel safe enough to expose the deepest corners of my inner world with the chance of someone not accepting those parts of me, but the only way to know whether they will accept me or not is if I try.
That seems like some sort of sick joke.
I recently shared my heart on Elephant Journal in the most vulnerable way. It had me feeling every emotion from pride, fear, embarrassment, and excitement. Part of me was hoping that nobody would see it, and part of me wanted the whole world to feel my journey through my words.
I wrote about my loneliness as a nomad—a feeling in me that not many people know about, not even those who are closest to me, and I put it out there for all of the internet to see.
After sharing my words, I found myself opening and closing the post over and over, like a revolving door that I couldn’t get out of. I became so attached to the numbers, as if that was what determined my worth.
It’s surprising that the trackpad on my laptop hasn’t worn out.
It was overwhelming—a rollercoaster of emotions. One day, I was feeling the full experience of joy and pride, and the next day, I was wishing that I could take it all back and stuff the words back into my messy journal.
The feeling of wanting to be seen by everyone and no one, all at once.
When I share those parts of myself with another, there is no taking it back. Once it’s out there, it’s out forever. There’s no stuffing it back into the box.
That’s some scary sh*t.
An experience that’s intimidating for many of us.
But the only way I can truly feel safe with another person is to open myself up to being vulnerable. There’s a deep trust that happens, whether it’s in a split second decision or premeditated over a period of time.
Whether it’s a trust in myself that I will be okay no matter what happens, or a trust in the other person that they can hold my secrets in an acceptable way, or maybe a bit of both.
There’s a confidence that is present when we open up in a vulnerable way. The realest, rawest form of confidence. Not the fake mask of confidence that covers the outer shell, but the truest confidence that radiates from within. It takes a courageous person to leap into the unknown and open themselves up to ridicule.
How powerful is that?
That is the level of confidence that I continue to strive for every day. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does open up the secret doors that only the bravest can venture into. Behind those doors is where we find the most intimate, deepest, and truest connections—with ourselves and with others, but most importantly with ourselves.
As the views increased, I felt proud and also terrified, confident and also exposed—in a way that felt similar to standing in front of the world, naked and afraid, but also self-assured in the shell of my body.
People started reaching out and sharing their own experiences. It was an honor to hear the perspective of those who could relate to what I had shared. This allowed them to open their heart as well, feeling less alone in the world.
On the other hand were the comments on Facebook that triggered my fragile heart. That is when I had to practice coming back into my own body and standing in my experience. I can share my experience because it’s mine, and I can also allow others to have their own experience as well.
Both can be true.
I had to come back to my why. I had to remind myself why I had shared the article in the first place, to be of benefit—and it turns out that my words have been of benefit to many.
Mission accomplished, now release your grip.
Amazing things can happen when we get to that place of vulnerability. It’s a mix of pleasure and pain, but can we really have pleasure without pain? I’m not convinced.
True pleasure comes with pain—and if we don’t experience the pain itself, we are at least opening up to the possibility of it. We are signaling that if things don’t go according to plan, we will accept the experience of the pain that follows.
We open up in a way that feels safe enough, but is still a bit risky. The feeling when I’m about to be vulnerable is a twirling knot in my stomach. It rolls around looking for an escape. Will I let it out or will I keep it locked in?
The choice is mine.
Is the risk worth the reward? Will I be okay if it all goes south? What might open up if I take the chance? What secret doors am I yet to explore?
A sense of stability and safety within ourselves is required before we can be vulnerable.
Here are some tips that have helped me:
Being able to sit with ourselves first is key to being vulnerable. We need to feel safe and secure in our own being. Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting cross-legged like Buddha under a tree. If you’re new to meditation and have trouble settling in, try a walking meditation instead. Another option that I like is mindful eating. I like this raisin meditation because it’s simple, yet powerful.
Feeling physical sensations
Self-massage is a great way to become more comfortable with the sensations of the body. Lightly caressing the skin works, too. Try matching the movement with your breath for extra connection. The key is to come back into the physical body and to be present with the sensations. For extra release, try an embodied movement practice like dance or yoga.
Willingness to explore
Curiosity is helpful here. Letting go of all expectations of what should happen. When you notice the inner voice of judgment showing up, towards yourself or the others, employ curiosity (the best killer of judgment, as the two cannot exist at the same time).
Practice stepping outside of your comfort bubble
The more we practice stepping outside of our comfort zone, the easier it becomes. Start small, feel the fear, ensure safety in your body and the environment—and take the leap. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, any step is a big step.
Coming back to your why
What is the ultimate goal? Oftentimes, we lose sight of the reason behind our mission. We can get caught up in the mental chatter and negative self-talk. Coming back to the why can negate that chatter and bring us back to the bigger picture.
It’s important to note that there are also circumstances where vulnerability is uncomfortable beyond what I’m talking about here—specifically for those who have experienced any form of trauma. Please reach out to a professional if support is needed. Support is always an acceptable option, and there are many professionals out there who can hold that space for you.
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