It’s a word I have heard before but always scurried away from because ‘I couldn’t be caught dead being vulnerable.’ I was often defensive and sometimes, I still am, to avoid being vulnerable. Vulnerability to me, used to be a thing for the weak and God forbid I am perceived as weak. As I began to grow and evolve, I began to see vulnerability differently. My understanding of how powerful vulnerability is changed my outlook towards myself, people and life.
It takes a lot of strength to put yourself out there not knowing if you will be stoned emotionally or physically. It takes a lot of courage to stay true to your authenticity and bare your naked self to the world. This can only come when there is some form of self-worth and wholeness within you. It might not always be the case; there are days I feel broken and there are days I feel whole. I am learning to allow myself to heal and go through the process of life without judging myself.
There are times situations and people make us feel vulnerable, however, what we do with that feeling is what makes for growth.
I used to be someone who always wanted to be true to myself until I couldn’t. Suddenly the chatter and banter of voices from my past, familiar faces, scars, pains that cut so deep and my inner critic began to take the better of me. I began to run away from anything and anyone that made me feel vulnerable.
I felt I had something to prove and I carried a lot of baggage and pain which I let become part of my identity. I remember feeling tired of being tired one day; I began to ask myself questions, I started reading books, digging deep, meditating more, praying more and knowing who and when to ask for help. I remember picking up one of Brene Brown’s books and feeling such a rush of relief like I wasn’t alone. All the things that my Spirit had been whispering to me were being confirmed from that book and it was so exciting.
I was used to hiding myself and being scared of getting things wrong or not being approved. I didn’t realize how stuck I had been for years. I couldn’t create healthy boundaries, I couldn’t have my own sense of identity, I couldn’t speak up, I just couldn’t be because I didn’t want to feel vulnerable and lose approvals. I wanted to ‘belong’ and I lost my self-worth in the process. At the time I didn’t realize vulnerability was one of the things I was shying away from. As I became more self-aware, I knew that I had to do something about it but had no idea where to start from.
One day while mediating, I felt God leading me to start with love. At first, I thought it was about showing people love but I began to realize I couldn’t really love others when I had no clue how to love myself, so I started with myself. I was so hard on myself and filled with a lot of negativity: pain, shame, fear, anger, guilt and hate. I was taking up people’s responsibilities – their opinions of me, feelings towards me, approvals and kept striving to do right by the standards and expectations of everyone but myself.
I had to start with compassion and it has not been easy, but it has been totally worth it. I began to realize the importance of compassion towards ourselves. I began to understand the effects of shame and wanting to belong in our society. I learnt boundaries in a radical way.
Some days are better than others, however, I am more aware of who I am, I pay attention more to myself, understand that I am enough, listen more to my Spirit and have compassion for myself and others.
Belonging and shame is one of the reasons we shy away from vulnerability; well like Maya Angelou said, “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”
We live in a society where everyone aims to be ‘politically correct’, wanting to fit in, do the ‘right thing’, say the right thing’ etc. There’s so much pressure and often we tend to judge, criticise or shun people who have different views, religion, skin colour, opinions and lifestyles from ours. Sometimes, we think they are less than us or we are less than them.
It takes a lot for a person to speak up against abuse, racism or other issues, express ones feelings even with emotions and bare ones self. In those moments you are not sure of what you are up against or how you will be perceived, all you know is you are living your truth; whatever or however that might be.
The women who stood up against sexual assault and spoke up, had in those moments, in spite of vulnerability, empowered other women and liberated themselves in the process.
Vulnerability often comes with a rush of fear; wanting to be perfect, wanting to belong, shying away from shame. Listening to these areas of yourself will give you a whole new perspective on why you feel that way. I began to listen more to these areas rather than fight them and that was when healing and growth started for me. Knowing who you are, loving all of you, letting go of the ‘perfectionist’ mindset, being kind to yourself, embracing and loving every aspect of yourself without trying to give them labels of good or bad, enables you see vulnerability as a wonderful gift.
It took a lot from me to post on my personal social media with the #metoo few months ago. Being a rape victim, I felt vulnerable, ashamed and scared. I forgot all about being worthy. It wasn’t something I ever talked about except few years ago with very close confidants. While it took me sometime battling back and forth with this thought, I began to feel so sorry for other women who have had to live like this and I felt empathy for myself. Being kind to myself was something I never thought I deserved as I used to think it was a selfish act. As you evolve and practise compassion with yourself more; it gradually becomes a way of life. I posted up my #metoo which was so liberating for me. Don’t overlook the little things.
I have learnt that awareness of vulnerability changes your outlook on life, towards people and towards yourself. Love becomes your companion, empathy becomes your heartthrob.
Vulberability makes you see through people and because you are being pruned by the process and learning to start with loving yourself, compassion to others flows. It’s not always easy to show compassion to others who hurt us but I have learnt that people who hurt others are hurt people as well with no understanding or knowledge of their hurt, everyone has a story and some people are products of their backgrounds.
There are times when I have felt alone; being the only one in the room with a different take on certain issues, choice or personality and being aware of the judgements and contempt – expressed and concealed. In those moments I feel vulnerable and in those moments, I embrace that feeling as difficult as it maybe and rise above. I am learning from vulnerability that I do not need to belong, nor do I need to feel shame for who I am. I am worthy, I am whole and so are you.