The topic is popping up all around me, and has been made even more prominent lately by my feeds feeding me this subject as well, causing me to really take a moment to reflect on it.
As I sit here at the kitchen table, in the Toronto spring sunshine with my coffee, I think about how our use of the word has changed over time, and decide to research the etymology of vulnerable. I discover it was introduced into the English language in the early 1600’s originally meaning "capable of being physically wounded" or "having the power to wound". This, of course, has transformed over time and is no longer exclusive to the physical but refers to the spiritual and emotional as well.
I ponder that for a moment, how so much of life for those who came before us was about staying alive, surviving another day, another month, another year. Life was predominantly about the physical. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes to mind and, since I seem to have forgotten two of the five levels, I look it up as well.
As I look at the graphic, it strikes me how so many of the posts that have come across my feed, and so many of the conversations I’ve had on the topic of vulnerability are all on the social and ego needs level. It has crawled up the ladder and now sits at the crux of our need for love, acceptance, self-esteem, recognition, and power.
Ironically, to achieve these we often put on our masks and hide our authentic selves from those around us. Hoping no one will see our “weaknesses”, hoping we’re seen as strong and courageous because we have no visible vulnerabilities.
However, I think Brené Brown put it best when she wrote:
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage,”
Here’s where I find it gets complicated; To be authentically vulnerable, we need to be unabashedly open to others and ourselves.
Open to ourselves.
What’s been interesting to observe is people’s resistance to being vulnerable with themselves. We’ve taken self-protection to such an extreme that we can no longer be authentic within ourselves. Anything perceived as negative is suppressed, we must never experience a moment of “weakness”, emotions which are not "happy" or don’t encourage self-love, positivity, or light should be done away with.
How can you truly show another person your soul if you can't even look at it yourself?
However, that’s not healthy, nor does it promote growth or a love of self. If anything it inhibits both. It’s not about running away from the uncomfortable, but learning to sit with it. To welcome it when it shows up, and appreciate it for what it can offer us if we allow it. Radically accepting every thought, every emotion, every part of our being. Learning to love our duality, and recognize that these parts of us we've labelled as imperfect or negative for so long are not actually either of those, they're just... a part. They hold their own beauty and wisdom.
Only once we've come to accept ourselves completely, when we can be genuinely vulnerable within our own being, can we authentically be vulnerable with others. How can you truly show another person your soul if you can't even look at it yourself?
This isn't saying we have to love all parts of ourselves before we can connect. No, on the contrary, in my experience it's when I can sit with and accept the parts of myself I dislike that's when someone comes along and helps me learn to love those parts of me I never thought I could. I had to acknowledge and honor them first.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” - Rumi
So, next time you're trying to avoid a feeling, an emotion, a part of you because it feels negative, I challenge you to "strip down" and open up to yourself.
Get deeply vulnerable.
Look yourself straight in the eye and accept every fibre of your being for what it is. Maybe you cry, maybe you sing, or talk to yourself, maybe you dance in the kitchen. Whatever it is you need to do to help your soul feel exposed in front of your own self, and then?
Then accept that naked spirit for every beautifully raw energetic vibration it carries. <3
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