What is vulnerability? That is an interesting question that I have been pondering. As I was talking about an issue I was having with a friend of mine. She kept poking me with questions to take me deeper and the word vulnerability showed up for me. As I looked at vulnerability, the image that I received was that of a Roman Sentry in full battle gear – shield, armor, helmet and spear. Feeling into this image, I could feel vulnerability being a weakness. If I was vulnerable, I could not protect the people that I love. Being in this armor, life feels very restrictive, very tense – I always had to be ready to protect, to fight for the people that I love.
In this image, I felt like I had to make sure that I did not fail, because failing would mean that the people that I love would be hurt and how could I let them be hurt. Failing meant that I might loose my job and if I lost my job, how could I provide for, or protect, my family. Fear of failing means I need to play it safe, keep my head down, and not speaking up.
Being restricted by the armor, keeps me from asking for help. I believe I have to do it all, and by myself. If somebody asks me to do something, I have to take it on and do it – no matter what, because I am not vulnerable, I can do it all. I am protecting them.
Staying away from vulnerability meant that I had to be careful what I said to people, because if I hurt them with my words, then I would not be protecting them. If I said the wrong thing, I could be seen a vulnerable, weak, worthless and I believe people are around me only because they believe I am protecting them, but it I zoom back from this image, to see more than just me, I see a handful of people behind me. Thinking that I am protecting a lot of people is a lie.
How is not being vulnerable working for me? Not very well. It has gotten me to start questioning everything in my life. At times, I have just wanted to run away from everything, because sometimes I feel like starting over would make my life so much easier. Thankfully, I have not run away and through my support and writing, I started to look at a different definition of vulnerability.
When I started to look at another version of vulnerability, my image changed from being a Roman Sentry in full armor to a man looking as though he had nothing, at least nothing on, but this man was standing tall, he looked stronger, less restricted than the man in the armor. As I felt into him, I could feel that he was fully present in the moment, grounded in himself, and connected with who he is.
His vulnerability was in his ability to be in the moment, being willing to face the moment, and being willing to speak his truth in this moment. He was not protecting anyone, he was just being himself. In this image, you would think that this man was alone, but it turns out this man was surrounded by more people than the Roman Sentry was protecting.
What was so different from this version of vulnerability than my first vision? In the first one, vulnerability was a weakness. If I was vulnerable, I was weak. I internalized vulnerability. I always had to be ready to not be perceived as vulnerable.
In the second version, being vulnerable is a strength and the strength comes from being present in the moment and being willing to speak my truth. Speaking my truth is speaking without caring what other people think about my truth. Speaking truth is about speaking what something means to me. Speaking truth comes from a connectedness through being present in the moment. Even as I write and re-read this, I can feel the strength in being connected with the moment, being fully present. The fear comes up when I start to think about speaking my truth and when the fear starts to come up, I notice that I stop being present and connected in the moment. The fear begins as I start to think about how my truth might land and be received by the other people. The fear is not about the present moment. It is about the future in this case and I do not know what the future will bring, because all there is is the present moment.
How do I think I can get to this second version of vulnerability? There are several things that I have started to change in my life to help me get here. First, I meditate daily. I just sit and be with my thoughts for 10 to 15 minutes per day. I actually do this at the end of my workout at the gym. I just find a corner of a mat and sit down, close my eyes and become quiet with my thoughts.
Second, I am learning to say no. I have always said yes, whether I agreed or not. Remember, I had to do everything to not be perceived as vulnerable and protect people. Now, I am trying to say no when I really feel I should say no.
Third, I am working on being present. This is especially important for me to work on for meetings at work, because it is so easy to be bored in meetings – there are too many of them, to be disconnected, and let my mind wander to the many other things I would rather be doing (yes, there are some meetings that I need to say no to). To help me be present, I am going to allow myself some time to prepare for a meeting and in that time, I am going to work on being present and say a little prayer. I am not thinking of a lot of time, I am thinking of 3-4 minutes to collect my thoughts and bring myself to be present. Why? I do this for when I am getting ready for a coaching session with a client and one day, while I was getting ready for a coaching session, a thought popped in and asked, “why don’t I do this before work meetings?”, and I could not come up with a good reason.
Fourth, when I start to feel the fear, I need to work on taking an extra breath and feel what the fear is telling me. Usually, there is a message behind the fear. Sometimes the fear hides the real truth, and sometimes the fear just needs to be spoken as the truth. Either way, I need to work on feeling the fear and following what it is saying to me.
What are your beliefs about vulnerability? It vulnerability a strength or a weakness for you? Let me know your thoughts below. You can also leave me a message below, if you would like some help understanding what you believe about today vulnerability, or to let go of your current view on vulnerability.