I recently guided a brilliant client through a mediation and visioning exercise. The intent was to connect her to how she wanted to show up for herself in approaching a highly charged situation and inevitably emotional conversation.
“I want to feel clear and open. Strong but soft. Calm yet firm. But NOT vulnerable, definitely not vulnerable.”
I understood and I also had to disagree. “Yes, I feel you.. your beautifully powerful intentions are wonderful. I hold them with you. But, they just don’t fully jive in the absence of vulnerability.” Hearing her silent groans from thousands of miles away, I reassured. “I know, it kind of sucks. But hear me out…”
It wasn’t too long along that I literally could not say the word “vulnerable.”
As soon as I even thought about saying “the V word,” MAJOR stuttering ensued! I simply could not verbalize the word. Considering I don’t struggle with other speech impediments, this was a rather undeniable invitation to get curious. And I did, get curious….
I once screamed at a beloved coach, “Why do you think I can do this when I can’t even say the freakin word?!” I begged for there to be another way to find the healing and growth that I so desperately sought. I was patiently and repeatedly reminded, “Nope! Until you re-frame your stories around vulnerability, you my dear, are going to stay stuck.” Ugh!!
I wanted to resist. Yet, I also knew that I was working with her for this very purpose: to re-wire my relationship to vulnerability.
After a lot of frustration and many laughs particular to the chuckles that sing self awareness, I learned to trust vulnerability. I even allowed my voice to say the word with potency. VULNERABILITY!
Much to my tremendous surprise, I’ve not only let go of my assumption that vulnerability was inextricably linked to weakness and un-safety.
I’ve actually come to feel the that truth vulnerability is my superpower!
Before you roll your eyes or click away – like I might have done a few years back – let me explain just a little bit more…
What I am decidedly NOT talking about: Encouraging people to purposely put themselves in dangerous situations. Ever blaming anyone who has been emotionally or physically harmed, in any way, ever. Even if it appears to you, others, or society that they did, somehow, purposefully put themselves in danger – emotional or physical.
What I AM saying: Getting REAL, RAW, and OPEN are the most powerful ways to create safety and put yourself in the path of receiving protection – emotional and physical. With those whom you love and trust, your vulnerability ups your safety BIG TIME. That doesn’t make vulnerability easy or even comfortable. Vulnerability does not roll with comfort. But goodness does she adore and reward courage.
So within your deepest relationships – with friends, family, and intimate and/ or sexual partners – I ask alongside you, “What am I holding back from expressing primarily because I think it’s “too much” or will reflect that “I’m not good enough?” Then, let’s ASK. Yes, let’s!
Vulnerability is simultaneously scary and also, thankfully, rewarding as sh-t.
So get REAL (and I mean really freaking deep down raw, not just so-so door’s half open stuff). Real and vulnerable is what allows your allies to truly step in and up for you.
To provide some evidence to assuage your skepticism, here are a smattering of my evidentiary truths that vulnerability created deep safety in my life.
Memories, appreciation, and truthful re-wiring of the safety created through genuine vulnerability:
– At age 16, I was convinced I would upset and disappoint. After years of knowing I wasn’t in the right spot for me, I told my parents that I simply couldn’t return to the fancy pants boarding school I had once begged them to to let me attend. I worried, even expected, that they would be angry, upset, and disappointed in me.
However, I was so unhappy that I simply knew I couldn’t go back. The truth was, “I can’t keep doing this. Can you please help me?”
To the contrary of all my fears, in letting my parents in, they were able to hear me. In hearing me, they stepped up super-heroine/hero style and got me back to the school I needed to be at.
Here I further acknowledge the massive privilege I had within this moment of vulnerability. After all, I switched to a different but albeit also fancy pants school. However, the point is that vulnerability steered me into the safety of alignment. For me, one option was soul crushing. The alternative was challenging but aligned.
Were there meanies who judged me for this choice? Yup! But the snickers were washed away by the boundless support of true friends and amazing family. (I’ll always remember the flowers sent to me with a card that read, “We are so proud of you. Love, Your Aunt and Uncle.” Their compassionate support is what is seared into my system. The snickers are distant.)
– At age 32, I joined a mastermind, before I even knew what a mastermind was!
I remember meeting a soul sister for the first time in a little airport in Costa Rica. As we took a tiny plane from a small airport on the mainland to an airplane bus stop on the other side of the ocean, we held hands and cried.
I remember thinking, “She gets me. I’m healing.”
That one honest moment – holding a then strangers hand, letting soft tears release, non-verbally committing ourselves to unconditional love and support of one another – that was the first vulnerability domino that lead to countless more moments of deep, life changing, healing.
Were there meanies who judged me for this choice? Yup! But I don’t easily remember the judgement for joining a mastermind or traveling the world attending mystical retreats. Instead I know, deep within, that these were the vulnerable choices that lead my experience of deepened freedom in my life.
– At age 30: I methodically yet vulnerably stated to my parents, friends, mentors, and family that, “I’m leaving my job to to launch a web platform with porn on it to talk primarily and openly about the importance of women’s masturbation/ solo-sex and female orgasms.”!
Thank you dear vulnerability to connecting me to our beloved O’actually.
Were there meanies who judged me for this choice? Probably:) I mean, I’m sure there must have been, right? And yet my memories of the early days of speaking about O’actually are filled with enthusiastic support. One friend said she could clearly see me on the cover of a business magazine – white shirt, red heels. (Looking forward to that photo-shoot!) My grandmother was alive then and said, “I’m not sure I fully understand it yet. But I love you and I love sex.” Friends I hadn’t spoken to in many years sent messages like, “This sounds really cool and important. Congrats and let me know how I can provide support!”
Support shows up in vulnerability.
It’s that support that keeps us safe from the meanies and elevates our protected growth. Sure, there are the meanies. I’ve honored them here because the pain they cause is real. However, it’s nothing compared to the unimaginable support that comes from the ones who love you AND whom you let in. The power of your exuberant, loving, truthful vulnerability calls in such tremendous support the experience.
Vulnerability will re-wire your system to know that she is YOUR superpower too.
Share with me, where has vulnerability connected you to safety and where are you still in belief that your truth is too dangerous to express?
Thank you for you,
P.S. Keep an eye out for a part 2 here: Truth is Your Teflon.