Here’s a little confession. At the beginning of my lockdown journey, I have been keeping busy as a way to avoid my emotions. The fear, the uncertainty.
I do not like to admit, and I do not like to feel like I am showing my weakness.
This piece is slightly hard to write as it’s a very vulnerable one. It’s hard to admit that, after all those years, I still struggle to find a real balance and listen to myself.
Whenever I work I give 1000% to my people. I know deep in my heart the reason I am here today is to serve others.
Yet, whenever I draw back the curtain, my body is washed off by exhaustion in very creative ways, and I am not proud to recall it, but once I turned blind for half a day from exhaustion – just not to face my emotions.
When thinking about this, I realised I felt ashamed of sharing my experience, something that sounds anything but rational.
Yet shame is something incredibly real, and it’s deeply rooted in our feeling of belonging.
As “social animals,” we’re wired to seek the company of others.
Belonging to a group has always been crucial to our survival.
In the Stone Age, for example, group members would attack any intruders to protect each other, and being part of a group meant protection and overall support.
This reframes shame by attaching it to a core belief that we’re not worthy of the love, connection and belonging that we need to survive.
We are constantly giving, constantly chasing, forever trying to be one step ahead of the game. We live so much of our lives online, we’re constantly presenting ourselves and our lives to the public.
Security and comparison can easily rule our lives on and offline as we live in constant fear that we’re not, or we don’t have, enough.
When appreciating I felt shameful about sharing my weaknesses, I realized I was fighting against my inner desire to just be vulnerable.
Yet, vulnerability gets such a bad rep these days.
We’ve been raised in a world where being vulnerable is associated with failure and disappointment, while success and strength are considered more important than connecting with our feelings.
What if you could turn vulnerability into your superpower instead?
Vulnerability as a superpower
Being vulnerable simply means you have the capacity to experience emotions — which in itself, is neither good or bad.
How you tap into your vulnerability will make all the difference.
One of the best students of vulnerability is Brené Brown.
In her talks and books she argues that, if we expose ourselves, it means we make ourselves vulnerable. It also means that we’re being courageous as it’s easier to avoid all possibility of failure than to take a risk.
For instance, Brené Brown was extremely fearful of speaking publicly about her research, terrified of exposing herself to the audience.
But by doing it regardless, and thus embracing her vulnerability, she was being courageous, not weak.
The moments we feel most connected to others are usually those in which we opened up to someone and experienced their empathy.
As one study mentioned in Daring Greatly demonstrated, people who believed themselves to be invulnerable to the persuasive power of advertising were, in fact, the most susceptible to it.
Participants claiming to be unaffected by commercials responded more to them than those who acknowledged their own suggestibility.
Lessons in vulnerability
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” — Brené Brown
Stepping in our power means appreciating that our self-care and wellbeing is our responsibility.
I know that vocalizing my shame and honoring it allows me to step beyond my perceived limitations.
Since we feel shame only when we fear others’ opinions of us, we can become resilient to it by reaching out.
In doing so, others can then understand our fears and emotions, leading them to empathize with us, and we can then replace any feelings of shame with those of received empathy.
As I am feeling a lot more like myself today, let me tell you: stepping into your real power sometimes means to rest and honor your own fears.
As Brene Brown said:
“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”
If we generate enough self-compassion, we’re able to endure shameful experiences not only without feeling crushed, but to also emerge on the other side as more engaged and courageous. It’s okay not to be okay – they say.
By being able to reach out and look for comfort, community and support, I have been able to overcome the obstacles and challenges my mind posed to me.
Read more about how vulnerability can turn into a transformative experience