There is a word that keeps popping up all around me. I heard it on Super Soul Sunday when Oprah interviewed Brené Brown. I read it in an article in the Inner Tapestry, a free healing paper that I happened to pick up at The Graduate Institute last month. And, I live it nearly every day. That word is “vulnerable.” Although the mention of the word sends shivers down my spine, I have come to realize that it just might be the key to a healthy life. Living exposed, owning up to all the insecurities that we spend so much time covering up, stripping away all the niceties, and ultimately cutting to the core of who we really are – that is what vulnerability is all about – and it is not for the faint of heart.
When I first launched this site I was incredibly vulnerable. It felt a little like that classic nightmare where you show up to school naked. Admitting to autoimmune disease was not easy for me at first. But, like everything challenging in life, it got easier with time and with the consistent and often surprising support of others. I am overwhelmed with a feeling of interconnectedness when I share pieces of my personal struggles with others (as I often do in this blog). In fact, at times I can’t keep my mouth shut about what a mess I am. Heck I declared to an auditorium full of people that I had suffered from debilitating anxiety attacks. And, you know what? No one looked at me with pity or disgust. In fact, after it was over people I didn’t even know approached me with the glimmer of recognition on their faces. One older gentleman looked at me with such a sense of knowing that tears welled in my eyes as he slowly shook his head with approval and said “good job.” Others embraced me openly saying things like, “you are not alone.” It was abundantly clear to me that the core thread that connects us all as humans is how beautifully broken we all are. We can’t be afraid to express that – not if we want to be fully healthy and whole.
Vulnerability bares a remarkable similarity to another phenomenon that we so deeply cherish – freedom. We speak so passionately about being free, yet many of us live in self-imposed prisons. We pretend we are perfect, or we strive for an existence that appears as perfect as possible. We may even convince ourselves that such a reality could exist. That belief is by far the greatest failure. It is living a lie. And, that lie can do unspeakable damage. Think of the wound that you keep tightly bandaged. It will eventually need oxygen before it can ultimately heal. Being vulnerable is like ripping off that dirty old bandage in one quick pull. The act is scary, and it hurts at first, but once it is exposed the wound can begin to heal.
“When we remain vulnerable, when we remain connected to our feelings, then the feelings will move through us instead of getting stuck in us. When feelings get stuck, stress and illness results. Dare to be vulnerable, embrace all that comes your way because of your vulnerability, and lean into it, and then let it pass through you.”
So be honest with yourself and others. Admit that you can and do make mistakes. Accept that you are and always will be an imperfect human. Love yourself unconditionally, and surround yourself with others who do so as well. This is what being vulnerable is all about. It is scary at times, but in my opinion it is the only way to truly live. So I ask again – are you vulnerable?