True Power Lies Beyond Vulnerability

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I remember the first time I experienced a “vulnerability hangover.”

I remember the exact date, to be exact.  It was January 1, 2013.

I had been blogging for nearly 2 years, sharing our adventures in sailing and minimalism.  I had quit Facebook and started corresponding with friends via e-mail.  These interactions were a huge part of my journey, and each of these friends pushed me to break away from the script given to us by society and realize the life that I actually wanted to live.

As these friends encouraged me, I began to see how the impressions I had of myself–the beliefs I had about who I was and what I was capable of–were severely limiting me.  I wrote one friend a long e-mail about what I thought to be the source of my self-doubts, and with their encouragement, turned it into my “New Year’s Eve post.

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And it was after writing this post that the hangover came.

I was afraid of what people would say after reading my post.  How would they judge me?  I was convinced that I was secretly a head case, and if those around me agreed, wouldn’t that mean what I was?

I was afraid to go back to work, after growing and changing so much on break.  I wanted to live life differently, but that would mean taking more risks, and risking losing the security that I thought I had.

I was afraid of how much I trusted my e-mail friends.  They believed in me, and I was addicted to their attention.  If they stopped writing me, if they decided I was a headcase, if they decided I was too clingy–what would that mean about me?

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I was vulnerable in so many ways.

It was during this time that one of my friends e-mailed me a link to Brene Brown’s TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.”  I watched it and responded with, “How did this lady get inside my head?”

Brown told of her own journey through perceived unworthiness, and in the end she asserted that the way to find our own worthiness is by being willing to be vulnerable.  And, to be true, vulnerability was an important part of my journey at that time.  I stopped hiding in the shadows, and made some bold choices to share, to risk judgement, and to break free from the seemingly “secure” life I had been living for 10 years.

Like Brown, my journey involved two years of therapy (and counting!  Because I want to continue to grow).  But rather than learning to embrace my vulnerability, I learned to grow beyond it, to see that I was only vulnerable BECAUSE I did not understand my own worth.  The reality is that nobody can hurt us, even if they do “judge.”  Judgements show truth about the judge and their insecurities, not about us.  When we perceive ourselves as lacking, then we use other people’s words as evidence to support our limiting beliefs.    Everything is interpreted as being about us.  This is what causes us to think that we are vulnerable at all.

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As my journey continued, I saw that I was not vulnerable.  That even actions that seemed to be about me, were not.

  • Nobody acted any differently toward me.  But if they had, that wouldn’t mean there was something wrong with me, or that I was a headcase.  It would mean that sometime from my experience triggered a fear in the other person, that they were misunderstanding.
  • There has been a natural ebb and flow in my online friendships, just like there is with friendships in “real life.”  And some of this has even been initiated by me, because I’m not needing that constant positive feedback anymore.  I rejoined Facebook, so we could stay in touch without spending time writing lengthy e-mails.  All of that is fine, and I understand that if people are choosing to spend more time doing other activities, it means nothing about me.
  • Some friends have chosen not to stay in touch.  In fact, some of the people I confided the most to, who gave me the most support during the most difficult times, have drifted away.  And yet, I understand that this means nothing about me.  They are on their own journey and always have been.
  • In not “needing” anything from those around me, I also do not “need” them to be a certain way or choose to do or say anything in particular.  They are free to be as they are, and I no longer try manipulate my relationships in an effort to meet my own needs.
  • I am slowly working my way away from the illusion of security.  I am learning that I don’t need my life to be a certain way either.  As I have discovered my own worth, I am learning that everyone and everything can be how it is.

So what does this all mean?  It means that you should embrace your vulnerability.  Be willing to step out there and take risks.

But then, look around and start to see that you are not taking a risk at all.

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20 thoughts on “True Power Lies Beyond Vulnerability

  1. Fabulous Post! It is difficult to realise that whatever is being said about us has nothing to do with us. I have embraced Anthony Hopkins’ words: “What you think about me is none of my business…” That and “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. These two quotes are repeated in my head every time I feel that I “think” I’m not being accepted as I am or that someone wants to drag me into their drama…

    • I love that quote, Dale! And, yes, I think about it often. When people are “judging,” saying things that don’t make sense, etc. It’s a lot easier to avoid drama when we realize it isn’t about us. 🙂

    • Life has just offered me a chance to get stronger and granted me a super occassion where I could put to good use the thoughts of this post and comments. And I’m simply unable not to smile at the thought of the “circus / monkey” picturesque wisdom, even in the middle of an emotional storm. Thanks again! ❤

  2. Hello Beth, Great post! One of the things I like about aging (I’m 70) is some of the wisdom that’s come with it. I seldom concern myself with what others think – life is too short for that. I’ve also come to embrace more seredipty and less structure.
    Cheers, Carol

    • More serendipity and less structure…That’s a challenge for me for sure, Carol! 😉 I’m slowly learning not to plan out my every move. Planning is seldom helpful.

  3. I love this blog, and the comments too, thank you! 🙂 ❤

    This “circus” sentence made me laugh, so let me share my “clever sentences” in this topic:

    “We are all brothers and sisters, but not 7 billion identical twins.”
    “I do not need anyone’s permission to look at life the way I do.”
    “Intelligent people do not litter their environment with all kinds of trash, and for the rest: it’s forbidden!” 😀

  4. PS.
    I read a few posts earlier about drinking chamomil tea, and I just share this info that I was advised by a fitotherapist not to drink chamomil tea on a daily basis (only just ocassionally or when sick with stomach problems and/or flu like illnesses). Because chamomil is more of a stronger natural medicine rather than a tea for daily enjoyment, and instead she recommended rosehip, elder-flower, lime-blossom, mallow (malva), rooibos for frequently drank herbal teas because these are mild herbs (cc. one teabag a day per person from each is totally safe, so there is a variation I can chose from daily, and if I put the teabag into a jug and not a cup: it’s still tasty, but than it makes 3 or 4 cups.)
    Love, Ildi

  5. What a beautifully written post!

    It’s so true, we can gain so much in life by embracing our vulnerability. Often times it stops us from doing the things we dream of doing. So many great things can come from putting yourself out there!

  6. I think we find the people we need when we need them most. After both parties receive what they need from the relationship it could very well be time to move on. I remember well your post and thought no less of you upon reading it. I also recall your freak out after and understood it well because it is very hard to admit our perceived shortcomings. By opening up and old wound we then have to deal with the pain all over again from the perspective of our current age and situation. But it’s still hard.

    I’m so happy for you and your growth. keep in touch, from time to time, Okay?

  7. Hi Bethany! I just realized I hadn’t gotten one of your posts in forever. Some how I must have dropped off your list or then ended up in spam. No matter. As you said, we all go through changes both on and off line and sometimes accepting the ebb and flow of that is exactly what needs to happen. I’m glad to read this and hear you are doing so good. Learning, growing, writing…looking forward to reading more. ~Kathy

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