Vulnerability—that dreaded “V” word, was generally not part of my vocabulary.
I banished it many moons ago when I discovered, or so I thought, that being vulnerable did not really serve me well. The act of being vulnerable led to me feeling even more vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable was an oh so scary space to be in. I felt raw, naked, and exposed there—and sometimes also exploited. In these vulnerable moments, I could feel that “discomfort dial” cranking up, causing me to soon add this to my no-go areas. It was off the scale in the red part of my comfort zone. If I felt even an inkling of this sense creeping up on me, I would hear those metaphorical screeching tires and know that this was my cue to head for the hills.
You get the point.
For me, being vulnerable meant being weak. Not strong, not tough enough, not enough stamina to go the distance or run that race. Being vulnerable meant being exposed and open for attack, and also feeling out of control and helpless. In an effort to protect myself from potential pain and hurt, I boxed up my vulnerability—carefully packing it away and letting it know under no circumstances could it ever rear its ugly little head again.
This plan has served me well, as I have managed to get through in life without that feeling of walking around with no pants on. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that I don’t put myself out there—I am a heart on the sleeve kinda girl. I have, and still do, put my little heart out there, sometimes with or without a risk assessment. It still gets trampled on and squashed and beaten up and bruised, but I
very rarely am left feeling vulnerable. I lose my footing and my ground, I stumble and fall, but I always pick myself up and carry on.
It is what you do, right? It is what you have to do, isn’t it?
Something happened recently that bought me back in contact with that old and dear friend Vulnerability. I was back into my everyday practice of asana and meditation, when bammo— as my teacher Mark Breadner might say, “when your mind rests, the psychology comes up.” Your shit floats to the surface and you have three choices—stuff it back down, numb it with drugs and alcohol, or actually allow it to simply be.
I found myself feeling incredibly vulnerable. That little bad boy was here, looking me in the face and staring me in the eye, sneering at me and like the little doll in that horror movie sniggering “I’m back!” I could analyze why it was coming up, and what was happening for me to fall into this space, but I fought the urge to not get wrapped in the story of the ghosts in my closest.
Instead, I tried to sit with it, to feel it, …to allow it.
Just like the Tibetan proverb, instead of walking down the same road each day and falling into the same hole, I am trying valiantly to walk around the hole—hoping one day, to take a different road altogether.
Here are some of my own tips for taking that different road, and for allowing vulnerability:
1. Recognize the feeling. Do you feel like you are standing naked in a crowd of people? Maybe, you are feeling vulnerable. Identify, what it is that you are feeling—whether it’s sadness, depression, or just feeling used and abused. These feelings are not necessarily ones that may cause you to feel vulnerable, but you can still follow the next steps.
2. Sit with the feeling, don’t rush out and “do” anything. No pill popping or wine pouring, no running marathons or yoga classes (yes, even yoga can be a distraction). Sit with that bad boy. Allow the feelings to come and go.
3. Become aware. Notice the feelings in the body, the tendency to slump the shoulders and protect the heart. Move, sit up straight and open your heart.
4. Breathe. Breathe and then, breathe some more. Keep breathing, allowing the feeling to move with the prana.
5. Cry, sob and wail. Hell, yell the house down if it makes you feel better. Do whatever it is that feels right.
6. Make yourself feel safe. Get somewhere warm and cozy. Seek out a hug from a loved one or friend. Dive under the doona and cocoon yourself. Play your favorite tunes. Cook your favorite meal. Be gentle with yourself.
7. Find the truth. You do have clothes on and you are not in a crowd of people; though, if you are, maybe skip this step.
8. Don’t question it. Do not analyze why you feel like this; don’t engage in the “woe, is me’’s. Just sit with it. Be with it. Allow it. It will pass, you will not die or have your heart ripped from your chest.
9. Observe you. Notice the rawness of this feeling state, and notice how connected you are. Though, this can be hard, it can also be beautiful all in the same breath.
10. Carry it with you. Take it into relationship—share it with a friend, your lover, your cat. Someone who will listen and be supportive.
Maybe being vulnerable will simply help you feel more you. It did for me.
Fleur Carter is yoga lover, nomadic wanderer, coffee drinker, writer and personal development coach. She left her HR corporate gig to follow her dreams of traveling, volunteering and working with people on their personal development and growth. She lives in the north of India, studying Tibetan Buddhism, and dreaming, daring and doing (and helping others do the same).
A qualified Yoga Coach/Instructor (RYT 500) she combines her leadership development and coaching experience with her yoga knowledge to work with individuals and groups supporting them in transformation and change. Dare to live. Connect with Fleur at fleurcarter.com | twitter @fleurcarter or on facebook.
Ed. Tara Lemieux
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