Regardless of my resistance to wanting to write about this, I knew I was nourishing my soul every time I reached to read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.
I was reaffirming something I already knew and needed to be reminded of. I was learning something completely new, or fascinating, or I was connecting to the author, to her experiences and well, to her own vulnerability.
The word itself brings immediate pangs of loss of control right to my chest. To me, it feels just like that. No control over how I am perceived. How I feel leads to swelling fear. Fear of the unknown. Scared.
There was an interesting point in the book about how vulnerability comes up when we are most happy—which rings very true for me. I will be in a moment of what feels like utter bliss. I am laughing with my friends on a beach without a care in the world, or looking into the eyes of the love of my life, and just when I find myself getting swept away in the moment my ego makes itself known.
What if Jordan dies before me? What if we all never get together again? It’s going to be so hard to go home. Time is going by so fast. My vulnerability annihilates the moment. My thoughts take a sour turn and suddenly anything good I feel I no longer deserve. And it is so easy to tuck it away.
I don’t want to tell anyone what makes me feel weird or different or strange. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad or transplant my bad feelings onto them. I become so dominated by my ego that I would never think, “Hmmm, maybe I’m not the only one who feels this way some of the time?”
The resounding message from “Daring Greatly” that resonated with me was this idea that we are not alone in the emotions and experiences which make us feel vulnerable. It is a mind-blowing and life changing concept to realize that we are all connected and we are all the same.
Though it sounds like a blanket and somewhat of a bullshit statement, going a little deeper, it couldn’t be more true. As human beings, at the root of it all, we all need love and connection. Circumstances, controllable and sometimes not, may veer us to rebel against this thought. People may say or act like connection is the last thing they need. They can harden and resist.
But as we peel back the layers of our experience, a desire for love and connection rests in our hearts. To come from this place of understanding is a new and evolving facet of my character and beliefs.
We are one, we are the same.
Recognizing we all need the same things helps to remove ego, anger, frustration and fear with others. Discord with people becomes a workable challenge. You see the projection of other people’s emotion as a reflection of them and not you. Life becomes more about spiritual connection instead of the personal, all about you.
The most raw, open and real embodiment I have seen of this way of thinking and vulnerability was watching the courageous Jessica Upchurch, who mere weeks after having lost her drug addicted daughter to suicide, taught yoga to a group of recovering drug addicts. It was unbelievable.
To step in to such a role so soon after something like that was a massive surprise to me.
To see the compassion and space she held for the students in front of her, as well as her deceased daughter, with poise, grace and empowerment was like nothing I had ever seen before.
As tears poured down my face, I watched vulnerability recycle into selfless love. With ease, her vulnerability wrapped me up in what truly mattered in life.
In the car on the way to class I had been nervously contemplating in my head whether or not I taught yoga well enough. Was I good enough? Far along enough in my yoga teaching? What if I was a terrible yoga teacher? Had this whole thing been a joke to think I could be a yoga teacher?
Jessica Upchurch sucker punched me without knowing it. Life, teaching, sharing energy and growth isn’t just about me. Her ability to find peace in loss and expose her vulnerability, turning it into empowerment for others, was unbelievable. She shared her vulnerability and exposed me to a new and different perspective on what vulnerability is about.
In reading Daring Greatly and seeing the parallels between my learning and experiences, I can see the more vulnerable we are with one another the more we can connect. Communicating through connection and a place where we are all the same opens us up to take on vulnerability.
We have a choice. We can take the weight of our own personal trials and tribulations that lead to our vulnerabilities and zero in on them in a way that is only about ourselves or, the other conscious choice we can make is to allow our vulnerability to be an opportunity to connect and work through how we feel.
Coming from a place of connection with others allows us to overcome avoidance, numbing and feeling the need to protect ourselves in the skin of who we really are. Letting the idea we are not alone in our basic human disposition leads to a place of empowerment through vulnerability instead of fear.
Through Brene Brown’s research, it was interesting to see the patterns and expectations men and women are held to and place upon themselves when it comes to vulnerability and how they ‘should’ be. Between society’s roles and our own personal perceptions, the amount of pressure on our shoulders of who we are expected to be is insane.
Though I could relate to the roles of women, like we have to be the prettiest, skinniest and best mothers ever, I was fascinated with how repressed men felt about emotion.
The examples she gives of the male experience, particularly a man who was discouraged by his father to stop painting, and other examples of men either stuck in, punching out of or ignoring the box, gave me incredible perspective on how men are not allowed to freely feel. When I look at the influential men in my life and their ability to handle emotion, I see the influence of an emotionally repressive mindset and culture inflicted upon them.
As for the men in my life, I can see the emotions they carry by way of their words and actions—or lack thereof. Their dad’s didn’t spend hours talking about feelings or asking them how they felt when they had a bad day or their feelings were hurt.
You take it like a man.
You suck it up.
It doesn’t release.
The roles in which men are pushed into are not ones they choose, rather they are ones given to them.
As a woman, I have the tendency to almost over-share and over-express my emotion when it comes to how I feel. I have a best friend and mentor in my mother who takes all the good and bad coming out of my mouth. I will over-analyze and nitpick and express until I literally am told to stop.
Going deeper and deeper into Daring Greatly the more I embraced its relevance in my own life. As a sensitive and emotional human being, my awareness is constantly heightened by the thought of other people around me. The ebb and flow of relationships that have come and gone in my life have given me the most heightened vulnerability of all. If someone had something nasty to say behind my back, or didn’t want to be my friend anymore, the problem always came back to me.
I wasn’t good enough.
I wasn’t worth it.
I wasn’t worth having as a friend.
I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough or relevant enough.
I was deserted in this place of all the reasons why I wasn’t worth being loved or cherished. The incredible support of the incredible friendships that were booming with unconditional love would be overshadowed by a loss letting everyone know I wasn’t worth it.
The ‘pay off’ was hiding by letting everyone know how ‘different’ I was. I just didn’t fit in; I was weird and unique and could just expect to be alone. If I said it first, then no one else could say it to me. I figured I was outsmarting everyone before they could beat me to the punch. The feedback that hurt and the friendships I mourned were all my fault.
Oh, the self-centric ways of being sensitive are exhausting, aren’t they?
Through the incredible gift Daring Greatly, through my experience of inquiry and realization and through my five months in teacher training, I realized none of these things were ever really about me.
People’s journeys and their levels of self-actualization are different, but we all just want to feel connected.
I can now look at situations and the people who have come into my life and see ways in which they were hurting. Maybe I was an easy target. Maybe it was entirely about something else and had nothing to do with me. I didn’t have to take it personally. I didn’t have to focus on the negative when someone left me confused or pinched my heart with their words. I could simply recognize where that person was, have faith in myself and the universe and know everything that should be drawn to and part of my life will be. I am constantly a work in progress. I have endless ways to grow and the abundance of love and support I have on this journey—and the connection I can choose to have with all people along the way—is plenty.
It’s enough actually. And that is what I have learned.
I am enough.
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Assistant Ed: Dana Pauzauskie/Ed: Sara Crolick