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*Warning: salty language ahead!
“You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” ~ Brené Brown
There is no doubt in my mind that, in Brené Brown’s definition of hustling, I’m a hustler.
Even typing that line gives me a pseudo sense of power. (They’re not kidding when they say old habits die hard.)
I worked hard at my crusty exterior and what it showed the world.
If I had a rand (South African currency) for every time someone told me, “You’re so strong,” I’d be on a yacht in the Caribbean, sipping a mojito and ogling good-looking stewards. (It’s the dream, right?)
I used to find a great deal of satisfaction in being labelled strong—until I became exhausted by my own “strength.”
Until it finally dawned on me that this misguided mentality was, in fact, weakness masquerading as strength, I’d spent most of my life embracing it.
I had found the best way to completely smother my authentic self. Yay, me!
“Don’t ask for help when you can break your back doing it on your own.”
“You can’t trust people because people are shitty and will hurt you.”
“Don’t let anyone ever see you break; don’t give them the goddamn satisfaction.”
“The only person you can ever rely on is yourself.”
Over and over, the narrative played in my head, dominating every decision I had ever made.
The idea of opening myself up to rejection was cripplingly terrifying. But by denying the rejection, I denied the acceptance, the help, the connection, the sense of belonging. We can’t have one without the other.
First up: Accept that You are Worthy
I remember watching the viral TED talk where Brené Brown had explained that during her research into vulnerability, there was one dominant variable in people being vulnerable and people who weren’t: self-worth.
I must have had a “what the fuck?” look on my face at that moment, the wrinkle on my brow deepening.
That’s it? To be more vulnerable, you just need to feel worthy of love and belonging?
The concept is irritatingly simple. And because we are inundated with messages of self-love, it’s lost its luster.
But when we strip away the promotional bullshit and we take a moment—just a small moment to drown out the noise of our lives—can we say with absolute knowing that we feel worthy?
I know that there are many times I ask myself this question, and the knowing feeling of no is always more prevalent than the yes.
Because I don’t do things to nurture loving myself (eating right, exercising, getting good sleep, surrounding myself with the humans who reflect my core values, writing because it just brings me so many good feels), I am less vulnerable.
I feed the crust of me, not the heart of me.
What could you do, right now, to fuel your self-worth? I’m currently writing and loving myself more because of it.
Fighting the Skiddish Tendencies and Knee-Jerk Reactions
It’s easier to be vulnerable with ourselves, to focus on improving our shortcomings. The real test comes in when we are on a good path, a situation pops up, and our immediate, instinctive, goes-against-vulnerability pattern starts to kick in.
Run, hide, avoid, shut down!
It’s often a fast and intense feeling when we have spent so long in a mindset that has been geared toward “protecting” ourselves. And I believe the only real way to conquer this beast is to be conscious of it—fight the hell out of it.
We’re rewiring patterns here, friends, and it’s not something that changes overnight, particularly if it’s been ingrained for years. We have to practice it, write down thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and get in tune with when we are coming from a place of fear or a place of owning our vulnerability.
As an exercise, I did this for a solid day.
I wrote down everything that happened, how it made me feel, and how I reacted. About 80 percent of my day was spent recoiling in fear and disowning vulnerability. It felt momentarily deflating—until I saw it as a good way to gauge what needed some work.
It’s all trial and error until we convince our brains that it’s better in the long-term for us to be more vulnerable, and it isn’t the perceived threat we have made it be in our minds.
Stop Resisting—Start Surrendering
I can always tell when I am approaching a vulnerable moment: my jaw tightens, my eyes dart around, and I’m ready to run back behind my carefully constructed wall and bail.
Our bodies are beautiful things. Where we are holding tension, like how tight our chest feels, is an indicator of how we are psyching ourselves up.
Vulnerability requires surrender. And some moments will be easier than others.
Share that hard truth you aren’t proud of. Don’t fluff a situation to make yourself look better. If you’re embarrassed, be embarrassed. If you’re scared of that rejection and it happens, let it happen. Over time, you will feel more comfortable in those spaces and how to navigate them with grace.
Trust that you can (and will) handle the outcome, no matter what it is
True strength is being able to handle rejection or indifference—to show up as your vulnerable and messy self and, despite the outcome, trusting that you will be strong enough to deal with it. Now, if people called me strong in that sense, I’d take it as a major win.
Vulnerability is always worth the gamble.
Because by blocking out the bad, we do the same for the good. Take the hurt if it presents itself; lick your wounds. And then, when your vulnerability has led to something great, remind yourself of why it’s always worth it.
Realizing you are already hurting yourself with inaction
You are hurting yourself; I am hurting myself. It’s already happening.
It’s one of the most perplexing aspects of human behavior that we feel shutting down will protect us when it, in fact, does the exact opposite.
We have to convince ourselves—mind, heart, and soul—that staying in that place of hurt is more detrimental to our happiness than if we just showed up and were seen. We then have a 50/50 shot at happiness. (Much greater odds than when we live in inaction.)
Do we want to spend our lives as outsiders looking into our own lives? Abso-fucking-lutely not.
Vulnerability is a practice, particularly if you, like myself, have spent more years rejecting it rather than embracing it.
Do we dare to try? Tomorrow, today, right now?
I’m not sure about you, but I’m getting sick of hustling for my own worthiness.