Strength in VulnerabilityDec 18, 2021
For as long as I can remember I have really struggled to let myself be celebrated. Birthdays, graduations, basically any time when the attention will be on me or my accomplishments makes me feel uncomfortable. Likewise, accepting help when offered also has historically made me feel uncomfortable- my mouth reactively turning down most offers for help before my mind has even has a chance to consider it.
What I've come to learn is behind not only these feelings, but also my regular visitor of Imposter Syndrome (something that I have thankfully come to the point of working through and no longer having to deal with it daily), is the fear of being in the spotlight- of having the focus on me. The reason? Because in the harsh light of the spotlight, everything is laid bare for scrutiny. Yes, my talents and skills but also my faults, my past shortcomings, the default network of how my brain works and how I react when under stress. Everything.
In the process of being fearful of these self perceived failings, on many occasions I lost the opportunity to lean into the good things about myself. Not only that, but I also found myself unconsciously building walls around what I perceived to be the bad things. These became hyper sensitive triggers for me that in my haste to try and hide, I actually made even more reactive. So, not only was I not allowing myself to be vulnerable, I was actually actively fortifying myself against the world.
Hence the struggle to allow myself to be celebrated or helped.
In the years since burning out, a time in my life that was so transformational because quite simply, I no longer had the opportunity to turn down help as I was so visibly broken, I have gone on a long and winding journey to make friends with not only my present but also my past selves. Those areas of fortification have become prompts to reflect on after they appear during the stillness of meditation. My difficulty in receiving help or praise, no longer a heavily fortified button just ready to explode, now a chance to reflect- "why is it that I find this so hard?".
I'm not perfect, few (if any) of us are. I still struggle with all this and more. But my return to a baseline of self compassion is shorter. Homeostasis restored in minutes to hours rather than days to weeks.
Just as the Japanese art of Kintsugi celebrates the fault lines in beautiful pieces of pottery, so too have I come to see my own fault lines not as something to hide away and fortify against the world, but rather the story of my life. Each line a lesson and reminder of all that I have learnt along the way. Each crack no longer a sign of being broken but symbolic of the strength of re-building.
Even though I still stumble sometimes- my default mode jumping in to protect me like the hypervigilant guard dog it is- I am no longer afraid of being vulnerable. In fact, by removing the armour, I have ironically become stronger. More dynamic and flexible, able to respond to situations and opportunities with more calm.
People can't trigger an Ego that forgives and embraces all iterations of itself.
Therein lies the strength to be found in vulnerability.
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