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Tag: vulnerability

Worry.

Worry.

I’ve been thinking a lot about worry. I’m thinking that it has to be one of the worst emotions. Sadness, pain, rejection – these are all emotions that are felt after an event occurs. Worry is really just anxious anticipation of something bad possibly happening. It’s an unnecessary evil, but also human nature.

I used to think that a little worry was a good thing. It meant that you deeply cared about something enough to actually worry about it. But now, I feel like nothing good comes from worrying. Feeling worry makes me feel worse about everything else too. It’s like all of my insecurities become elevated. And stress is just another form of worry.

Worry doesn’t actually prepare you for the pain, rejection, or sadness that a traumatic event invokes. We worry as a defense mechanism thinking it will ease negative affects, when really, it seems to almost invite things to go wrong. How many times have you reacted with, “I knew something bad was going to happen”?

I’m a big believer in mind over matter, and I truly believe in the Buddha saying “What we think, we become.” I’ve seen this ring true in my own life and in the lives of people close to me.

Everything in life takes work. So while I would like to say, try not to worry and let the chips fall where they may. It’s not that easy. There really is power in positive thinking, and we need to turn that worry into faith, hope and/or prayer.

We may not have the ability to control the outcomes of things in our lives, but we do have the ability to control how we feel about them. Sometimes that means owning our pain and sometimes that means changing our thinking. But this takes a lot of work and practice. We have to self-reflect enough to be self-aware, so we can self-control.

And this is just as much of a reminder for me, as it is for you.

Courage.

Courage.

I was reading through some of my old blog posts, and this one proved to be a good reminder of equating vulnerability with weakness.  When I read the statement, my mind instantly conjured up the image:

vulnerability = weakness
vulnerability = courage

I recently took two risks, one right after the other.  The outcome for each was not what I wanted.  And truthfully, I’m still in recovery.

The first was personal, and I was terrified to make the move.  The first few days, I felt totally rejected.  I cried multiple times and spent the weekend hunkered down in my house. I even worried I was falling into depression again.  This outcome hit me hard.

Courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.”

The second was professional, however the premise behind the conflict was very personal.  I considered withdrawing, because I was fearful. Since the outcome did not fall in my favor, again, I felt rejected.  My feelings were hurt.

Courage is “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

Recovery is a process. While time has passed, and I’m feeling better, I’m not 100% myself again.  But I won’t ever be 100% the person I was before these incidents occurred. I will have grown.  I will have learned, and I will come out a better person because of them.

My goal for this year was to embrace courage.  As 2018 nears a close, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on how I’ve stood up to my courageous goals.  Often we think of courageous acts in life-changing decisions and bold moves, but courageous acts occur in much of our daily activities.  It can be as simple as voicing your opinion when your opinion is in the minority.

While you may not be able to control the outcome of certain situations, there is empowerment in the risk of being vulnerable.  It’s not the result that defines the person; it’s how you handle the process and the aftermath.  It’s finding the benefit in every situation, even if the only benefit you can find is growth.

They say that you should find comfort in the uncomfortable.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I’m actually starting to accept uncomfortable as a new norm. I’m starting to embrace it in some situations, like introducing myself to new people.  This simple gesture is something that has terrified me in the past.  Being courageous during those small moments of vulnerability, I’ve developed new contacts, built my network, found mentors, and made friends.

Focusing on the benefit brings empowerment to vulnerability.  For my two situations, I knew that no matter the outcome, I was going to learn from both.  While it didn’t make either any easier to endure, and although I’m still not quite “over” them, it’s made it a little easier to move on.  Right now, I’m just feeling the side effects.  I’m assessing and self-reflecting, which means I’m growing.  So maybe the next time I take a similar risk, the blow will be a little less hard.

Braving the Wilderness – Part 4

Braving the Wilderness – Part 4

Brown explains that we tend to put on an “armored front” for two reasons:

  1. We’re not comfortable with emotions and equate vulnerability with weakness
  2. Traumatic experiences taught us vulnerability is dangerous

These resonated with me.  As I’ve shared in previous posts, I have a fear of vulnerability, but I never really considered myself to have an “armored front.”  I always considered myself pretty open with people, except when I’m not…

Here are some examples:

Vulnerability in Dating:  I personally feel like I will come off as needy and desperate if I express interest in someone first.  Even if I do express interest, it’s so nonchalantly that it’s not taken seriously.  Then I will not continue to pursue it in the fear of coming off too strong.  What I realized is that my insecurities in dating do come from traumatic experiences.

The summer before my freshman year, my sister kissed a boy that I had been crushing on.  They both knew I had a crush, and he was a friend.  I felt betrayed by both.  I felt he had played me to get to her.  I remember what my sister said when I confronted her about it: “Don’t tell mom.”  And I didn’t, until years after the fact.  I was completely devastated, and I had to go through it alone.

This experience (and others) has shaped my view of how to initiate new relationships: It never works out when I like someone first.  If I express interest first, I still have weariness and disbelief that he can return that interest.  But when a guy expresses interest first, I feel like he is upfront with his intent.  It’s less intimidating to let my guard down, when he’s been vulnerable first.

Vulnerability in Expression:  I am terrified of sharing my creative work, especially my writing.  I would rather hunker down in my bunker than to receive criticism over something I believe or experienced. First step was putting it on the web.  I have yet to share the link with family and friends, aside from my one dedicated reader (Hi, Mom!).

I have not personally received criticism, so I don’t have first-hand traumatic experience.  But we see it play out all the time on the web.  I’m afraid that my opinion, my belief, will cost me my job, my friends, or even cause me to receive threats.  But I also know that without risk, there is no reward.  One day, I will have to muster up the courage to be vulnerable and share my work, but even the “one day” scares me.

These are just two examples, but in thinking it over, I’m not as open as I thought I was.

One day I was talking with some guy friends who were teasing me about being single.  I played along with it.  Then one said something that hit a nerve, and it was all I could do not to let the tears fall.

If I had said, “Guys, can we not talk about this?” when they started off, I could have avoided the whole issue.  But I didn’t realize how much it bothered me, until the one comment triggered hurt.  Playing along was a defense mechanism all along.  Because if I had to say, “Can we not talk about this?” they would know that it’s a sensitive subject.  I would have had to of been vulnerable in that moment, but that little bit of courage up front could have saved me from pain down the conversation.

My point with that story is that because I was willing to poke fun at myself, I misinterpreted playing along as letting my guard down and being open.  What I was really doing was trying to shield myself from them knowing how I actually feel about being single.

In analyzing my own behaviors, I realized that I wear armor more often than I originally thought.  A lot of self-reflection goes into braving the wilderness.  You have to be acutely aware of yourself in order to experience true belonging.

Braving the Wilderness – Part 3

Braving the Wilderness – Part 3

In all that I’ve been reading in Braving the Wilderness, I feel like there’s one thing that has been left out: empathy.  But I don’t think it is so much left out as it is actually implied.  And I really don’t think that people are as empathetic as they probably think they are.

Definition of empathy

1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner;  also the capacity for this

Brown talks of her research and says we need to “show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection.”

I was at my cousin’s wedding shower recently.  She was so touched by a certain gift that she was brought to tears.  I wanted to cry watching her cry.  In that moment, I could almost feel exactly what she was feeling.  We connected in that moment, and I felt for her.  And I wasn’t the only one.  Looking around the crowd, you could just tell that others connected with her in that moment too.

But we must understand our own feelings before we can understand the feelings of others, before we can empathize.  Brown says that “we must own our pain.”  Pain builds character.

Do you ever have those moments when you don’t want people to cheer you up, when you just want to be pissed off?  I would say that is good!  Feel that anger!  Feeling it is the only way you work through it.  Working through our emotions is how we understand our feelings.  But you know what it takes to own our pain?  Courage to be vulnerable.

When we empathize with one another in the collective moments, we connect as humans.  And that’s really what life is all about.

Courage.

Courage.

Last year, I spent a lot of time learning and reflecting on vulnerability and human connection.  I admitted that I have a fear of being vulnerable.

For the last couple of years, I hid behind the excuse of school.  My responsibilities were overwhelming and my stress level often through the roof.  Minor things set me off.  I felt like much of my life was on hold, because I couldn’t handle more.  It was my choice to prioritize life this way, and I accepted it as it was.

I no longer have this excuse protecting me from my fears, and it’s only coincidental that this new phase of life aligns with the New Year.  As last year’s focus was on vulnerability, I want to focus this year on courage.

Muhammad Ali said,

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you.  And if I’m being honest, there’s a lot that frightens me.

You can’t have reward without risk, and it’s overcoming obstacles that give our life meaning.  For me, it takes courage to overcome all sorts of things: showing up to an event alone where I don’t know anyone, sharing my work with others, introducing myself to someone new, and being vulnerable enough to welcome new relationships and new opportunities.

During one of my leadership programs this past year, we met each month and set aside a portion of the meeting to discuss our successes.  As humans, we tend to focus on the negative and our small accomplishments often go unnoticed.  It’s become very important to me to recognize the small victories in day to day life.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reflecting on those victories in the occasions that I exhibited courage.  I realized that I exhibit courage far more than I ever thought, especially in minor situations.

Hopefully by recognizing my small courageous successes, it will help me feel more confident in taking bigger risks.  When you take the time to reflect on the progress you have made, it makes the goal a little less intimidating.