Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we'll ever do.
- Brené Brown.
I once had a long- kept secret. I didn't reveal it to my mom, to my best friends, or to anyone. I didn't share it because that would make it real, and I was in denial. I felt very alone in my struggle. But it was real, and it was truly exhausting containing it. Eventually my secret was exposed. I was exposed. And you know what? It was good thing.
No more hiding.
I was free.
Since that time, I have learned to share more of myself - the good, the bad, the ugly. It was so freeing that I would never have to uphold the facade of perfection again. Oddly, as much as I felt a little more broken - at the same time, I felt more WHOLE. So much so that it got me thinking about how much to share, with whom, why, and can everyone handle our vulnerability?
I guess the answer is yes, no, maybe, and it depends.
I am a huge fan of the work of Brené Brown, who has one of the most watched TED talks ever on vulnerability. She is also the author of several books, including Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, and she speaks of the vulnerability paradox as: "The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I'm willing to show you. In you, it's courage and daring. In me, it's weakness."
Vulnerability is a big theme in my life. I think about it a lot. It takes a lot of courage and can be scary - but it is the only way to be truly connected to ourselves and others. One of the hardest things I had to admit recently that I was feeling lonely. Despite having friends that I see on a regular basis, there just wasn't always enough time for the deep and meaningful conversations that I crave. I was missing my mom. And my husband was distracted. We both were - trying to be parents to three kids and making time for the things we are passionate about. I wasn't ready to own up to this quite yet. But when I did finally admit it (with my therapist's help), I felt relieved. I even remembered how much I like being alone (just not all the time).
We may fear being judged or being truly seen - warts and all. In my experience, I have found that I was my own worst critic, and if someone else is judging me harshly, they usually have their own unresolved issues. When I have found myself in that place of judging others and I look into my own heart, I often realize that it is place of growth for me. As it turns out, the judgments we expect to receive from others are actually coming from within. It's our own soul work to be done.
For me, whether or not I share pieces of me, is a gut feeling. It has helped me guide who I want in my life. If I feel called to share of myself, I will. I tend to avoid people who don't show up as their "real" selves. But if something is holding me back, I have learned to listen more closely to my intuition. It has saved me from what is called a "vulnerability hangover." Those moments when you are just kicking yourself for oversharing with the wrong person at the wrong time.
Recently, I attended a spiritual workshop in NYC as a stepping stone in becoming a spiritual teacher. So many of the women and a handful of men shared their stories. But I could not make myself get up and talk. Using my voice in public is a place of fear for me. As I looked further into my reluctance, I realized I was not in a place of giving - of being vulnerable. This weekend, I was there to receive and to listen. Besides it was a big group (over 300 people), and I wasn't even sure what I wanted to share. I did walk with away with some regret, because I know most of my connections have begun as I share more and more of myself.
“And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.”
― Erica Jong
As much as I didn't feel like sharing, I also didn't want to take up too much time with my story. I was playing small and not feeling all that worthy. I questioned everything. "How would I be received? What if my story is boring? (It's not). I thought I might be judged - and the space I was in this weekend, I couldn't risk it. But hearing other's stories, I was reminded of a person's total beauty in expressing vulnerability. Seeing and appreciating another's humanness unites us all. It's healing.
As Brené discovered in her research and I discovered in my own life, we have to know our value and believe in our worthiness. This isn't always an easy thing depending on the environment that we grew up in - and the investment we have made in our own growth. It all begins with noticing our patterns, especially how we numb and distract in an effort to avoid those seemingly undesirable parts of our lives. We all do it.
There are always a thousand reasons to not feel good enough.
As with everything, it's a process. Some days we feel good. Some days we want to share. And some days we don't. I have found that the most important thing is to be aware, to be honest, to feel safe, and to know that you are enough.
Repeat these words often, "I AM ENOUGH. I AM WORTHY. I AM LOVE."
Reveal yourself - wholeheartedly.