The Power of Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” 
— Brené Brown

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Pssst – I want to let you in on a secret . . . I’m terrified!

As I was sitting down to write this article, I thought of a few topics: ‘Gratitude for Thanksgiving’ and ‘Joy for Christmas’ and ‘Happiness for the Holidays’ – but what I was honestly thinking is “What the hell do you have to say that is special Patti? It’s all been said before and you are not adding anything special to this world!” I froze after I sat down and decided I’d just look at Facebook on my phone instead of write . . . which of course made me feel worse – because on FB most people look like they have everything is under control . . .

I started wondering where these insecurities came from. My first thought was my mother, a painfully depressed alcoholic. But to be fair, she loved me and encouraged me when I was young. Then I thought about my dad, a ping pong ball of rage and Peter Pan never grow up energy; but actually much of the time, he encouraged me to be audacious and live big.

Yes, both my parents added to this negative messaging that I still carry, but it is absolutely added to and encouraged by our culture. We are so scared of getting cut down if we stand out, or trolled if we are seen saying much of anything online. Perhaps, as Marianne Williamson so eloquently puts it, my deepest fear is my own power.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

* Please note, that that feels rather cringe-worthy to say that I am afraid of my own power. My head is making serious fun of me at the moment . . . But I persist . . .

I have pursued a career of being vulnerable in front of others. I write blog posts and articles that people can read and comment on; I’ve written a book that is subject to people reviewing and saying mean things about; I put myself out there vulnerably. And it just so happens that a new study suggests that we judge ourselves more harshly than others do when we put ourselves out there, so maybe there is validity in my fear.

Professor and author Brené Brown has studied and written about vulnerability in depth:

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we are afraid to let them see it in us,” she writes. “Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.”

In a recent Greater Good article, this phenomenon was explored:

“Participants in a study imagined either themselves or someone else in different vulnerable situations: confessing romantic feelings for a best friend, admitting a costly mistake at work, asking for help from a former boss, or baring their imperfect bodies at a swimming pool. Then, they rated how vulnerable the situation was, and how they evaluated that vulnerability—as an act of strength or weakness, something desirable or something to be avoided.”

They describe as Vulnerability being a “beautiful mess.” Indeed vulnerability comes with some risks, we may be laughed at, made fun of and trolled; but there are rewards as well: We may inspire someone and touch someone’s heart, and ultimately find a beautiful sense of belonging. The research suggests that we may be overestimating the risks and underestimating the benefits.

“Showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside…[but] to others, these acts might look more like courage from the outside,” the researchers write. “It might, indeed, be beneficial to try to overcome one’s fears and to choose to see the beauty in the mess of vulnerable situations.”

One article suggests 7 benefits of vulnerability:
1. You may learn to appreciate the quirks that make you unique.
Being vulnerable may help you embrace all of you, all the things that make you special.

2. You may make peace with troubling memories from your past.
Being vulnerable may help you get rid of some pent-up baggage that bothers you. While it isn’t easy to deal with painful memories, it is better to confront your past than it is to hide from it.

3. You may attract the right kind of people into your life.
Being vulnerable may help you understand what types of people you can most relate to and which ones to avoid.

4. You may find it easier to empathize with the struggles of others.
Being vulnerable can help you develop empathy for others.

5. You might earn the trust of people at work.
Being vulnerable might help you grow closer to the people in your workplace.

6. You may strengthen your bond with your romantic partner.
Being vulnerable will probably help you bond with the person you love most.

7. You will humanize yourself in the eyes of others.
Being vulnerable will help you demonstrate that you are an approachable person. While it isn’t easy to find the courage to reveal our true nature, there is no better way be seen as human and open.

So as I sit down to write this article and hope that no one rolls their eyes at me and tells me that the world would be a better place if I would just shut up, I remind myself of Brené Brown’s words:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

To close, I want to share a great video of Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability. It’s well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. And worth a re-watch if you’ve already seen it.

I’d love to hear about how you embrace vulnerability in your life.
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

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Practice Some Mindful Self-Compassion this Holiday Season!

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

― Jack Kornfield

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The holidays are upon us. Tis the season to be jolly and all that. But for many people, this is the season of stress and depression. People tend to push themselves beyond their limits. Overspending is rampant; people overindulge in food and drink; there is increased stress due to travel and obligatory family get togethers. And often, our sleep suffers and we have less time to recharge our batteries. And then to top it all off, most of us beat ourselves up because we haven’t done enough or haven’t done it right. “Are the presents just right?” “Did I make enough pies?” “Did I make a fool of myself at that party?”

This holiday season, I am committing to a whole new approach. In order to be fully present for my loved ones, I need to take care of me. My plan centers around Mindful Self-Compassion; with an added focus of paying attention to what my body needs.  I describe this plan in my latest article in Thrive Global.

 

 

Thrive Global, by the way, turned One Year Old this month!  Congratulations to the founder Arianna Huffington!  I have been a contributor since the inaugural edition.  If you missed my first article in Thrive Global in December 2016 on Forgiveness, you can read it here.

But back to practicing Mindful Self-Compassion.  If you want to learn about this wonderful topic, look no further than Dr. Kristin Neff. Kristin Neff Phd is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion. She explains that with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. This quote by Neff sums it up pretty well:

“You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.”

This holiday season, by treating myself like I’d treat a loved one, I’m hoping to increase my emotional well-being and resilience. Here’s my plan:

  1. Take time for myself

During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling completely depleted. This holiday season, I plan to take the time each day to check in with myself: “How am I feeling?” “Have I done something good for me today?” This will require setting boundaries with others as well as myself. I don’t have to do everything for everyone these holidays. I commit to taking time to just be; to go on walks and to read. I don’t have to bake the cookies and host the community carolling party. I can choose to stay home and read with a cup of tea instead of joining one more holiday party. Self-care and self-compassion bring me peace and joy, which in turn will allow me to bring peace and joy to those around me.

2. Slow down and meditate

Part of my plan to take care of myself will include making sure I have plenty of time for me, and just plenty of time period. The holiday season tends to be a time of rushing around, hurrying from one event to the next. This year I plan to focus on many mini moments of mindfulness as Andy Puddicombe refers to it in his program, Headspace. And I’ll make sure I make time in my busy schedule to meditate. I know that those 15–20 minutes in the morning make all the difference to the other 23 + hours in the day.

3. Gratitude

I know from experience that when I’m in a place of gratitude everything in my life just works and feels better. Neuroscience has proven that actively practicing gratitude protects your brain from stress and depression. Recent research shows that even just thinking about what I am grateful for increases dopamine and serotonin. But, I’m not just going to think about what I’m grateful for, I commit to writing down three positive things that I’m thankful for every morning in my journal. I have learned that this simple activity trains my brain to be more positive by looking for the good in life rather than the bad. And I plan to share my appreciation too, to articulate my gratitude to others. These simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than that box of chocolates.

4. Eat well and not overindulge

We all know it’s common to put on weight during the holiday season, and then to beat oneself up mercilessly for the next few months. I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. I don’t plan to deprive myself of holiday treats, but I will eat in moderation. And when I do put on those extra holiday pounds, I will be kind to myself in the new year, just like I would a good friend. Instead of berating myself and calling myself fat, I will suggest that perhaps a long walk would be a great idea.

5. Stay Active

And speaking of long walks, I know that exercise is essential to my well being. I will make time this holiday season to go on long walks and do plenty of yoga. I know that physical activity reduces stress, improves my mood and prevents depression. I know this from experience, but the research shows it as well; exercise triggers the same hormones (dopamine and serotonin) in my brain that are targeted by anti-depressant medication. So I know that exercise won’t just help me with those few extra pounds this holiday season, but it will greatly help my mood as well. But you know what, if I miss a couple of days of exercise, I won’t beat myself up about it either!

6. Sleep

Finally, this holiday season I commit to protecting my sleep. There are few things that mess up my health and well-being like poor sleep. I know that not sleeping well leads to stress, irritability and just feeling like crap. A lot of us lose sleep around the holidays, whether it’s from staying out late, overindulging in food, drink and sugar, or over-caffeinating. But I know that the best way for me to be cheerful this holiday season is to get enough sleep.

So this holiday season, I invite you to follow my plan and make a commitment to yourself. Take care of yourself over the holidays and practice some self-compassion. Let’s all remember Soren Kierkegaard’s wise words:

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”

If you want to learn more about how to practice Mindful Self-Compassion, you can find many videos by Kristin Neff on YouTube.

I’ll close this post with one of my favorite videos by her:  Overcoming Objections to Self-Compassion

 

I’d love to hear about how you plan to take care of yourself this holiday season.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.