When I say that word, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it’s weakness, being soft, opening yourself up to being hurt. For me, for most of my life it’s been all that and “Ewwww! Yuck! No way!” After all, I’m a warrior woman. I’m an incredibly strong person who comes from a long line of survivors who have endured all kinds of hardship through war, Communism, loss, illness, betrayal, abuse, you name it, we endured it.
And that strength has certainly served me. All that made me the tough, courageous person I am today and has allowed me to create a lot in the world. I’ve accomplished quite a bit in my life – successes in school, going to an Ivy League college, getting my Ph.D., traveling the world, rising to positions of leadership in my career, healing myself of Lyme Disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and so much more. I inspire people every day with my strength, my tenacity, my fearlessness.
What I’ve come to realize, however, is that in order to create the life I’d actually like to have, the one that I know is greater than beyond my wildest imagination, I can’t muscle and force my way to it. I tried that, and ended up burning myself out so much I made myself sick. Getting sick forced me, for the first time, to really get vulnerable and ask for help. I had to take a deep and honest look at the traumas, faulty belief systems and unresolved pain I had pushed down and locked into my body so I could remain “strong” and push forward. Becoming more vulnerable made me realize that I’m not a superwoman, I can’t carry my and everyone else’s burdens, I don’t have all the answers and I can’t do it all on my own. Ouch. It was a hard and painful lesson to learn.
And while I was able to lower some walls and barriers and receive more in life as a result, my resistance to being vulnerable has continued in other forms. Recently, my mom passed away. As I started telling people about it, I got all kinds of weird reactions I didn’t expect. A few people were there for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, while others disappointed me terribly. I felt like they weren’t showing up for me in the supportive way I thought they should, the way I would show up for them. Or, they were being overly sentimental, tragic, and maudlin in a way that seemed really melodramatic and intrusive, and disingenuous to my experience.
This brought up a deeper layer of resistance to this human reality that had been buried deep inside of me and that spans many, many lifetimes. A whole bunch of old stuff I thought I’d let go of came rearing its ugly head. It came in the form of anger, resentments, even hatred. “See, I knew that people suck! They’re totally self-absorbed, they don’t have your back, they don’t really care about you, you really are all alone in the world, so fuck them, why even bother?!” Ouch again. I lashed out, I called people out, I unleashed all this anger, which I had earlier in life identified as a strength, to show them how wrong they were. To prove to them that I was right and they were wrong and that they should be punished for their wrongness.
Where did that get me? Nowhere. It cut me off even more from support that was available, created all kinds of pain and discomfort in my body, and created a whole bunch of negative emotions. So I started to ask, what else is possible here? What would happen if I would let go of my judgments, stop making other people wrong and stop separating myself from them? So what if they’re stupid sometimes, so what if they’re self-absorbed? The only reason it bothers me is because I have expectations of them, I think they should be different, I think they should behave as I would when someone has experienced a loss. But that’s not really honoring who they are and where they’re at. That’s me demanding them to be something they’re not.
So what would happen if I would let go of those judgments and expectations, allow the people in my life to be whoever they are, acknowledge that at times, I’ve been just as self-absorbed and insensitive to others, and choose to be in allowance of all that? What would that create for them and for me? What if that’s what true caring is? What if that’s what vulnerability truly is? What if in fact, that isn’t a weakness but one of the greatest strengths of all?
In the words of one of my great mentors, Dr. Dain Heer, “Vulnerability is the space where there are no walls and barriers.” In this reality, even in the field of psychology, we talk about having boundaries, about separating yourself from toxic people and situations. The thing is, those walls and barriers don’t know what they’re supposed to keep out, so they keep everyone and everything out. So the things I’m looking to create with business and finances, my relationships, even my body, become next to impossible because of the barriers I’ve erected to allegedly protect myself and defend against vulnerability.
I’m not doing that anymore. I’ve demanded of myself that I continue to lower those walls, and increase my willingness to receive, even my willingness to receive others’ judgments, ill will, stupidity, whatever. As long as I am resisting and separating from them, making them the “enemy” and hiding behind a wall of defense, I will always, in fact, be alone and never create what I truly desire.
This blog has been a move in that direction. If you want to judge me or move away from me for speaking whatever’s true for me, rather than me pushing back hard (or even harder than you with a big, “Fuck you, I don’t give a shit what you think anyways”), I’m choosing to not react to your judgments. I’m choosing to care enough about you to let you choose whatever you want, and caring enough for me to not take your stuff personally. I’m choosing instead to be the space of “Interesting point of view you have that point of view. Interesting point of view I’m letting myself be upset by your point of view.” I will let go of those expectations and judgments of others and myself. I will continue to ask questions like, “What else is possible here that I haven’t even considered?” And, “What would it take for all of this to turn out greater than I could ever imagine?” And no matter how hard or uncomfortable it is, I will continue to ask for more vulnerability and more willingness to receive whatever the universe has to offer, in whatever unexpected or uncomfortable ways it shows up.
If you’d like to engage in a deeper discussion on this topic, please contact me for a session, or if you’re local to the San Francisco Bay Area, consider joining me in 2-hour exploration of the 5 Elements of Intimacy (trust, honor, vulnerability, gratitude and allowance) that I’m having at my office on Sat. Aug. 26th. More info on that here.