“The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed either physically or emotionally”.
You cant go wrong with a dictionary definition can you. I did a post this week about #Vulnerability on instagram because it is something I have become a bit obsessed with recently (Yes another new obsession). Digging deep into who I am has uncovered weird and wonderful emotions that I am not just acknowledging but trying to tackle and break down. Vulnerability is one of them.
As explained in my post, I have spent the majority of my life putting other peoples opinions of me in a higher regard than my own and allowing their version or perception of me to define and dictate my value.
When I was in my very early 20’s I went to a paintball party with some friends – I hated it. We were put into teams and told the rules, we had to shoot at the other team and whoever had the most hits at the end would be the winner. Off we went into this man made forest with 30 minutes and a loaded gun. I remember hearing my heart pounding and the stupid helmet was so tight it just emphasised the sound of the thumping, boom boom boom boom boom, my heart was racing and I felt physically sick with anxiety about what was to come. The horn blew and I ran as fast as I could as far from everyone as possible, I came across this massive tree that had a cover at the bottom where the roots had got really big, so I climbed in. I hid for the full 30 minutes until I heard the horn go off and we were all due back to run to base.
I got there and I was the only person who hadn’t been shot (yay!) But after counting all the hits and tallying up the scores, my team had lost by a significant amount. They were all so angry at me, shouting and asking questions about where the hell I had been and telling me how much I had let the team down. I cried and told everyone I just hated it and was too scared which only made matters worse with everyone explaining about how little it hurt (although some said it really did hurt) but the hit was no where near as bad as they had assumed and I didn’t even give it a chance and it was my fault we lost so epically.
That story might seem to random but it explains my relationship with being vulnerable perfectly. For me it is the act of exposure, putting myself in an emotional firing line where I am guaranteed to get hit. When I was paint balling I didn’t even give myself an opportunity to be exposed because it was inevitable that if I was going to be seen I would be hit and it was going to hurt. Every bit of me wanted to protect myself from the pain that will no doubt be coming my way, I do exactly the same emotionally.
I hide away, I protect myself, I don’t allow myself to get into positions where I will be emotionally hit because I know that I cant deal with that pain well at all. My pain threshold (physically and emotionally) is shockingly shit and I hadn’t done the internal work to get to a point where I could take a hit and get back up again.
In my mind anything that was thrown at me, criticism, bad feedback, rejection, negativity – it was all to overwhelming and they all fed into the dark thoughts I already had and served as evidence to confirm the negative feelings about myself were true. If I make a parenting decision and post it on social media and get slated for it, it feeds into the already existing feelings that I am not a good mother. If I fancied someone in my teens and they reciprocate those feelings it confirmed that I wasn’t good enough and if I was left out of friendship circles or people didn’t want to be friends with me, it just affirmed that I was a bad person. The list is endless of the examples I could provide where I had put myself out there only for it to be knocked back.
I realise in my logical mind that these thoughts may seem so ridiculous to many but they were consistent in my head and stopped me from making so many decisions in my life and taking opportunities that I now realise, I deserve. Because I was hiding for those 30 minutes and didn’t even try to participate I had let the team down. Whilst they may not have won they would have had a fighting chance to still perform better but I didn’t consider that at all, again letting those negative feelings consume me and telling myself there was no way I could have made a difference because people like me don’t. I appreciate I am not part of a team now but my little family are my team and I let myself and them down every single time I hide and I am not brave enough to step into the playing field.
I had to accept that getting hit is guaranteed but you cannot predict what the impact might be and you may surprise yourself by being far more resilient than you ever thought. You cant hide away from it, you cant sit under a tree for the rest of your life and then wonder why your not any further or why your not picked to be apart of the team next time but that responsibility lies on you. You cannot control the hits because they will always come from others but you can control how well you build up your armour, how consistent you are, how well you play and the fact you even go out there in the first place.
I did something recently that made me feel so uncomfortable. I well and truly put myself in an emotional firing line with this one and whilst I has convinced myself the outcome would be fine, it wasn’t and I got hit emotionally like a muthaaaa and my goodness, did it hurt like hell. I quickly wanted to retreat back into my emotional tree stump and hide forever but I reflected on the last few years of my life and realise that anything great that has happened has happened because I have been vulnerable and given myself a chance. So rather than run and hide, I continued to be vulnerable and followed up the situation with an email (an email that took over 4 hours to click send) but I did it and weirdly enough I didn’t feel anxious, or stressed and I haven’t checked my emails 10,000 like I thought I would (just 2376 times instead). This time I didn’t let the hits feed any of my negative thoughts or bring up things I have moved forward from, instead I let it evidence how brave I can be, that there is strength in the truth and that regardless of how many hits I take I will ALWAYS get back up again.
Brene Brown is the queen of explaining vulnerability and without pretty much writing the whole transcript of her Ted talk or every page in her book Dearing greatly, I will leave you with the quote that sticks with me and the more I read it the deeper understanding I have and the more powerful I feel…
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path”
Thanks for stopping by x
The Fat Funny One x
P.S – Can you tell I want to be Brene Brown when I grow up? Or Oprah? Can I be both of them?