I wrote a very personal article last week, entitled “I Know the Deep Shame of an Eating Disorder.” I submitted it to Elephant Journal, a national online publication, and it was accepted and published. I went through a roller coaster of emotions during this process, but the one that stuck with me for about a week was this intense feeling of vulnerability.
I remember the day after I submitted it, I felt panicked. It felt like I had stripped off all of my clothes and was deliberately pointing out any flaws for the public to gather round and take a gander. I wanted to crawl into a hole.
When I emptied my head, (a thought download, as I call it, or as one of my beautiful clients calls it, a thought dump, LOL). My thoughts went something like, “OMG! What have I done! Everyone will know! They’ll know how twisted I was, they’ll judge me, they’ll reject me, I’ll lose my friends!” Isn’t it interesting how the mind just blows things our of proportion?
So, of course, I was in complete panic, and it stayed with me for days. It effected me so deeply that I actually wound up getting physically ill over it and had to take off work for a few days.
Brene Brown defines Vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
Well, I definitely felt exposed. I layered myself with sweaters and hid under the covers every chance I got. I cried. I overate. I curled up in fetal position as much as I could. I also had this thought that, maybe, I had slipped back into that shame place I had wrote about in such detail. Luckily, that wasn’t really the case. Although, for about a week, I felt emotionally and physically stuck.
When I got to that stuck place, what brought me out was coaching. My coach asked me what was so bad about being exposed? What was so bad about being vulnerable? I cried as a memory of me as a child reaching out to my mother completely, emotionally distraught, and having my mother say, “Oh, your brother, and your sister, and now you? Can’t you be the strong one?” I recoiled, put on armor and in that moment I was taught that I had to be strong. As a young child, this is what I took this to mean. Vulnerability equaled rejection. Holy Shit! What a revelation! We looked at that belief together and decided that that was once me. But now, maybe it’s not the case. And, by opening up in that way, I could heal and grow in a deep, profound way.
Suyin Nichols, one of my former guests on my prior podcast I.J., writes in her book Love Yourself Lighter about vulnerability. She shares a story about lobsters and how they must shed their shell several times during their lives. They keep growing, but their shells do not. When they vacate their shells, they are already wearing a new one, but it is more like skin until it hardens. This process takes about 6 weeks and during this time, the lobster is soft and vulnerable. When we are soft and vulnerable, that’s the best time for growth.
I have to agree. By shedding off my armor and opening myself up to the world, I feel free, like the last grips of a terrible chapter in my life has finally been closed. Was it challenging? Hell yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. My new belief: Vulnerability and growth go hand in hand.
If you’d like the read the article in Elephant Journal, Click Here.