Tag Archives: Strength

The Complex and Powerful Beauty of Vulnerability

Vulnerability has become quite the buzz word these days. It is considered rather trendy to talk about vulnerability, and even more so to “be” vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to share pieces of yourself that you wouldn’t normally share.  It is shining a bright light on those darker areas of your life.  It can feel kind of like ripping a Band-Aid off a painful, ugly wound.  Bottom-line – vulnerability usually hurts in some way.  But at the same time it acts as a release that can feel incredibly good too.  Shining that light or ripping off that Band-Aid allows you the opportunity to let go of that thing you were working so hard to hide from everyone – once released you can begin to heal and move on.

Dr. Brené Brown is perhaps one of the foremost experts on the topic of vulnerability. If you have ever seen her Ted Talk on vulnerability, then you understand why. She describes vulnerability this way – “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.”

And so the catch with vulnerability then is that it requires that you trust the person with whom you are being vulnerable. It is a leap of faith. It is scary and yet freeing at the same time.  To be vulnerable with someone requires a certain amount of courage and it requires letting go of the need to control what people see and think about you.  But if you are able to do that, if you can find a way to be vulnerable with someone, you open the doors to an amazingly beautiful growth opportunity for yourself as well as in your relationship with that person.

But beware the biggest obstacle of them all if you choose to set out on this vulnerability journey – we live in a culture and in a time when we are taught to believe that to be vulnerable is to show weakness, and weakness, of course, is bad. However, as Brené Brown points out, “Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.” Such a true and important distinction. Treating vulnerability as a negative or bad thing only serves to make people hold on to their stuff more tightly…to continue putting on a façade for the rest of the world rather than being their true selves.  The strength required to be vulnerable is such that many will run away rather than face it.  Truly being vulnerable is one of the utmost signs of strength a person can display.  It is one of the most beautiful things to behold, and as such should be applauded not scoffed at.

Trendy or not, vulnerability is powerful and freeing, so go ahead and give yourself permission to own your story, all of it, and to be vulnerable in the midst of it.

The Power of No

Danielle LaPorte says it so perfectly – No makes way for yes.

We live in a society of that feeds off an intense need for instant gratification and a fear of missing out. A society in which saying no is virtually out of the question. Saying no means you might miss out on something really big or it could very well result in a loss of or lack of something in your life.  You simply can’t say no and expect to live a full life…or so a rather vocal segment of our modern society would have us believe.  And let’s not forget that we, as a society, judge our level of success by how “busy” we are.  The more things you say yes to the busier you are, the more successful you are, right?  So again, saying no just can’t possibly be an option.

But here’s the harsh reality – unless you say the word no, at least on occasion, you can and will lose the ability to say yes at some point, very possibly at the moment when you really want/need to say yes. Why? Because you are human and can’t do it all.  Because there are only so many hours in a day.  Because no matter how close you get to being perfect, you still can’t be solely responsible for accomplishing everything that needs to be done at home, at work, and everywhere else in between.  It just isn’t possible.  You just cannot say yes all the time.

And let’s be clear – those are merely the facts as they exist, they do not represent a failure on your part. There’s no judgment. There is only the stone-cold reality that when we say yes too often we eventually reach a point when yes can’t possibly be the answer anymore.  If you are always saying yes you will inevitably reach the point where you cannot physically fit anything more into your schedule…into your life…and so it is then that no has to be the answer.  Something has to go before anything else can be added.  Quite a conundrum when faced with the opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do, but you can’t because of all the other things you previously said yes to (things that you may not even really care about).

And who does it hurt? Let’s be honest here – primarily you. And while overcommitting on your part can create problems for others as well, by and large you are the one who suffers from your inability to say no.  So what is the answer?  How do we find a balance between saying yes and saying no?

The key is to set and honor boundaries for yourself. If you follow any of Brené Brown’s work then you are likely familiar with this statement from her on the importance of boundaries, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Your time, your health, your sanity, your talents, etc. are important so you need to be mindful of your “Yes’s and No’s” such that you are honoring your wants, needs, desires, and limitations.  Again, it is not about any kind of  failure on your part, rather it is about being honest with yourself and not overcommitting.  Saying no on occasion to things that don’t feel right, don’t resonate, don’t align with your personal mission is not only okay, it is essential to being able to say yes to all things that are meaningful to you.  Commit to the things that light you up, to the things you are passionate about.  Don’t say yes out of guilt or some misguided sense of obligation to someone else.  Say yes because it means something to you.  If you do that, not only will you find that you are no longer overcommitted, but you will also find yourself in a place of great joy and happiness.

The Double-Edged Sword of Life

To experience life, indeed to live it fully, one must open up to all it has to offer. But opening up requires being vulnerable, trusting, taking risks, and becoming attached, to some extent, to things that are impermanent, as all life is impermanent. The net result is either something amazing or something painful.  This is the double-edged sword that we call life – you can’t choose your outcome, so to experience life is to risk one or the other of these outcomes with no guarantee of certainty in any given moment as to which you will receive.

I imagine most, if not all, of us are familiar with this concept from our own very real and personal experiences. And despite how many times we find ourselves at the crossroads of life, feeling the pain or pleasure of this double-edged sword, we forget just how good, or how bad, it can be until we are once again in its midst.

When it is good we never want it to end. When it is bad, we can’t wish it away fast enough, though it tends to cling to us all the more. The quintessential example of course comes to us through our relationships.  When they are good we savor them, desire more of them, can’t get enough of them.  Yet when things go wrong or come to an end, the pain can feel unbearable.  Even when the circumstances are such that we have not personally done anything to directly cause the painful outcome…even when we can find no fault with the other person or persons involved or the choices they have made, we still wrack our brains as to what went wrong or what we could have done differently…we still feel the immense pain of the situation.  As a result we often feel a pull or desire to retreat or to withdraw from life – a natural reaction for a species still controlled by the fight or flight response to outside stimuli.

And so it is, this dance we do with life and the double-edged sword that follows life wherever it goes. Do you dare to accept the dance? Do you trust that what you fear will be the very thing that will somehow set you free, or do you play it safe and not take the chance?  And after you get stabbed by that sword, do you dare to try dancing with life again?  How many times do you allow yourself to be stabbed by that sword before you call it quits?  All good questions, but none come with easy answers, hence the struggle surrounding this dance.

I’ve done the dance. I have been stabbed by that double-edged sword more times than I care to count. It hurts the same now as it did the first time I was pierced by it.  The fact of the matter is that no matter how many times you get stabbed by the double-edged sword of life, it will still hurt, immensely.  And each time I find myself asking the question, now what?  Surely it would be easier and safer to just curl up into a ball and shut out the world.  It would be so much easier and safer to say no the next time life asks me to dance.  And there are moments when I seriously consider these two options – there’s comfort in them for sure.  But those are the easier answers…and I am not so sure opting out of life really is an option, as life always seems to find a way to coax us back onto the dance floor.  It may take a little time.  I may have some wounds to lick, lots of  tears to shed, and an aching pain in my heart that needs time to heal, but I’ll come back to the dance floor again in time because in the end I know in my heart of hearts with each dance, regardless of the outcome, I am learning and growing…I am becoming a better person, hard as it may be to believe in that moment of pain.  Oh but if only it didn’t have to hurt so much along the way, but such is the journey called life I suppose.

It’s easy to become bitter and angry when that double-edged sword stabs you. But I choose love. Love for the person or persons who made the choices that caused the hurt…love for life in general despite this never-ending dance it makes me do…love for a universe that would have me continually experience this roller coaster of the highs and the lows of life…love because in the end that is all that really matters.  Life may challenge me, life may try to pick me apart at times, but I will be strong, I will learn from what life gives me, and I will work hard to find the lessons in it all.  And so, give me some time to rest, to feel all the things I am feeling, and to catch my breath and then go ahead and cue the music maestro…so that we can begin our dance once again, as this dance with life is all we really have and I have no choice but to make peace with it.

Broken, But Fixable

So often when I look around I see so many signs that point to the fact that we are a broken society.  Life in general is hard these days and living our purpose and acknowledging our true self can be near impossible in this crazy, modern world in which we live.  And I recently sat through a presentation that thoroughly reinforced these thoughts and feelings.  The presentation included some alarming statistics about suicide, the number of people with mental health issues who are not seeking treatment, and the overall impact of such things on our work and personal lives.  Depression, drug & alcohol abuse, anxiety, etc.  The effects are wide spread.  I was struck by just how far reaching this mental health epidemic has become and by how broken we are overall as a people – not just because of the statistics themselves, but because part of what fuels the increase in those statistics is the societal messages we all receive about what it means, according to the society we live in today, to seek help.

We are all doing the best we can with what we have been given, learning from those around us who are doing the best they can as well…but still we find ourselves in this place.  So many people in our society are dealing with challenging things in their lives while at the same time lacking a knowledge of the tools that could help them better navigate those difficult times.  Instead, most people struggle to work things out on their own.  Sadly, this is something I see all too often in my work – so many people struggling to deal with any of a number of issues both personally and professionally, but unwilling to seek help, be it counseling or coaching, because they have been taught to believe that in seeking help they are indicating they are unable to handle things on their own…that they are weak or somehow flawed.

One in four people struggles with some type of mental health issue. What’s even more upsetting than that statistic is the stigma society places on seeking treatment. The societal messages are that you should just ‘learn to deal with it in your own’, “suck it up”, “get over it”, and “everyone else can handle it so why can’t you”.  Such shame and humiliation is cast upon those already struggling with so much.

The “shame of it all” is both in terms of the shame that the people struggling to decide if they should seek help or not feel as a result of those societal messages, but also that we as a society allow that stigma to perpetuate. Rather, we should acknowledge that life is hard for all of us, that we all could use a little help from time to time, and that seeking that help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

So what causes this societal stigma? Is it a lack of love and understanding of our fellow humans? Is it because we do not teach resiliency?  Is it just the chaotic, fast paced life we live in?  Is it the high expectations held for us, real or perceived?  Is it because we have not been taught how to ask questions and to make our own choices?  Is it because we have not been taught how to stand tall in the decisions we do make?  Or is it because of a loss of creativity and curiosity?  I am not sure we will ever truly know the exact cause(s), but one thing that is for certain is that the societal stigma attached to seeking help for even the mildest of stressors in our lives, such as every day stressors like finances, relationships, work, or caregiver stress, is slowly killing us.  We need to find a better way.

The reality is that everything is connected – we can’t leave our problems at home or at work. The mind/body connection is real. Pretending otherwise only makes things worse.  We need to begin recognizing how hard it is to admit the need and/or desire for help.  We need to see it as a strength and not a weakness.  If we are going to help each other through this life, we need to start by creating awareness of the problem and then developing a culture of caring.  We may be broken, but we are still fixable.  A good place to start is to become more mindful of our words and the messages we send with them.

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg

Lessons

So I took a few weeks off from writing my blog. I just decided I had too much going on and something had to give. I also didn’t want to quickly write a blog post simply so I could say I published something every week like I have up to this point.  Instead I spent a few weekends, when I would otherwise do my blog writing, enjoying uninterrupted time with friends and family.  I set a boundary for myself and stuck to it.  It was some much needed recharging time for me.  But it was interesting how guilty I felt doing it.  That little ego voice in my head was quick to tell me I was a slacker and that if I were any good at organizing my time I could have gotten it done.  But you know what?  I stuck to my decision despite that voice and I learned some valuable lessons along the way too – lessons that have been recurring for me quite a bit over these past few months…

Lesson #1 – Let go of the need for perfection. This is a really tough one for me. I swear perfectionism in actually hard wired into my DNA.  But I am gradually learning that it really is okay to deviate from any plan you originally set for yourself.  In fact, if you allow for a little variation it can even result in creativity and growth opportunities.  A few lessons on the periphery of this one are forgiveness and acceptance.

Lesson #2 – Take things in stride and don’t let them bother you so much. Easier said than done, no? But that’s the goal.  That’s what we should work towards, right?.  Relax, breathe, and take one step at a time.  Things are seldom as bad as they initially appear.  Often we just need to take a little time to put them into the proper perspective.  The related lessons here are open-mindedness and flexibility.

Lesson #3 – Accept the interruptions of life…enjoy them and learn from them. Life is a never-ending journey filled with sharp curves, road blocks, and lots of construction. Whether you like it or not, it is going to be that way, so why not just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Subsequent, related lessons here include patience and being present.

I have heard it said that the universe continues to send things our way until we have learned the lesson intended for us.  I certainly can say from my own experience that is true, at times painfully so.  My desire for perfection and to maintain whatever standard I set for myself is often so rigid that I create quite a bit of suffering for myself – all of which is easily remedied when I step back, breathe, accept the present moment as an opportunity to learn & grow, and then simply let it all go.

What’s your area of growth opportunity?  What lesson is the universe still helping you to learn?  These are powerful reflection points, so don’t overlook the importance of spending some time pondering them.  Embrace the lessons coming to you.

“We repeat what we don’t repair.” – Christine Langley-Obaugh

 

Truth

By definition truth is being in accord with fact or reality. But what is truth really? What does it look like or sound like in today’s world?  Is anyone really truthful anymore?

I sometimes wonder these things. Life moves so quickly and we have so many different, often conflicting roles to play that I can’t help but speculate how many people really aren’t being truthful in how they live their daily lives. We all have various roles to play and thus numerous masks to wear.  Society, and sometimes even the people closest to us, ensure we know what’s expected of us and most of us work very hard to conform to those expectations.  Not doing so can often be too difficult a thing to bear – the criticism and ridicule, the shame, and the rejection.  But adhering to those expectations or rules is often at the expense of our truth, of how we really feel, and of who we really are.  We tell ourselves it is okay because we don’t have time to worry about that anyway – there’s so much to do and never enough time.  Besides, we try to convince ourselves, everyone else seems to be doing it just fine – no one else is having any issues following the rules so therefore there must be something wrong with us if we can’t do it too, so we had better just learn how to deal with it all and follow “the rules”.

“We know what the world wants from us. We know we must decide whether to stay small, quiet, and uncomplicated or allow ourselves to grow as big, loud, and complex as we were made to be.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

There’s no room for truth telling and there’s no time for being your authentic self, at least there doesn’t seem to be in today’s frantic and chaotic world. At least that is what we tell ourselves. Yet, stop for one moment to consider what you are giving up by not living your truth.  What sacrifices are you really making?  Are you losing a part of yourself through it all?  Most likely you are.  I know I was for many, many years.  When I was brave enough to express my truth, my dreams, and my hopes, both as a child and as an adult, they were met with discouragement, disinterest, and/or disappointment.  They didn’t match up to what society and those closest to me said I should be doing.  So I let go of them for many years and in doing so lost something very important – myself.  And so for the past few years I have set out on a journey to reconnect with myself and my truth.  I am ignoring the negative messages from society and the people around me and instead believing in myself and what I know to be true for me.  And you know what?  The world didn’t stop spinning on its axis.  No one’s life came to an end because I chose to speak my truth and live my life on my own terms.  I’m still here.  In fact, I am better than ever.  And I have found that I am not alone, as it appears this is a struggle we all seem to share though it is one waged almost entirely internally.

We are so caught up in appearances, in fitting in, in keeping up with everyone else, and in not breaking any of the sacred, secret societal rules for how we should live our lives that so many of us have become broken souls just wondering through life feeling lost, alone, rejected, and/or broken in some way.  I believe this is a huge contributor to all the illness and mental health issues we see today.  If only we could each find the courage and the strength to speak our truth…not only would we feel better overall, but I also believe we would find many kindred souls out there who feel the same way that we do.

“It strikes me that I need to throw out the dictionary the world gave me about what it means to be a mother, a wife, a person of faith, an artist, and a woman and write my own.” ― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

If you haven’t read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton yet, I encourage you to do so.  She is the best example of a truth teller I have come across yet.  Her story is powerful and empowering.  And while her story is not my story, there is so much in her truth that I can relate to that it feels a bit like my story – and I think you will feel the same way about it too regardless of what your story is.

“Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self. – Queen Latifah

The Bittersweet Taste of Life

“I feel extremely lucky, extremely grateful, and a little bittersweet, too.” – Wentworth Miller

It is amazing to me how many different emotions we are able to experience as humans. Not to mention the fact that despite all the words we have available to us as we try to explain those different emotions, it never seems like we can find the right words to thoroughly express how we actually feel. Those emotions, numerous and varied as they are, are extremely hard to explain using our “limited” vocabulary.  Our words just never seem to fully capture the vastness of the emotions we are able to feel.

What’s even more amazing to me is that we can experience so many of those different emotions all at once. Surely we have all had the experience of feeling a flood of emotions – it’s both amazing that we can experience so many emotions at once but also very difficult to process as well. At times it can almost be too much to comprehend, and it certainly can be overwhelming when you are feeling all of that at once.  What amazing creatures we are indeed, but what torment we can cause ourselves at the same time!

At no time has all this been more evident in my own life than this past week. The final hurdle to completely closing one chapter of my life and being able to start the next one is finally about to be removed. In just a few weeks life as I know it now will cease to exist and a brand new opportunity will begin in full force.  I’ll be moving and living a much more minimalist lifestyle while focusing on my writing, coaching business, and continuing to set the stage for my ultimate dream of living and working overseas.  It is so exhilarating to finally be here – it is the culmination of several years of hard work on myself and my personal goals, not to mention the generous support of amazing friends.  At the same time though I have to own the fact that this transition is also scary, sad, stressful, and very bittersweet.

So many thoughts and feelings rushing through my body at one time. Stress about the quick timeline. Fear of actually taking this next step.  Excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead.  Sadness over leaving this chapter behind and of letting go of so much in the process of moving on.  What a strange combination of beautiful and difficult emotions all wrapped up into this one human body.

The path to get here was definitely not paved with rose petals and laughter. It was a long and hard road filled with a lot of disappointment, sadness, struggle, heartache, and frustration. But the end result, reaching the first of several really big life goals I set for myself, is totally worth it.   Bruno Mars’ quote sums it up quite nicely I think:  “There’s always a bittersweet kind of thing, but I feel like everything had to work out the way it is. Everything that had to happen, happened.”

On some level I will miss parts of the chapter of my life that I am currently in, just as I somewhat miss certain aspects of all of the previous chapters of my life. But I know the kinds of opportunities in store for me in my next chapter, and I am super excited to experience those things. Bittersweet, yes, but totally worthwhile and exhilarating just the same.