Recently I heard a story that reminded me how important it is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. What?! That sounds like bad advice on the face of it and it IS important to know when to have proper boundaries. The secret is knowing how not to turn those boundaries into a brick wall that shuts out what you actually want.
This is a true story that happened to my friend recently. At the very beginning of the lockdowns being announced, she was to get on a flight. There were new rules being pronounced and they were changing daily. She was told at the check in desk of her airline that she would not be allowed to board her flight without a mask. She of course didn’t have one with her. She was panicked because she was trying to get home and if she delayed or missed the flight, she was going to be trapped in a foreign country. She was told harshly that it would be up to the gate crew ultimately so she started making her way to her gate, practically trembling. She had to take an elevator and another woman got on at the same time. My friend was very upset so in her shock and worry, she disclosed to the woman what she had been told at the check in desk.
The other woman smiled at her and said, ‘I work for the Red Cross and I have a whole bag full of masks with me. Here, you can have one,’ as she bent over and took one out of her bag. My friend was delighted and grateful.
What a wonderful ‘coincidence’ and one that wouldn’t have occurred if my friend had not been willing to open up to, in this case, a total stranger. If she hadn’t chosen to be vulnerable, she may have gotten stuck where she was for who knows how long. It would have been so easy to just stew in her worry in the elevator but for some reason, she chose to just let it out and voila! The universe provides!
This is but a small tale but illustrates what so many are finding in their daily lives to be the way toward connection, not the disconnection we are all afraid of. The research of Brene Brown has also shown that vulnerability breeds connection and shame and fear breeds disconnection.
We are so completely wired to be connected as human beings that the biggest threat to our survival quite literally is to be rejected or abandoned. Yet, paradoxically, so many people fear being abandoned that they set themselves up for it by walking around with ‘abandonment glasses’ or a way of looking at every situation that picks out the details that MIGHT indicate a possible rejection. Someone doesn’t talk to you for very long at a social event, but three other people are quite nice.
Abandonment glasses cause us to only think about that one person and make their behavior about us, when it is entirely possible that they had gas and wanted to get out of there. But then you refuse to go to another event by ‘those people’ again. Disconnection. Lost opportunities.
We then fail to let in the good—forget to let the good things happening even register because we are so vigilant about watching out for possible rejection. We are so busy trying to not be vulnerable, we end up feeling moreso by focusing with the wrong lenses.
Have you ever done that? Realized later you only saw part of the picture? It’s like that story about the elephant and the three blind men. Maybe that one is for another day.
Where do you need to take off your glasses that keep you stuck? Who do you wear these glasses around most? Who/where else do you then wear these glasses around that don’t really deserve it? What/who are you not letting in? What is it costing you in relationships, jobs and peace and happiness?
It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable but the alternative is much harder. It takes some skill in handling the anxiety that comes up from taking off the glasses but you can get help with that.
First things first, think about a situation in which you would like to take off those glasses that keep you stuck and then, when the anxiety rises about doing it differently, go outside. Breathe deep. Move your body. PLAY. After a while, come back in and I’ll bet you will have some new ideas. If not, pick up the phone and ask for help from a trusted friend or professional. It can take practice to build the skills to keep you feeling strong in your vulnerability. You deserve the gifts that vulnerability brings!
I can be reached for life, wellness and family coaching and/or counseling sessions at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.YourLifeWellLived.net.