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On Being Vulnerable: What If You Didn’t Numb It?

Stories from the metaphorical operating table…

The other day I summarized a book called Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, which is about vulnerability. It’s been stuck in my head for days, so today, I want to share this idea with you.

Here’s what Google tells you when you ask it to “define vulnerable”:

exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Therefore, by definition, being vulnerable is dangerous. It’s unsafe, uncertain and uncomfortable. So naturally, we don’t like it and we try to escape this state as soon as possible.

When we feel exposed, endangered or on the spot, our usual reaction is to numb that feeling.

Today I want to ask you: what if you didn’t?

Everyone’s escapism looks different. For me it includes nail biting and listening to a lot of music (I’m doing both of these right now). For you it might be watching TV, telling yourself you’re strong in front of the mirror, or ordering a double pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

You know, something to help you run away, just for a bit. Run away from feeling naked and helpless in moments when…

…your 54-year old uncle goes back to bed after going to the toilet and never wakes up again. 2 days after he sipped his cappuccino, like always, on your Mom’s birthday, your 15-year old cousin finds him lying there after school.

…but you can’t deal with it so you charge right into work until the very last minute before the funeral, only to be hit by the sadness like a car from The Fast and The Furious, its soundtrack “See You Again” playing as you walk to his grave and are finally forced to say goodbye.

…you get so sick you can’t tell whether the fever feels hot or cold any more, but you keep shaking regardless, and you feel hopeless as you shuffle to the bathroom, terrified that you could faint any second and just collapse, because you can’t control your body.

…you sit in front of your laptop and you want to open it and work, but you just can’t, because in your mind there’s this mountain of things you should be doing, people you should be helping and goals you should long have reached, and you feel like it’s collapsed and you’re buried right under it, with no way out, so you just sit there, staring into blank space.

…you find yourself in a relationship you know deep down is no longer good for you, and you try to end it on good terms, but it turns ugly anyway and you’re not sure if you’ll ever be friends or even talk again.

…you see someone you have a lifetime worth of feelings for the first time in six years, and you don’t even know how, but somehow she does something to unlock your heart that makes you feel like you’re lying on an operating table, about to have open heart surgery – and there’s nothing you can do to control any of it.

All of these stories are mine. They all happened. And they all happened in 2016. That last thing happened just yesterday.

What are yours?

How many times have you escaped from situations like this?

How many times have you escaped from feeling vulnerable in 2016?

But not today.

See the line between the last one and the others? That’s where I’m drawing it. No more escaping.

Because that last one showed me…vulnerability isn’t just the source of grief, pain and sorrow. It’s also the source of love, joy and creation.

Vulnerability isn’t black. Or white. It just is. And it means you’re able to feel something.

To be so excited about something you’re willing to take the risk that it might never happen…

To be so convinced of your art that you’re willing to be laughed at when it’s finished…

To be so in love with someone that you’re willing to get on the operating table, hand them the scalpel and say “Go! I trust you.” Even when you feel open, exposed and know that the slightest flick of their wrist could break you.

It takes courage to do that. Far more than it takes to run away.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable means you’re strong.

Invincibility is reserved for those, who are willing to surrender.

I want you to draw a line too. Draw it with me. Accept that this one thing, this one event, this one person has power over you. Incredible power.

Don’t run from it. Don’t fight it. Don’t numb it. Accept it. Trust that they’ll use it well.

Lean into vulnerability. Sit with it. Get on the operating table and see what happens.

Now excuse me, I have to lie down again. The doc’s about to come in.