Finding Grace in Challenge Part 2: Vulnerability

Have you ever avoided someone you know and like because you don’t know what to say?  Or gone down the opposite grocery aisle because you don’t remember a friend or acquaintances name?  This is the common, every day vulnerability that challenges me so often.  Sometimes I imagine that there are perfect people out there who always know what to say and never forget names.  Actually, I don’t think they exist other than in my imagination.   So, this is for all of us who are real, who make mistakes, forget things, and get embarrassed.

Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly and many other wonderful books, defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.  “To be human is to be in vulnerability” she writes.
I agree, we are vulnerable.  Life is uncertain.  In addressing vulnerability, it’s important that we recognize the difference between true danger and imagined danger. Using discernment or critical thinking we have the ability to recognize the difference.  When feeling vulnerable we can ask ourselves, “Is this a situation where there is real danger?  Can I be harmed physically or emotionally?”   If it is a situation of real danger, it’s important to do whatever is necessary to get to a place of safety.  Trust your Spidey sense and get out of harm’s way.  

When it is clear that there is no real danger, we have the opportunity to challenge ourselves to be with our feelings of vulnerability. 

Theresa and I have been invited to present the Elder Speak program to a group of Senior Center managers.  I know that speaking publicly to a large group is not dangerous, but my body and mind seem to think it is!  I feel vulnerable.

The only time I can consciously choose to be vulnerable is when I feel empowered enough to open my heart.   I’ll share with you the simple tool I use to feel myself deeply enough that I can open my heart and connect to others, even when I’m feeling vulnerable.

When feeling vulnerable ask yourself, “Am I really in danger?”  If the answer is “NO” try this:


Using Breathe, Relax and Ground to Feel Safe

  • Take in a deep, deep breath and let it go easily.
  • Relax any tension you find in your body.
  • Feel your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Remember that you are safe.  (you checked, remember)

Breathe, relax tension, feel the ground.  Remember that you are safe. 
Breathe, relax, ground.  “I’m safe.” 

This exercise is simple and effective.  Practice it until you begin to feel your body; the tenseness draining away, actually feeling your feet, your breath deep and full.

Once you feel this change in your body, notice that you have a greater sense of yourself.  With that sense of self-connection comes a greater sense of empowerment.  It is from here, from this sense of self and empowerment, that it is possible to open your heart and embrace yourself, your vulnerability and others.  You can connect.  I find that empowered openheartedness causes the fear of vulnerability to lessen and eventually disappear. 

It helps to practice this in a situation that is easy at first.  Practice with someone or something you love, my dog Gracie comes to mind, and do this in a place where you are comfortable.  Don’t start on a stage or in the grocery store. Slowly take your practice to more and more challenging situations.   

Openheartedness is a state of vulnerability and connection.   Our walls and shields are down while our beautiful boundaries are in place.   As you practice you will become stronger, like exercising any muscle your vulnerability muscle will gain strength.

 “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” ~ Brene Brown

I choose connection. Life is much too short and precious to spend it disconnected.   

Deb Pobst
The Ripple Foundation

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