I was diagnosed with a severe eating disorder, specifically anorexia, in my early 20’s and my health deteriorated fast. My hair fell out. My skin turned grey and began scaling off. My teeth turned black. I had no life, no personality, no joy, no vibrancy, no interest in anything. I was dying from the inside out. My parents tried an intervention and that proved to be wildly unsuccessful. I tried to commit suicide twice.
My journey out of hell and into my “Olympic journey” was a long process, to say the least. There are so many takeaways that I learned along that road, that bless me to this day, and many shaped who I am but there is ONE takeaway, one blaring truth that came up over and over again for me, and that was the power and freedom found in being vulnerable.
I found great POWER and great SOLACE out of a wretched, near-death life, in VULNERABILITY. It shaped every part of who I am today.
There are layers of psychological research that show us that connection and the ability to connect to one another is why we are here on this planet, it’s what gives purpose to our lives.
We were born to connect with others. But in order for us to be connected we have to be vulnerable and allow ourselves to be seen by others, truly seen. If we don’t strip down our barriers, if we don’t remove our masks, we can’t really connect with others. If we can’t show people our weaknesses and our failures along with our victories, we won’t be seen as real, as honest, as trustworthy. It is in our weakest moments that we can make the deepest connections.
I believe it is plain and simple. It is FEAR. FEAR is the greatest inhibitor of your true self because we think; is there something about me that if people found out, they won’t want to connect with me, they won’t want to be my friend anymore, they won’t want to know me? But in order to eliminate this FEAR, WE must fully embrace vulnerability and it is NOT comfortable, but it IS necessary. We must be willing to do something where there are no guarantees. We must be willing to invest in something that may or may not work out, whether it’s in sport or life or friendships or business.
When I decided to go for the dream of making the 2012 Olympic team, there was an immense amount of vulnerability I had to overcome to get there, because I sucked many, many times in training. Many times, I was not strong enough, I was not the best, I was not perfect. I was tired, I was scared, I was lonely, I was injured, I felt worthless and unworthy. I mean come on, it was ME, the anorexic, drug addicted loser who was going after this lofty goal only 1% of the population has ever achieved.
There is a great psychologist and researcher named Brene Brown and she does an enormous amount of research on the subject of vulnerability. She went to see a therapist because she realized after researching it so intensely, that she actually had a vulnerability issue! What she learned in her therapy was that vulnerability is at the core of shame and fear and unworthiness BUT it appears it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.
WOW, I just love that!
Only through experiencing all the weakness in vulnerability, can you come out strong. You have to go through it, get uncomfortable, be brave, and lay it on the line. Here is the best question to ask yourself to begin: WHAT’S THE WORSE THING THAT CAN HAPPEN? Honestly ask yourself that. Maybe you don’t get the job, you don’t make the team, you don’t get the guy or the girl. We then realize why on earth are we so scared of this? The worst thing that can happen is just not so bad after all.
In writing this blog post while searching for answers, I decided to ask a variety of people this question: Why is Vulnerability so difficult? Why do we struggle with it so much?
Some of the answers people gave, I feel illuminates this and here are 3 of those answers:
WHY is that? BECAUSE IT MAKES US FEEL.
This is why we struggle with addiction, because in overcoming it, in healing, we MUST FEEL to get well, and we don’t want to. We want to numb it with our addiction. I always say just PICK YOUR POISON, drugs, alcohol, sex, eating disorder etc., because these are ALL just ways, or vehicles to mask your inner PAIN.
So what do we do? We try to numb it all out, but we can not selectively numb, (as Brene Brown teaches us in her research) just like we cant selectively “spot train” in the gym, so when we try to numb those yucky feelings we also numb our joy, we numb purpose, we numb love, and then we feel empty. And the cycle continues..............
This is what I have found: We do it by being and feeling WORTHY:
When we feel WORTHY, we can then be vulnerable. But how do we feel worthy?
Here is the deal: when you put yourself out there and you become vulnerable, the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes, AND when you do achieve what you set out to do, its all the sweeter, all the more rewarding!
Most people take their greatness; take their ideas, to the graveyard with them. The wealthiest place on the planet is the graveyard, where inventions lie that we never knew, dreams that were never fulfilled, actions that were never taken because people did not want to put themselves out there, they did not want to suffer, they did not want to fail, they did not want to hurt and they did not want to be vulnerable.