I was listening to our pastor give a sermon on Vulnerability this week. His words really spoke to me and I can not stop thinking about how being vulnerable effects my life.
Per the Webster Dictionary the Simple Definition of vulnerable:
- : easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
- : open to attack, harm, or damage
The word Vulnerable brings up the feeling of fear, insecurity; outside my comfort zone. What is the opposite of feeling vulnerable? In a book I have on emotional patterns it says the opposite feeling is feeling Whole. Words that generally don’t go with vulnerable are fearless, secure, comfortable… or as the sermon said, Daring.
I frankly have felt very vulnerable for a while. I let that feeling of vulnerability paralyze me at times and prevent me from going outside my comfort zone. So I have been thinking since this sermon about my own vulnerability. What if I changed the perception on feeling vulnerable to the feeling of being daring? Daring has the feeling of boldness and taking on the world. How would my growth and success look different if I thought of Vulnerability as a positive thing? How would my relationships look different if I put myself out there in vulnerability and not a wall of self-protection?
About 6 months ago I started following a mentor, Dani Johnson, who talks a lot about true success. She talks a lot about getting out of your comfort zone to a place of vulnerability. I think its safe to say that after the same continual message someone is trying to tell me something. I need to not be afraid of being vulnerable and I need to surrender. We need to be vulnerable to succeed and grow. We need to put ourselves out there and sometimes fail to grow. We need to fail to learn success.
You are thinking right now, Nicole, what does this have to do with health and wellness? The answer is: everything.
Most of improving health is really a full experience of mind, body and spirit. We think that improving our health is putting down the Cheetos bag or kicking our diet coke habit. It’s so much more.
Health is about being Vulnerable. When most people come to me for health coaching they are looking for change or growth in the journey of wellness. Change is scary. Attempting change opens us up to being vulnerable. So many times I talk to people who don’t want their friends to know they are trying to get healthier. It’s not about the food but what other people will say that controls many people’s health. People are afraid they will fail. They are scared friends and family will not embrace their new lifestyle. They are afraid to be judged.
In the last couple years I have had many discussions about parents serving certain foods at their houses when their kids friends come over. They serve processed/junk food so their kids’ friends will like them and want to come back. They are afraid of what might happen if they serve healthy stuff. Serving healthy stuff makes them vulnerable to the possibility that someone will judge them. But what if we take that fear and turn it into daring. What if you dared to serve the healthy foods to your kids friends or what if you tell all your dinner club friends you are not serving food with refined sugar in it? What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. But you could also thrive and discover more people are on the same mission you are.
When my first child was born, I insisted I was going to do this healthy eating thing right. I did pretty well. I made my own baby food and did not allow my daughter to have McDonalds. Until I joined a kids gym class where I met other moms. Making your own baby food and avoiding McDonalds was not something most of the other moms were doing. I felt vulnerable. I wanted to fit in. So I started going to McDonalds with the other moms and their kids. I have a whole bin of Finding Nemo Happy Meal prizes to prove it. I would try to slip my healthy ways in subtly; always having carrots and strawberries served at a pizza party. But I was afraid what people might think if I went beyond that. Fast forward 10+ years to where I am certified in Integrative Nutrition. These SAME moms are embracing healthy eating in their families once I started putting myself out there. What if I had let my Vulnerability become daring back then? Instead of hiding who I was because it felt outside my comfort zone I could have changed more lives 10 years ago.
However, I still feel vulnerable today. As I said change makes us feel fearful. I fear what people think as I grow on my own journey. The insecurity sneaks in over the daring. Starting a health coaching practice has made me incredibly vulnerable. It’s not mainstream to talk about cutting out sugar and processed foods. Parents roll their eyes and the teens really think I am weird.
And if talking about eating whole foods does not make me vulnerable to outside opinions in a quick food world, talking about Essential Oils as an adjunct to health and wellness really cranks up the Vulnerability scale. Talk about feeling vulnerable and full of apprehension, walking into a medical clinic every week of educated doctors and nurses curing cancer and talking about decreasing chemicals in our bodies by kicking out the vending machine and using essential oils. I stand outside the door before I go in and deep breathe. No joke. That’s outside of my comfort zone. I am outside the safety tree. But I try to be daring.
I guarantee every time I post a class about Essential oils or a class on cutting out Processed foods, I feel incredibly vulnerable. What if no one comes to my classes? What if they “unfriend” me from Facebook? The fear is always there. Last week I package up some little healthy items for my daughter’s fellow cast members in her show as a Survival Kit to keep them healthy for the show. All I could think of is I hope these kids and their parents don’t think I am a total freak. What if they think this stuff is witch voodoo? I felt vulnerable but I went for daring. How am I going to help people if I am not willing to be daring?
Over the last few months specifically I have heard many stories from people about the hard things going on in their lives; Hard things that they were afraid for anyone to know. We are all afraid to be judged. I rejoice inside when people become vulnerable and open up to who they really are and what is going on. Being vulnerable is where growing occurs, friendship bond are created and communities are built. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we increase the chances that our emotional/mental/spiritual health thrives.
This past weekend, I had the absolute joy of watching several teens succeed in being vulnerable. In performing arts, especially live theater; performers are putting themselves on stage in a very vulnerable way. There is always a critic waiting to comment. In this case several of these teen performers were in lead roles for the very first time and for some it was their first time performing at all. Each and everyone one of them put all they had out there. They were bold. They were daring. Yes, they were vulnerable but they took that and instead of letting it paralyze them they opened up their faith and pushed aside their fears. There is something to be learned from that. The kids were a team, they had each other to rely on and they had people who believed in them. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable.
On the whole, as adults we work hard to never be vulnerable. We go for safe. We hide the daring. We forgot that there are people who believe in us and don’t care if we are flawed.
One of my favorite songs in high school was Lean on Me.
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
We HAVE people to lean on when we are “open to attack”. They are there. We are going to do the wrong thing sometimes in front of other people. We are going to fail. Adults are not perfect either. We need to lean on the people we trust. Instead of building that wall in our failure and hiding behind it we need to get out there and make those mistakes again and again so we learn to succeed. Those performers didn’t quit when they did it wrong the first time. The worked on it again and again for months to achieved the refined end product. This is no different for improving our health.
If we don’t conquer the walls we put up, we will not grow and we will not change. We have to dare to be different and better than we are now. We have to open our minds to things that require a healthy dose of faith and know someone is walking with us. The journey of a true healthy mind, body and spirit takes some vulnerability.
So how do we take on Vulnerability in our lives? We change vulnerability to a positive word and not a negative word. We become bold. We become daring. We take a chance and realize that others are vulnerable too. If we become bold we realize that beyond that wall we put up, amazing things can happen. Blessings occur in those moments. The things our heart and souls need and want might just be there if we take the chance and be this thing called Vulnerable.