The Light of Vulnerability
Being human very likely means feeling self-conscious at times; the acute and uncomfortable sense of how we are being received and perceived. There might be a select few who are immune to this, but for the rest of us the uncertainty and uncomfortability of who and how we are is very much a part of being human, and how we respond to these moments vary greatly.
It is interesting to observe myself through the practice of teaching. Any time I feel self-conscious, my teaching becomes more mechanical and less spontaneous. I begin to feel more disembodied and less in flow. Sometimes I even feel myself searching for a script that I can fall back on to make the experience feel less shaky and raw. Feeling self-conscious often inhibits my ability to be self-aware. Yes, these are two very different things. The first makes me want to hide with the focus on the external; the latter opens me to the moment with a kind attention on the internal.
For a large part of my life I responded to these experiences as I described above; either hiding in some way and shutting down or doing things to cover up the uncomfortable feeling. The second pattern that thankfully began to emerge in my thirties has been to be present. More over, it has been a kinder presence over time and a greater degree of curiosity for what it means to be human.
Outside of parenting and marriage, showing up to speak and share in front of a single person or a group of people has been among my greatest calls toward courage and vulnerability. They inextricably go hand in hand. It has given me the opportunity to lean in, rather than choosing to hide. It has given me the strength to be more authentic, even when authentic feels shaky. Standing in the light of my own vulnerability has been a gentle kind of empowerment, one that leaves me stronger on the inside and softer on the outside. I can’t say it has gotten easier with time, but I am more willing to allow it to be a full part of my experience and I am less afraid to make mistakes along the way. In Brene Brown’s words, “Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness… Imperfections are not inadequacies.; they are reminders that we’re all in this together”.