There’s this idea isn’t there that we should never show our vulnerabilities publicly.
Maybe it’s my British, stiff upper lip upbringing (as an aside, nothing about me or my upbringing was stiff upper lip, but you know what I mean…), but personally I spent a lot of years believing that I should never share anything but my strengths, my positives, but how bloody well I was doing.
There’s no real surprise in that is there? After all, in a week that saw Prince Harry criticised for getting emotional at the WellChild Awards as he spoke about becoming a father, is it any surprise that any of us would be afraid to show our vulnerabilities?
Time and time again we're told that doing that means we're weak, a victim to those things and somehow "less than".
But the work I do means I see a lot of people at their lowest; talking about their insecurities and their weaknesses, even at the times they cringe while doing that.
And do I ever cringe with them, internally roll my eyes or think they’re ridiculous?
In fact, every single time I come away from a conversation like that I feel as though my heart has opened a little wider.
Every time anyone shares their truth with me in that warts and all way I feel utterly privileged – not just to have been shown that side of them, but to be in the company of someone who dares to be so fiercely courageous with the things that scare them.
On more than one occasion I’ve been known to say – or at least think “that doesn’t make you weak, or silly, it makes you bloody amazing that even in spite of that you still do everything you do and live the life you live.”
Doing the job I do, I’m not really meant to share any of my own vulnerabilities; I’m meant to be a bit of a blank slate. And maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve never pitched myself as a traditional counselling therapist; I’ve always been one to wear my heart and my truth on my sleeve so I'm pretty bloody rubbish at keeping that blank slate.
Not in client sessions of course, I don't do that in client sessions; those times are definitely all about the person on the other side of the screen. But away from those times, sharing anything other than my truth can often leave me feeling a little like one of those “only showing my good bits” people that I just can’t get away with.
Because of course there are still times and places where I don’t feel like I’m enough; and others where I feel like I’m too much.
At the grand old age of 36 I worry that I’ll never be mother to a human child in the way that I’ve always wanted; there are times I look at my face in the selfie screen and think that my chin is looking more and more like a plural of itself every day; there are times I fear that years of living on my own have made me too fiercely independent; and there are others I worry that being tucked away in this beautiful but tiny part of the world means I’ll never be able to help people in the way that I want to, or fulfil the goals that I’ve set for myself.
Does that men you’ve failed in your healing? Gods no! It actually means you’ve succeeded big style. Because for all the human psyche is a complex and multi-faceted thing, in my experience those extra facets don’t usually show up to be witnessed and healed until you’ve made bloody good progress with the original side of them first.
So what can we do?
This healing journey of ours is that it’s never a one stop shop. While we might heal a particular issue at a particular time, that’s not to say that particular Achilles’ heel won’t make itself known again some other time in some other way; either as something we need to do more work on and address in a different way.
Does that mean we’re a victim of those things? That we should go through life terrified another aspect of those old wounds will pop up and hurt us all over again?
Absolutely bloody not!
Actually, as I see it, knowing our own vulnerabilities is something that makes us stronger.
After all, the greatest heroes are always the ones who get to know the monsters they’re facing, who can see those monsters not just for their scary ferociousness but for their own vulnerabilities and the best ways to take them on.
The way to do that of course will be different for each of us… maybe even different for each of our own vulnerabilities. But it starts with three things:
Getting familiar with those vulnerabilities of yours
What are they all about, where do they come from, what is the fear that lies at the root of them.
Remember that you’re not a victim: Like the brilliant people I work with who share their stories with me, remember how far you’ve already come in the face of those vulnerabilities. How have you done that? Because you’re bloody amazing.
When they start to sting, step back: There will always be times that your nerves are touched, your sore spots tickled and your deep wounds triggered. The difference between the times those things floor you and those when they don’t begins with begin able to step back and remind yourself that you’re safe, however you need to do that.
Those things aren’t always easy. They can be challenging, scary, and there are times in the depths of our pain that they can feel downright impossible.
That’s why it’s important to delve into these issues in the way that feels right for you, and only ever to go at your own pace.
These vulnerabilities of ours might be the things that make us feel small… but that doesn’t mean that we are. And every time we stop, listen to and overcome them, we’ll work through another layer of their wounding; another facet of whatever has been keeping us scared and preventing us from moving forwards into the freer life that we deserve.
If this is something you’re struggling with then remember you don’t have to face or work through your own vulnerabilities alone. If you’d like to know more about the work I do with clients, you can read more about Soul-Led Therapy here.