I’m not comfortable with being vulnerable. There I said it.
But I feel like we’re trained not to be. There’s a voice in my head that tells me not to post anything personal because I may make people uncomfortable, when in reality its probably just myself that I’m making squeamish.
So, last night I had a dream. And it wasn’t a nice one.
I never dream, but I woke up this morning in a state of terror, clearly remembering everything about it. I was in Stockholm, I think I was sitting at a cafe. And there were bombs that started exploding not too far from me, and people were running towards me to get out of the area. I jumped up and started running towards what I think was my hotel, and as I looked behind me, there was another wave of an attack. People with guns, firing towards the people that were running including me. But I got away, and I stood in the hotel lobby with my heart pounding, knowing I was safe.
I sat in my car this morning trying not to judge myself with tears streaming down my face as I remembered all the emotions of feeling scared and vulnerable that played back as I went through the details of my dream.
While maybe on one hand, the content could be related to the horrific attacks that seem to happen in major Western cities as of late, I knew deep down it wasn’t that.
Last night I went to something called Circle with a really good friend of mine. We shared a mutual friend in high school and reconnected a few years later as we both lived in Scandinavia and played pro in our respective sports. She went on to become an Olympian and is just an all around bad ass and inspiring person.
The Circle that we went to, is run by an organization called “Choose Again” – essentially the gist of what the organization is about, as per the website is: “Your Highest Potential – Total Accountability”
You are the author of your entire experience and that experience is the result of your choices. You make those choices based on a self image you made up when you were very young.
I’ve become fascinated by a couple of things lately- one is how so many chase “success” as a method of coping. And also how things that we experience in our lives are replications of patterns, messages or learned behavior we adopted in childhood, for better or for worse.
To throw a sports spin on it, I have seen a lot of people really struggle after their sporting careers end, including myself because of the above.
Although on one hand I think that part of it for sure is losing the identity of an athlete, on the other hand, I think for many, the bigger struggle is having their coping mechanism for life taken from them suddenly. It would be like an alcoholic waking up one day and their supply of alcohol gone. Of course people will struggle at anything they are dependent on getting taken from them cold turkey. As athletes, its exacerbated, as we are conditioned not to be vulnerable.
Work harder, be tougher.
Injured? Play through the pain.
I can think of myself playing 1 on 1 with my trainer, and struggling to catch my breath, getting reprimanded for breathing heavy and showing weakness to my opponent. To this day when I play, I think consciously to not show anything but strength. And I know the opposite of vulnerability being celebrated, translates into so many other things, especially in a world where image and the perception that we’re perfect and have everything together is everything.
So here I was at this Circle, which is essentially putting into practice some of the concepts that Choose Again talks about.
And feeling super, super weird and uncomfortable.
When it was my turn to talk about what the card that we read with a message, made me think about, in the safe space of two other people, I just told them flat out how uncomfortable I was. Like if I can’t crack a joke, or deconstruct it in an articulate manner, or throw some surface chat on it, I feel really fucking uncomfortable.
I fight being embarrassed at how being real and vulnerable is not a comfortable space for me. At. All.
I told them if I had to explain it visually, I have always operated with a lot of hard layers between myself and the world. I use things like humor, strength, intelligence, accomplishing things, to not really share myself. There’s a level of control and power that comes with, when you don’t really let people in or show your true self, to the point that it’s been so long that you forget who you really are and you’re scared of what lies beneath those layers.
I told them the paradox confuses me, when the thing I value the most in people is honesty, genuineness, and authenticity. And I feel to some degree I am those things, but always on my terms controlled by how much I want to show.
I told them how really at this point the only success I want to have is to flex the vulnerability muscle. Its the most atrophied one in my body. Dave the facilitator made a great point that in order to connect with people we have to connect with ourselves. It resonated because so much of our interactions with other people is a replication of what is going on with ourselves and I’m sick of living with my hard layers separating myself from the most authentic life experience I could have.
Dave asked me to take an experience that I recently had that upset me, and deconstruct it down to the seed of what the actual thing that was really bothering me with it. And after I layered it down it had less to do with the situation and more to do with feeling like I’m not good enough. Then he had me think back to another upsetting situation when I was younger that was the first thing that popped into my head, and again get right to the heart of what it was that upset me, and again although totally different people and scenario and point in time, it was the same thing: not feeling good enough.
I felt like an explorer uncovering treasure and connecting dots, except it was myself and my deepest insecurities.
It’s amazing what happens when you strip away your go-to’s like rage, busyness, blame, and actually take a quiet, cold hard look at yourself.
So I’ve made a conscious decision that the thing that matters to me the most for this next period of time, is being uncomfortable. Flexing the vulnerability muscle because real and healthy connection with other people I think is what matters the most at the end when we are lying on our death bed tallying things up. I’m fucking scared of what I’m going to find as I wade through the layers but really what is life and where is the growth if we are not doing the things that make us most uncomfortable.
And that horrible dream I had last night? I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with terrorists and everything to do with the terror I feel as the safety I feel behind the hard layers I’ve constructed to defend against the world are coming under attack. I’m looking forward to flex the vulnerability muscle and see where the journey takes me, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel to share.