This week's post is on the topic of vulnerability. Think back to the last time you felt vulnerable. What was it that you were doing? Why did that make you feel vulnerable? How did you react when you felt that way?
We're often well acquainted with the sensation of being vulnerable, but rarely drill down and look at what is actually happening beneath the surface.
So take a minute, close your eyes, and think back to the last time you felt vulnerable.
[Tweet "We're well acquainted with being vulnerable, but rarely look beneath the surface."]
Now, let's go back to the foundation. Who were you being while you felt vulnerable? Were you upset? Scared? What else? Did feeling that way cause you to become angry or anxious? Or maybe you became extremely talkative.
Congratulations - you just got a taste of your survival mechanism. Ask yourself, what was it about what you were doing or where you were that generated those feelings? It's not the same for everyone, so it's worth devoting some thought to it.
Vulnerability most often shows up in areas that are uncomfortable - often areas where we're dealing with something new and unfamiliar. Vulnerability can also show up when we're forced to address things that trigger us. The trick of the matter is that we've become very adept at protecting ourselves from these situations. If you actually took a few minutes earlier to think about when you last felt vulnerable, you might have found it to be a little bit of a challenge. Your mind may already have moved past it. We're generally pretty good at doing this - it's a way of protecting ourselves from harm.
Our survival mechanism sits between our fears and the rest of the world. Maybe you're afraid of speaking in public. Perhaps your fear is that people will deem you to be worthless, or a waste of their time. Maybe people will think you're boring. Maybe people will see through your act and realize that you're actually stupid.
Whatever it is, our survival mechanism is always ready and available to jump to our protection. Here's what the cycle looks like:
- You're going along, doing your thing.
- You are presented with an unfamiliar (or all too familiar) situation.
- You feel vulnerable.
- You get triggered (ack! what if they find out that I'm X?)
- You go into survival mechanism. (Keep calm and carry on!)
- You survive the moment of vulnerability.
- Things go back to normal. Return to step 1.
Without any more context, this cycle might seem desirable. After all, you survived right? Whatever it was in step 2 that triggered you has been dealt with, and you can go back along with your life. The problem is that this cycle will just continue repeating itself. When we want to grow, and especially when we want to be purposeful in our growth, this cycle is self-defeating. It whisks us right past our moments of vulnerability without even providing an opportunity to address them and be with what has shown up.
[Tweet "Moments of vulnerability are your self's way of showing you opportunities for growth."]
What isn't shown in the steps above is secret step 3.5. This is the step where we simply be with whatever has shown up and made us feel vulnerable. Instead of going into survival mechanism, there is an opportunity to just be ourselves in that moment.
And so here is the crux - moments of vulnerability are actually your self's way of queuing you in to opportunities for growth. The key to unlocking these doors learning to disengage your survival mechanism and simply allowing yourself to be with whatever shows up.
More on survival mechanisms next week.