What does it mean to be vulnerable? Webster's defines it as "capable of being physically or emotionally wounded - open to attack or damage." Last weekend I allowed myself to be vulnerable at Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal.
As an instructor last weekend, my ego would have preferred me to present myself as completely confident and unafraid. A deeper part of me knew that it was more beneficial, for myself and the participants, if I was honest and open about my fears. I did not pretend to be confident when I did not feel confident (although that was an unusually small part of the weekend). Instead of hiding my insecurities, I openly and honestly shared them with people. I let my guard down and allowed others to see me as I really am, not as the infallible person I pretend or wish or imagine myself to be (or rather, that my ego wishes or imagines me to be). By embracing my imperfections, I was able to connect more deeply and meaningfully with others.
Last weekend I explored my feminine side, wearing skirts and dresses for the first time in years. I was uncomfortable and self-conscious, and I expressed those feelings during the women's circle at Renewal. Many of the women couldn't believe that I was uncomfortable with my femininity, and were surprised when I called myself a tomboy. I had successfully projected a certain image to the world, but that image was not my true self. By allowing myself to be vulnerable and express my insecurities, I felt supported and loved instead of out of place.
Dancing was a big part of the weekend. I have not allowed myself to enjoy dancing since college, because of a cruel comment made by my boyfriend at the time. I wasn't going to share the comment here, but I'm getting the message that I need to be vulnerable again and share it. He leaned over and whispered in my ear on the dance floor, "You dance like a cow." It's still embarrassing to admit, but I find that every time I repeat it I find less truth in the words. They no longer sting because I no longer believe them. I've finally stopped allowing his comments and opinions to define me.
I shared my story and fear of dancing with anyone I felt might be encouraged by it throughout the weekend. By sharing my vulnerability instead of hiding it, I felt loving support when I got out on the dance floor, because everyone knew I was pushing myself to my edge. In the past, I would have been very self-concious and assumed that everyone was judging me and laughing behind my back. Last weekend (and for the first time in 20 years), I reconnected with my body and danced freely, without inhibition or shame. By admitting my insecurity, I felt supported instead of criticized, loved instead of judged.
Many of us are afraid to admit our vulnerability, assuming others will think we are weak or insecure. Before this weekend, I certainly subscribed to that belief. By allowing others to see me as vulnerable, to partake in the part of me that I sometimes try to hide or deny in myself, I was able to foster connections on a much deeper level.
Last weekend while I was surrounded by loving, accepting, encouraging people, it was easy to be vulnerable. There was no competition, no need to project myself to be better than someone else, no need to protect myself from hostility. Now the true challenge - will I be able to take my vulnerability out into the real world, where people aren't as concerned about my feelings and the only thought is of self-preservation? Away from the love bubble, will I trust myself enough to allow others to see that I am not perfect, that I am a work in progress, without feeling less than or incapable? Can I keep from being taken advantage or ridiculed or seen as weak? Will my courage allow me to face those possibilities and still be vulnerable anyway? I don't know, but I'm willing to give it a try.