Finding Strength in vulnerability
Written by Heidi Allen, Positive People Army
We all have that one memory in our life we describe as the best moment. For some, it's the day they met the love of their life. Whereas others reminisce about monumental milestones like their wedding day or the birth of their children.
All are generally lovely moments filled with joy and happiness.
I agree these memories were pretty phenomenal in my life, but for me, the most extraordinary moment happened sitting in a parking lot. Alone and staring at my phone. It wasn’t a happy and magical instance. It was one of the bravest moments I have ever experienced.
For the majority of my life, I had myself and others convinced I was a courageous and invincible person. I had always been fearless, driven, outgoing and wouldn’t let anything stop me from doing or saying what I wanted. Yet, deep down I always knew I had one cautiously kept secret.
I had carefully created a façade that hid my vulnerability.
I had invented my disguise because I had persuaded myself that sadness, anxiety or fear were liability emotions and a sign of weakness and powerlessness. Not in other people, just me.
The mire sighting of one of these vulnerable emotions would cause me to either retreat into solitude or strap on, what I would call, my virtual mask of denial. A piece of protective armor I imagined that would help me pretend everything was alright. Both had become amazing tools of denial shielding me from ever feeling helpless, exposed, weak or even worse….hurt.
My emotional tactics had everyone, including myself, convinced I was perfect.
Flash forward to that lonely parking lot. I had been summoned to appear in court with my ex-husband again. Even though I had left my ex 15 years earlier, he was still creatively finding ways to be vindictive and vengeful and today was nothing different.
On the drive to the court house, I could feel my fear and anxiety bubbling up.
“Not now”, I thought.
I started my denial regime with a confidence pep talk of “You’ve got this, you’re better than this”. Followed by imagining I was placing my virtual mask of denial on to wear for such an important occasion.
Yet, once I arrived every device I had put into place was quickly disintegrating. The thought of seeing my ex and starting another court battle put my stomach was in knots and a wave of nausea came over me. I felt scared, overwhelmed and defeated before I’d even begun.
I slumped over the steering wheel and began to cry.
“I need help”, I murmured to myself.
My vulnerability felt out of control. Yet at the same time, I noticed nothing had happened. The sky had not fallen by admitting my feelings, nor did the earth open up and swallow me whole. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but I had convinced myself life as I know it would crumble by admitting vulnerability.
“I need help”, I repeated again. Still nothing.
In fact, I couldn’t help but notice that every time I repeated the phrase, a sense of relief washed over me.
With this new-found feeling of reprieve or maybe it was insanity, I grabbed my phone, opened my Facebook profile and began to type a post.
“Vulnerability is one of the hardest emotions for me, but today I’ve decided to be vulnerable and ask for everyone’s help. I have to go up against one of the most negative human beings I know and I’m feeling anxious and scared. I’m reaching out to all my friends to help by sending positive intentions and vibes to help get me through this. I know I can do anything, but I don’t want to do it alone!! Love you all!! Xo”
Once I’d written it, I stared at my words. I had worked so hard my entire life to make sure no one ever saw this side of me and now in one short paragraph I was willing to change everything.
I took a deep breath….and pressed send.
What happened next felt like a miracle.
Within minutes, my phone started buzzing with notifications. I couldn’t look. Yet, my phone wouldn’t stop vibrating.
Finally, after about a minute I picked up my phone and started to read the messages. I couldn’t believe it! All were reassuring sentiments of love, positive energy and support. Nobody judged my plea for help, nor did they criticize my fear. But most of all nobody disapproved or condemned my vulnerability.
I honestly didn’t know what I’d expected, but it definitely wasn’t this.
Hundreds of supportive and encouraging messages flooded my phone. To say I was astonished, is an understatement.
Quickly my tears of sorrow turned into tears of gratitude and appreciation. What I had feared the most, had just become my saving grace.
It felt incredible!
I walked into the court room that day without any of my denial devices. I felt strong, powerful…I felt like I had finally found the real me.
I won the court battle that day…in more ways than one.
For my entire life I had believed that admitting my vulnerability was my greatest weakness. The truth is, vulnerability does make me more susceptible to hurt, heartbreak and disappointment – there’s no denying that! But without allowing myself to be vulnerable I wasn’t experiencing my genuine self or my authentic life.
My experience in the parking lot was only the beginning of my vulnerability journey. I had cracked wide open my perfect façade and it actually felt amazing. By putting myself into a space that didn’t feel completely comfortable I had finally discovered what true courage felt like and there was no going back after that.
I retired my virtual mask of denial that day and I now wear a virtual courageous cape of vulnerability. For me this moment will always be remembered as my most memorable day. A day I discovered what true bravery is, as well as my true self.
I hope my story inspires you to do the same.