“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” — Madeleine L’Engle
Today I am inspired by risk and vulnerability. There is a balance of fear and courage in the world that is beyond my comprehension. Those struggling with such pain they are afraid to trust anyone, and those who are so courageous they are almost willing to step off a cliff for what they believe in.
On a very small scale, I ran my first 10 km race yesterday. It’s not so much that it took courage for me to run the race, but it took courage for me to start running in the first place. I started running only ten months ago, and if you had told me I would be running a 10 km in April of 2018, I would have laughed and told you I could barely run one minute without feeling that my lungs would burst. I was afraid to look silly, look out of shape when I could not continue, hold back the group, not be able to breathe, panic… so many scenarios made running vulnerable for me. And even bigger, connected to performance was my worth. Would I be able to do it well? And if not, what did that say about who I was?
And so, while I was happy with my courage to run the race yesterday, I was most significantly encouraged to see crowds of hundreds of people running alongside me down that first long street, new runners and seasoned runners, all shoulder to shoulder from one side of the road to the other, everyone giving it their very best, no matter what their ability, level, fears, barriers–they were all taking risks to step out and try. In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown shares about vulnerability, and how at the core is both the fear and possibility of disappointment, and also the love, joy and belonging (and of course in the case of the race yesterday, ‘endorphin euphoria’).
While Brené Brown relates this mostly to relationships and human connection in our lives, I would also relate this to a physical goal like running–or anything we do for that matter which involves performance and makes us reconsider what we are worth. While our worth should never be equated with our level of performance, it’s so easy to do this to ourselves, isn’t it?
But vulnerability is new to so many of us. We have been taught to hide, hold back, be less seen, keep our emotions and truths of who we are to ourselves. So HOW do we take these steps?
It’s messy, that’s for sure, and there doesn’t seem to be any easy how-to answers for this one. I find that when I’m brave enough to step deeper into the wave, sometimes I also find my other foot sinking deeper into the mud. It’s not always easy to navigate or do well. It depends on what we choose to share, how we share, with whom we share. It depends on running for that first time with others, and knowing that no matter how you did, you did your best, and that’s what matters. And it takes time. It’s not something we do all at once. Every time we risk and make ourselves vulnerable, scary as it is, we open ourselves to deeper ability, connection, relationships, and growth. We will find ourselves in a better place little by little. We will find places of safety and healing and belonging. We will discover we can do things we never thought possible. We will become our truest beautiful selves.
Perhaps this video The Power of Vunerability by Brené Brown will help you visualize the process:
I hope you are able to find ways to risk today. I hope you get a chance to follow the messy how-to’s: step into the rink, show up, be real, be brave, be seen. It’s the risk-taking I see in others that encourages me to find my way along the same long and hilly road. Be true to yourself today and keep running towards vulnerability with all you have in you. And I will do my best to do the same.