Lessons in Vulnerability: What I Learned from Sharing My Story
Updated: Feb 2, 2020
“Always choose the unknown and go headlong. Even if you suffer, it is worth it.” - Osho
I hear it all the time—“you seem like you have your shit together.” And it’s mostly true—I do, though that certainly hasn’t always been the case. As someone with her shit generally together, let me clue you in on a little secret—people like me need support too. We need encouragement. We need our friends and family to show up for us when we are vulnerable, delicate, and stretching ourselves into the unknown.
When they do, it fills us with light and joy that we can stand with our bones outside of our skin and still be loved for who we are, with all of our fissures. It reassures us that we don’t need to be strong and fierce all of the time. When our friends and family don’t show up the way we think they should, we fall into the same traps of self-doubt that everyone does. We think nobody cares. We think about giving up.
Laying Myself Bare
Seven days ago I launched this website and propelled myself into the unknown.
By sharing my stories, I am laying myself bare. I am putting myself out there to the world in a way that leaves little to hide behind. This was my choice and an inescapable part of what I hope to accomplish. I know that connecting with others on a spiritual level and helping others through my words requires me to be vulnerable in a way I am not accustomed to. I must accept that this exposure will come with some squirming as I confront some uncomfortable or even painful feelings.
Not surprisingly, that experience brought up a lot of emotions for me. Truth is, while there were moments of true joy and satisfaction this week, there were also times when I felt hurt, and wrestled with negative, irrational thoughts from my “Shitty Mind.” That Shitty Mind told me that people like me enough to ask for my counsel and support but not enough to show up for me when I need it. It taunted me that my friends aren’t going to like this version of me or be able to relate to where I’m coming from. It whispered that I am just not that important to (most of) the people in my life.
This time I could see that for what it was—the Shitty Mind speaking in its native language of fear and self-doubt. My feelings of hurt and disappointment at not hearing from certain friends and family were real—I won’t deny that. As were my feelings of gratitude and love for the people who reached out and answered my call.
I have a clearer idea now of who is truly in my “front row.” Those are the people who are my “die-hard supporters, [my] cheerleaders, and [my] champions.” And those are the people I need to be sure to show up for in a big way. I’m also accepting that as I walk this path, others will fall away or the nature of our relationship will change, and that is ok.
I know that part of what this experience is meant to teach me is how to be comfortable being vulnerable and how to use it for growth. If I look for satisfaction or validation from others, particularly those who came into my life when this part of me was still hidden, I will always be disappointed and it will undermine the connection to my own intuition.
Instead, I need to trust that my mission and my impact will unfold just as they are supposed to, provided I am truthful to my inspiration and honor what is coming through me. Trying to filter my expressions through a screen of what I think people need to hear or what will get me published will likely lead me astray and compromise my message. It would allow the ego to direct my writing and attach me to the outcomes. That will just distract me and prevent me from doing my best work.
All I can do is be myself, share my stories as I lived them, and bring my authentic voice into the world. That is how I will be of service. What shape that takes and where this path leads is up to the universe and up to all of you.
Crawling Out of My Shell
This week taught me something else—I need to ask for help and support when I need it. And to be more direct about it, which definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. Sure, I asked people to visit my website and engage through comments and likes where something resonated with them. I invited feedback. But perhaps I wasn’t as clear and personal in my appeals as I could have been.
This week and the week building up to it were exciting and encouraging in many ways, but also a little scary. Pushing that “publish” button and hitting “send” took courage. Yet I didn’t fully reflect that humility and vulnerability in what I shared. I didn’t come out and explicitly say how much it would mean to me to hear from those in my inner circles and feel supported in my dream. Even if it was just a text saying, "Congrats!" or "I'm proud of you."
It left me wondering about the shadow sides of being someone with her shit together. Have I become type-cast as the giver of advice, the comforter, the rock? For people who might see me that way, maybe it doesn’t occur to them that I could use them in the same way they turn to me. Or perhaps they fear that they won’t have much to offer or otherwise undervalue the worth of the help they can give. Perhaps in projecting an image of having everything under control, I have built a wall around me that keeps others at bay.
Or perhaps it is just that in today’s speeding world of social media and streaming news, it is hard for any one thing to stand out. While publishing my website and sharing my personal stories was the most important thing in the world to me, it was just another headline to most other people, if it was seen at all. Or it stayed in the background as they dealt with all that is going on in their own lives. I've definitely been there.
As I waded through all my emotions this week, I was forced to admit to myself that I’ve let people down too. Just as there is no ill-intent when I am absent, I believe that no one is trying to do me harm or deliberately ignoring me. So, I forgive those of you who meant to take a look and just didn’t or who looked and just never let me know. I hope you forgive me for times when I wasn’t there for you in the way you needed. This experience has given me the clarity to work on that.
I know that some people will love my writing and let it into their heart to help them with whatever their struggles may be and help them grow. Others will think I have it all wrong. And yet others will never look because they don’t want to ask those kinds of questions of themselves or simply don’t care. All that is ok. I am not here to force anyone to change who doesn’t want to change. I am not here to push my views onto others. I am just here to carry a torch for those seeking another light on their path.
For those of you who do see something special in what I’m doing, here is my ask: Read at least two of my posts. Reach out to me, privately or publicly, with your reactions and feedback. If you liked something, leave a comment or share with a friend. I’ve lived a lot of my life going it alone—this is my way of reaching out to you.
For more on "shitty mind," read this: https://www.carolynbrouillard.me/blog/reflections-inflections-upon-turning-40