If you protect yourself, you’ll never be free

I’ve been dissecting this quote, ad nauseam, for the past year: “If you protect yourself, you’ll never be free”

It’s about removing the amor society has conditioned us to wear. It’s about finding the strength in surrender. It’s allowing yourself to be fully seen, heard and affected.

It’s about vulnerability. 

Admitting you’re afraid.

Admitting that you don’t know. 

Admitting that you care. 

To say the topic of vulnerability is trending would be an understatement. I fear, as with other trends, we run the risk of misinterpreting what being vulnerable is all about or overlooking the degree of work involved with allowing yourself to experience vulnerability.

Meaning, vulnerability is a paradigm shift. 

It’s not something you casually pick up through social media osmosis (though I am absolutely in favor of sharing positive, constructive messages through the Interwebs). As frustrating as it may be, “be vulnerable” can’t be added to your “to-do” list no matter how gratifying it is to strike through an item rendering it “done”. 

Vulnerability is an investment in yourself and your relationships. It’s an investment of time and effort where a clear, quantifiable ROI may be difficult to define; however, I can say, without a doubt, it’s one of the most worthy pursuits you can make. For this reason, I am writing to share a few lessons I’ve learned in my own journey, the disclaimer being that I am no Brené Brown.

Vulnerability is an introspective journey 

Inviting vulnerability into your interactions with others will fundamentally change your relationships and the way you connect, but allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the first place is a journey that starts within.

Vulnerability requires complete honesty with yourself — identifying the differences between who you think you are versus who you actually are; and what you think you want versus what you actually want.

It’s when we can acknowledge and resolve our own incongruities that we begin to speak and act in ways that honor our own truth, even if this truth means we face rejection, pain or open ourselves up to criticism.

The “if – then” scenario

We are human.

By virtue of being human, we tell ourselves stories. In fact, we do an exceptional job of creating and running narratives within our own mind no matter how closely that narrative does or does not align with the reality of the situation we find ourselves in.

These narratives have a tendency to take on a life of their own especially when we are uncertain about the outcome of what we perceive to be a “risky” situation.

“If I tell her I care then _____”

“If people know I don’t know the answer then_____”

“If people know _____ about my past then…”

Many of these “if-then” narratives are rooted in our own fears and insecurities. If we assign so much weight and power to these stories, we can convince ourselves of the outcome with such assurance that we lose our appetite for vulnerability altogether. 

What if, instead of giving in to the temptation of the mental catastrophizing, we become curious about the patterns in our own thoughts and behavior?

What if we speak and act our truth independent of the looping self-talk?

We become less invested in an outcome we cannot control and more interested in what we can control, speaking and acting in a way that aligns with our identity and values.

Vulnerability is like a muscle that needs to be worked

The idea that vulnerability evolves naturally, without any self-work or reflection, is a myth. No matter how “woke” or self-aware you are.

Vulnerability is like a muscle that, through proper conditioning and training, can gain strength.

Rather than dread challenging conversations, view them as an opportunity to get your vulnerability repetitions in.

If you protect yourself, you’ll never be free

The world will give you a million reasons why you need to suit up for battle. Even then, you still have the choice to take off the armor. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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