Even as I sit down to write this blog piece, my inner-critic is already having a field day -
"You're writing an article telling people to be vulnerable? What gives you the right? Who made you an expert at giving people advice when you can't even take care of yourself?"
My inner-critic and I have a really close relationship, we thrive on two things; insecurities and poor self-worth. I've realized that I want to change all this and I'm desperate to find a way how. Even over the last few years I've become closed-off and guarded. Even my close friends I keep at a distance; I seldomly break down and if I do, I feel exposed and uncomfortable.
I recently returned to Kalani, my happy place, my island in the sun. I figured that maybe it was my East Coast life that was hardening my spirit. A trip back to the space I love so much would open my heart. And it has. In ways that I could not foresee.
I became sick shortly after arriving. My usually-healthy self played host to a slew of different (and scary) bacterias; soon I was taking more wellness days then I had, collectively, in previous years. I broke down in meetings with leadership, cried in my tent, cried to my mom, cried to anyone who would watch me cry. I felt confused, hopeless, and lost.
Taking antibiotics, having to stay in seperate housing, not being able to swim, all had a direct impact on my mood. I felt like maybe I've made a wrong choice in coming back, that maybe these sicknesses are a sign that I'm not meant to be here.
Timing couldn't have been more perfect. I joined a workshop faciliated by our Personal Development Manager focusing on Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability (now, as I'm typing this, I have goosebumps, I'm realizing the sychronicities are a little crazy). I started receving support from acquaintences within the community, asking how I'm feeling, if I need anything, holding space for me to just breathe. Over the past few weeks, as my health has come back, I'm noticing that my spark I've been searching for is still a bit dull. I write this post today to trigger that exposed and uncomfortable feeling I spoke of earlier. I'm continuing my, shall we say, personal lesson in vulnerability?
I've noticed this is a raw time for many - for those who are interested in astrology, we're in a challenging cycle. The Venus Retrograde mirrors our environments to let us see what is going on internally. Really reflect on that one for a second - if you're not happy with what's going on around you, look within yourself. This is a huge opportunity to get to know yourself better. And how do you do that, you may ask? Be vulnerable.
When taking a plunge - don't forget your birthday suit. (Collage by Stephanie Juris)
Have body issues? Get a journal. Write down one thing you love about yourself every day for one week.
In our vulnerability group, one of my issues centered around my discomfort in my physical body - my weight, appearance - the whole package. I have an underlying feeling that I could be better. Instead of sticking to the same rountine of promising to go to a fitness class everyday or to FOR-GOODNESS-SAKE stop eating sugar/gluten/dairy/etc. I decided that I needed to heal inside first. To love myself from the inside out. Writing something that I loved about myself really allowed me to step back and stop dwelling on the negative. What did I write about? The fact that I love the color of my eyes, the way I catch up with people through a hand-written letter, the way I write. After a few days of apprehension, I began to look forward to this process.
Cry. Laugh. Scream. It feels really good.
Feel your emotions and don't hide from them. So often I hear people taking about avoiding negative emotions - anger, fear, anxiety - and why wouldn't we want to? Avoiding these difficult emotions seems like a great idea, right? They don't feel good, they tend to trigger bad memories that we want to forget or get rid of. However, long term avoidance of emotions does more harm than good - when you avoid being vulnerable to your emotions, you pay the price in the long term by creating unhealthy behavior patterns. I'll put myself in this example:
When I feel stressed, I eat. Almond butter, usually - though any sort of nut butter will do just fine. It's a comfort for me and I can justify it by 'it's a healthy snack,' but it's really just filling an internal void. This pattern does nothing but harm me, it becomes an addiction, and I do it time and time again.
I'm learning to change the pattern. Instead of running to the lanai to grab a mug of almond butter, I'll go for a walk. I'll sing a song on the way to the Point. I'll call a friend and talk. I'm getting out the emotions and replacing the old habits with healthy new behaviors.
Have tangible goals for yourself.
My favorite word lately is 'sustainable.' Allow me to use it in a few sentences -
"Is this sustainable for me?"
"Is this sustainable for my environment?"
"Is this sustainable for the community?"
My goals include:
1. Build a housing structure for myself in the next 10 years.
2. Learn fermentation.
3. Create my own body care products.
4. Live a life that is sustainable.
Sustainable means: is this healthy for me? Is this going to wear and tear on my body/outlook/life/etc.? Is this going to affect how I am able to be of service to those in need? Ask yourself these questions and don't be afraid to start speaking up and building boundaries for yourself. Saying no is the hardest but most rewarding thing sometimes - which leads me to my next point -
Being vulnerable means speaking up for yourself and reclaiming your power. Saying "no" can be difficult, but, on the other hand, saying "yes" when your guidance says "no" leads to resentment and anger. This causes discomfort, drains energy, and is not sustainable in the long run - for all parties involved. This one is short and sweet - just like those two letters. NO.
Ask for help.
We are not mind readers, superheroes, or robots. We are human beings who need help at times. The way we receive this help is by asking, by being vulnerable. There's fear that comes with this:
"What if my request is met with a refusal*?"
"What if I'm ignored?"
"Will I appear weak if I ask for help?”
Move through the fear; we are all connected and in need of each other’s support whether we want to admit it or not.
*Remember that people may say no and it's nothing personal.
So my friends, these next few weeks will be about vulnerability whether we like it or not. I implore you to be vulnerable and see what happens. It may feel messy and painful, but I've learned that healing isn't always pretty and sometimes it hurts like hell. I ask you to reach out to others and share space, give a smile, a hug, share a meal with someone new. Branch out of your comfort zone and dive deeper within those scary parts of yourself that have been untapped. The results will be worth it.