Sometimes I feel like the Cowardly Lion, searching for courage while overwhelmed by fear. Most of my fear is the fear of what I can’t control, or more pertinently, of not knowing what comes next during times of transition. This spring is certainly a test of my courage. Did I mention I’m opening a yoga studio? Thus far I haven’t let the fear of taking this leap onto my still-under-construction Yellow Brick Road paralyze me. In fact, as the Cowardly Lion learned in the Wizard of Oz, it’s been the act of welcoming, facing and ultimately embracing my fears about this adventure that makes me feel like my most courageous self.
In one of my all-time favorite TED Talks, Brené Brown illuminates the link between opening to uncertainty, letting vulnerability arise and finding your courage. She points out that so many of us equate vulnerability with weakness. Vulnerability means scary things like externalizing uncertainty and relinquishing control. Who likes to do that? Admittedly me, and I’d venture to guess a fair amount of you out there as well. It’s not easy to let go. That’s why courage means being brave enough to be vulnerable; to not numb yourself, which is so much easier than to feel sometimes; to love someone with your whole heart even when there’s no guarantee you’ll get it back; to believe you’re worthy of love and connection; and ultimately, to believe you are already whole, perfectly imperfect and enough.
If you reject vulnerability and choose to selectively numb yourself you can’t connect with other people. You can’t realize we’re all going through battles and we all need love and compassion. As Brené says, “connection is what gives purpose and meaning to all our lives […] it’s why we’re here.” To connect with others in any meaningful way you have to expose yourself, the good and the bad.
When you let yourself be vulnerable you might crumble a bit. That’s what happens when you put yourself out there, face your insecurities and accept who you are. For some, surrendering to vulnerability might be quite graceful through a means like meditation or yoga, while for others it might be a knockdown, drag-out internal brawl. Those people are likely the same ones that define vulnerability as weakness. No matter where you start from, taking baby steps, practicing awareness and slowly opening to uncertainty and feeling, means you’ll grow stronger with a chance to rebuild and renew yourself.
Letting down your guard, embracing that you’re a work in progress (as we all are) allows you to open to possibility. It can be uncomfortable but the most courageous amongst us use discomfort as an opportunity for awakening. You have to stay with discomfort. Sit with it. You have to feel it—and fear and all your other insecurities and perceived shortcomings—to break free from what’s preventing you from living a whole-hearted life. You have to familiarize yourself with vulnerability to eventually make friends with it.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s really freaking hard work. Eventually though, you’ll come to trust that sometimes when your let things fall apart—whether by a little or a lot—it creates space for something or someone even stronger, more confident and more courageous to arise.