I had an enlightening experience two days ago—after many weeks of being ill (with a ridiculously slow recovery) my rock-climbing ability had suffered. I had dropped around 5 grades in my fitness and as a result, I was feeling despondent, weak, and not at all like myself.
You see, I draw my emotional and spiritual strength from my physicality and when my physical strength leaves me, I’m left a very unhappy camper with little to no personality. Yet during my last training session, I told myself that I’m not leaving the climbing gym until I try a hard climb, even if I fail.
And guess what? I banged out a super hard grade, I didn’t collapse in a fit of breathlessness, and I crushed the route. Yay me! Instantly I felt invigorated, confident, sparkly and my tongue-in-cheek sense of humour returned.
And then the realisation hit me: how deeply reliant I am on ‘achievement’ to feel confident, worthy and happy.
I have recently been delving into the realm of vulnerability and how it is influenced by society, culture, personal wounding, and our own neurological and genetic programming. We all know that vulnerability is the bedrock of all human emotion and interaction, and we also know that the idea of it is rather scary for most of us.
We have developed some imaginative ways of avoiding vulnerability, ways in which we can protect our fears and insecurities, and keep pretending to the world that we know what we are doing, we’re happy in our work or relationship, that we are...‘ok’.
Yet beneath the mask, most of us feel alone, adrift, endlessly worried and always operating from a place of scarcity.
We feel we don’t have enough; enough love, wealth, success, bravery, support, time. We aren’t thin enough, accomplished enough, experienced enough, clever enough, worthy enough.
To combat these feelings of scarcity we seek to identify our sense of self with outside factors; feeling exhausted through constant ‘accomplishment’ is one such way and one that I am very guilty of. "Look at me! I worked 16 hours today! I climbed a hard route when I shouldn’t be exercising at all! I slept only 6hrs and look at me go!"
I have always been interested in the space in-between. For me, that is where truth and vulnerability reside.
- Who are you in the space between one self-medicating act and the next?
- Who are you when over-working can no longer mask your lack of meaning?
- Who are you when the security of a relationship is taken away and all that is left are painful feelings?
- Who are you when anger and anxiety can no longer hide your fear and disappointment?
I think vulnerability can be found and nurtured in these in-between spaces when we have the courage to say, “I am feeling lost, sad, afraid, heartbroken and I need some help”.
I live with the philosophy of; move towards the discomfort because I know that is where true growth and healing take place. My current discomfort is surrendering to the in-between space of accomplishment and nothingness.
Who am I when I am not achieving? Is that all that makes me, me? Why do I judge myself so harshly when my CV has not been updated? Why do I feel that my day was a waste if I am not exhausted at the end of it? How would my life look if I could feel the same level of pride and self-worth from cooking a meal as I get from ticking off 531 to-do-list items?
The irony is, I am writing this article on my phone while in the bath, because, you know, time management (and yes, accomplishment).
If this resonates with you, I encourage you to read Brené Brown’s book: Daring Greatly, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
If you prefer to 'do' rather than read, then carve yourself some in-between space during your day-to-day life, and in those moments...feel. Feel with daring, with bravery, and with honesty. Because all of life’s answers reside in our hearts.
Have a cracking, peaceful weekend—I hope you accomplish your goals, and I also hope you do absolutely nothing but revel in the beautiful knowledge that you are alive—and that is enough.