"There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it... and that was the people who have a strong sense of love and belong believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they are worthy. And...the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we are not worthy of connection." - Brené Brown
This is a quote from a writer, researcher, and "story teller" that I really relate to, respect, and look up to. This excerpt is from Brené's TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability, which I have blogged about before. But it had been a while since I had revisited it and listened to the message fresh. So tonight, after an emotionally draining couple of days, I sat down to watch it again.
The excerpt above is what resonates with me most tonight. The only thing holding us back from love and belonging is worthiness - feeling like we are good enough and deserving of those things. SELF-WORTH. Why is it so frequently absent? How do we get past the stories we have told ourselves about not being good enough? How do we let go of the things in our past that have somehow led us to believe that we aren't worthy of love, or that we are only good for X?
I think it's all about fully embracing vulnerability and asking for help. We aren't broken - we don't need to be fixed. But we can evolve. And we can be enlightened and empowered by seeking out answers in ourselves, even if we need that self-understanding to be facilitated by a therapist, a friend, a mentor, etc.
We must have the courage to be imperfect. As Brené says, that means letting go of who we think we should be and loving who we are. That is what fully embracing vulnerability is all about. Sounds easy. It's not. Accepting every inch of our being is difficult! There are a million messages swirling around in our head that threaten to douse our self acceptance and therefore prevent us from getting in touch with our vulnerable side.
In actuality, often times we numb vulnerability completely. We sink into a place where we would rather feel nothing than feel all of the pain and confusion. Some people turn to drugs, sex, alcohol, overtime, dieting, exercise to numb themselves and take the focus off what they really need to confront. I find that I run away from confronting my emotions by focusing on other people. "How can I help this friend evolve?" Deflect. "How can I be of service to my coworker?" Deflect. These seem like pretty productive numbing mechanisms (especially when you add working ridiculously hard and cleaning to my list of deflectors). But the biggest learning for me is that you can't selectively numb. When you numb the bad, the difficult, the scary, the painful... you also numb the good. You numb the ability to love and be loved. You numb the ability to feel grateful, to feel inspired, to feel worthy. So my apartment is clean, that project made my boss look good, and my friend feels really supported. But what about me? I leave myself feeling worthless and not cared for. All because I wasn't willing to be vulnerable. What a terrible price it is to pay feeling the way I do and filling my brain with negative self talk because I'm too scared to admit I need support.
Choosing to close off from vulnerability is sure to break your heart. If I haven't reached you yet... here's a story. After a year of struggling to form a pure connection with a boyfriend, he finally caved and was willing to be vulnerable. He realized what he was giving up and decided that none of the sadness or closed-heartenedness he was wearing was worth not having an intimate connection with me. His eyes were opened to what it meant to share openly and love with a heart burst wide open. He would ask for advice, ask for help. He was okay with not having all of the answers and just riding along with what the Universe gave him. He was vulnerable. "Now things will fall into place," I thought. We would be able to connect on a whole new level now. But just the opposite happened. I began to break down. I started to check out, mentally and physically. How could this be possible? Well, as soon as I wasn't able to put all of the attention on my boyfriend and his journey, as soon as he was no longer the barrier to our connection (since I was clearly so ready), a wall jutted up within me. I was called to look within myself. I was asked how I could be more vulnerable and emotionally available to connect with him. So I shrunk away. I was too scared to deal with my own numbing problems and "catastrophized" what might happen if I allowed myself to be vulnerable and asked for help. I didn't feel worthy of his love or attention now. Suddenly all of the past hurt that I had been numbing was revealed to me, and I was suddenly no longer available to connect. Or maybe I never was all along, unaware of my numbed parts that were perpetually dragging me down. Denying yourself of vulnerability is sure to break your heart. Case in point.
What a sad story. It is all part of my life path and it is definitely a good learning experience. But it's just another reminder of how imperative it is to be vulnerable. I wish it wasn't a choice! The world would be so different if we all felt worthy of love and belonging. But, alas, we can choose to not feel those things, and we can tell ourselves that we aren't ready/aren't enough/ aren't worthy/aren't capable of love/loving/being loved. Knowing this, we must be particularly aware of when that pain-body flares up, and we must learn what mechanisms help us as individuals to tap back into that inherent worthiness. For a life without love, is no life at all.