My life, over the past few years, has been about redefining the words “vulnerable” and “courageous.” I grew up thinking I was very much one and absolutely not the other. I thought vulnerable meant weak, and for years I truly thought I was.
I thought because I was an anxious person with an overactive (obsessive/compulsive) mind, this made me extremely weak. I thought I couldn’t possibly be courageous because I avoided things I deemed too difficult or scary. Then I started working with a mental health professional who (along with yoga, medication, and my own hard work) changed my life.
She was the first person who ever made me realize that my challenges with mental health did not make me weak; they actually made me strong. She also made me realize how brave I was to put in so much work to heal myself. That’s when I started doing more and dreaming less, and having the vulnerability and courage to “show up and be seen,” even though I had “no control over the outcome.” My blog is one way I do this. Choosing to adopt is another. Yoga teacher training was yet another. And now teaching yoga is as well.
It dawned on me the other day, as I was preparing to teach my Wednesday 5:00 class, that yoga classes are a bunch of people wearing very tight clothing, twisting and balancing, breathing audibly, setting intentions, finding stillness, and being okay with having their eyes closed for an extended period of time while in a group setting. Sounds like everyone is being pretty damn vulnerable! And courageous! And despite me acknowledging their vulnerability and bravery, I can’t tell you how scary it is for me to get up in front of the class and lead them.
It wasn’t just scary the first time, it is scary EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. What if they hate my music? What if I fumble all of my words the entire class? What if they don’t understand the cues I’m giving? What if I talk too much? What if my guided meditation makes people feel confused instead of relaxed? And yet I keep coming back, even though I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and maybe never will. Because the answers really don’t matter. I’m choosing to be vulnerable and courageous, and so are the people on their mats in front of me, and together we are a part of a community of people who are showing up and being seen, and that is a beautiful thing.
Whether you call it “wearing your heart on your sleeve” or “being an open book” or “putting yourself out there” or “baring your soul,” it all boils down to the same thing. When you are vulnerable, you open yourself up to judgement, criticism, heartache, and failure. People who willingly open themselves up to these painful things are truly courageous, and I’ve always believed that. It’s scary when you take wild leaps towards thing for which you have no control over the outcome: relationships, business ventures, parenthood, travel, among many other things. However, I also believe, more than ever, that there is more to be risked by NOT taking those scary wild leaps. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” and one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, posed the question, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one precious and wild life?”
What do I plan to do? I plan to risk judgement, criticism, heartache, and failure in the effort to show up, be seen, and achieve every single one of my dreams. And I hope you do, too.