I used to think that being vulnerable meant being weak. Since I started writing my blog, and from the time I started publicly speaking about my mental illness years ago, I have been leaning into that vulnerability more and more. As uncomfortable as it can be at times, I have learned more about myself in the process and embraced the words of the great Brene Brown who writes that “vulnerability is not weakness; its our greatest measure of courage”.
Courage. Not a word I am at all comfortable with saying about myself and perhaps never will be. When I look at things logically, I know that what I do can be considered “courageous” but to actually feel that way is another thing entirely. My whole life I have been around two types of people; those who encouraged me to be brave and get out there and those who said that to love yourself and celebrate was being egotistical. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “we need to knock you down a peg or two”. Every single time I’ve heard that it was hurtful, and yet a piece of me truly believed that letting myself shine was somehow shameful and wrong.
Although deep scars have been left by those unkind words, I find myself in a place where I have risen above them. In Rising Strong, Brene Brown writes about how you cannot go back once you have chosen to enter the arena; once you have chosen to be brave. That is where I am at today. For me, there is no going back and, having made the decision to be open, honest, and yes, courageous, means the path of my life has changed forever. The journey to get here is one I honour; every time I have fallen down, every time I have taken a misstep, every time I have hurt someone or myself. For it is in those times that we find our true strength and bravery.
The things I have shared about my life did not find their way onto my pages our out of my mouth easily. It took countless hours of preparation, meditation, practice, and people holding me up emotionally to make it all happen. I still recall my very first speaking engagement where I stood outside the room and had to have my mental health worker walk me through breathing as I was about to have an anxiety attack. I could have walked away; nothing was written in stone that I had to talk that day. It would have been so easy to run, however I had made the choice to walk into that arena and embrace the discomfort. That moment changed everything and since then I have had the honour and privilege of hearing from so many people who are grateful for my openness. They inspire me to keep going.
I don’t kid myself that my words and writing will change the world or have a huge impact on those around me. The reality is I am but one individual in a world full of amazing people with an abundance of gifts to give. What I do hope is that by embracing my vulnerability and putting it out to the universe, I can be a small part of other people’s journeys and help make their paths a little easier to navigate. No one goes at it alone in this world. So many people, in so many large and small ways, have guided me along the way. They have shared their lives and vulnerability with me and inspired me to do the same. I have entered the arena. I have fought and I have fallen. And, in the words of my favourite poet, Maya Angelou, “still I rise”.