"Tadpole, are you afraid of anything?" he asked. "Yes, of course, Dharma. Isn't everyone afraid of something? I countered." "Well, son, do you face your fears or do you retreat from, preferring to hide from them like they're the Boogey Frog?" I thought about this for a few minutes and then replied, "I guess it's a little of both, Sir. It depends on how great the fear is, I suppose. The bigger the problem, the more I shy away from looking at it, But isn't that the normal thing to do?" Dharma smiled. "I suppose it is," he said," but a frog who won't look at his fears will never be brave."
We all know what being vulnerable feels like, even if we don't call it by that name. it's that feeling of being exposed; of perhaps being judged by another because of our actions, deeds, or words. It's that feeling you get when you try out a new skill, ask someone for forgiveness, or tell someone you love them for the first time. You don't know how it will turn out. According to Dharma, both we frogs and you humans fear rejection. We fear looking or sounding foolish. Being vulnerable is a very scary thing! So why do we celebrate this raw openness in others but then shy away from showing that side of our own selves? Dharma believes that we see vulnerability in others as courage but view it as inadequacy in ourselves. It's a double standard that nearly everyone struggles with. But why is that?
New research has shown that when we are mentally distanced from a possible scenario, we tend to be "less risk averse." We focus more on the positive. Example; it's a good thing when someone else owns up to their mistakes but I might lose my job if I admit what I did. Vulnerability might be called "a beautiful mess" because it comes with big risks but it also can have big rewards. "By putting ourselves out there, we might make a mess of our reputations or even lose our friends; on the other hand, we might be embraced by others and find a beautiful sense of belonging, " says Dharma. Showing our vulnerability can feel like a weakness from the inside, but to those of us we dare to be vulnerable with...it can be courageous and even inspiring.
I asked my wise friend for a few pointers on how to overcome our fear of vulnerability.
1. Recall - Remember an experience or a belief that causes you to keep it hidden.
2. Reflect - Consider this experience or belief; who was there, what happened, how did it affect you?
3. Reveal on paper - Pick up a pen and begin to journal the answers to those questions. Too old-fashioned for paper and pen? Open up a word document and type out your thoughts. Just let them flow. When you've finished...and there's no rush...read your words back as if your younger self was listening.
4. Reveal to another - This requires taking a big step, but reveal your story to someone else. Decide whom you feel the most comfortable with; who can you talk to that you know will deeply listen and will suspend judgment? it must be someone who will accept you no matter water, like your mom or BFF. Your spouse, perhaps.
5. Reboot - After you've shared your story with a trusted other, "imagine you are rebooting your memory, just like a computer memory. Let it be defragmented and safely put away."
6. Restart - After giving yourself a pat on the back, get back on your journey toward your new future; one where it is a little safer to feel vulnerable. You have achieved a clean restart to your experience or memory. Way to go!
After breakfast and as I was clearing the table, I thought about what Dharma had taught me this morning. I know now that I cannot be brave without facing my fear of being vulnerable. I want to try to become a braver frog, maybe even to be an inspiration for my little brother, Quigley, Jr. So once the dishes are washed and put up, I will sit down at my trusty computer and begin working on the memories I have that scare me. And as for who to share them with, I know that mom will love me no matter what...and that makes her the perfect audience. Perhaps when I've got things written down, I'll hop over for a visit. We can have a good mother-son chat over a glass of swamp juice and a few toasted bugs while I admit to a few things that I thought I never could.
I invite you back here tomorrow for another blog, but until then I wish you courage to face your own fears.