Value in Vulnerability

How do you experience your value – that feeling of “enoughness” or measure of worthiness?  If you don’t know, look at what attracts you to others.

If that’s a tough question for you, you’re not alone.  Over the past months in particular, I have been observing the things in which I place my own value, as well as how others relate to theirs.

Take one peek at our culture and you see a nation of people proving their worth through everything from cars and handbags to political and athletic affiliations to tummy tucks and Black cards and board room seats.  People are craving a sense of identity.

In the quest to prove and understand my own value, I have chased material items, job titles, relationships, and a perfect body to name a few.  If I only had those Laboutins, I would feel good.  If I could get the perfect job, I would be worthy.  If I finally got that flat stomach, I would be beautiful.  If I had enough friends or the perfect partner, everything would be okay.

When those perceived solutions would manifest only for the emptiness to eventually return (sometimes sooner than later), I would then try numbing it away with one of a myriad of tactics  – a food and fat obsession (the old favorite), busy-ness (the go-to number two), other people, a “couple” glasses of wine, or shopping.

Bummer for me, none of them worked.  This cat-and-mouse game always led back to the same emptiness from which it began.

I think the joke’s on us.  Our value – in its sustainable form – lies in none of those places, and instead it lies in the places I never wanted to go: inside and up.

In the midst of my feeding frenzy, I remember scouring books for stories of how people found peace or at least something better than the unrest in which I was living.  The stories would generally end with some anecdote about loving oneself or turning inside or to God…none of which made any sense to me at the time.

I thought people who turned to God were weak and couldn’t do it themselves; I couldn’t possibly love someone I actually hated (referring to myself – though I would never tell anyone that, as my quest for perfection was saying quite the opposite); and I had no concept of what my inside world was.  I only knew what I knew and that was what I could see with my eyes.  What my eyes saw led me to roller coaster between having dreams and aspirations that felt very real and never measuring up to what I thought I should be based on media and personal messages I received all around me.

So, when I walked into a yoga studio six years ago looking for another way my depleted self could work out, I had no idea that my practice would be a be a gateway to an undiscovered world within – a place where I could experience true love, lasting value, and so much more.

When I finally learned to close my eyes through the yoga practice and begin to be with myself, I started to perceive much more going on within and around me than I had any concept of before.  Not only did I have an inner guidance system, I was connected to other people, some source, and the world in a way I couldn’t have imagined.  I wasn’t separate at all, and all those things I had built up as important were really just separating me from people I was already connected to.

What’s more, when I could start to release those aspirations my mind had constructed to “prove” my worth, I could begin to experience what I wanted in the first place: connection.  I would find my value in my ability to be vulnerable.

I began to see my beauty not in how flat my stomach was on any given day but instead in the truth, transformation, or joy I inspire in another by sharing my whole self and my purpose-driven gifts with them.  My worth was not in my outfit or job title but instead the purity of my heart and passion with which I serve the people around me.  My energy and inspiration came not from what other people or the media could tell me but from deep inside my heart and God, who I found there.

Going into what I always judged as weak has taken more courage than I ever had while grasping for the illusion.  Today, I come up against my fears and choose not to flee but instead go into them.   Of course, I experience breakdown or moments of new learning, and I have finally found a place where those moments don’t drive me to despair but instead faith, excitement, and hope.

According to researcher Brene Brown, our deepest desire is to connect, and our deepest fear is being disconnected.

Brown notes the question that drives our fear: “Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection?” We all experience this.  We hide both the parts we’ve deemed “wrong” or “bad” and those we’ve deemed “extraordinary,” “brilliant,” and “different” out of fear of being disconnected.

She says:

In order for us to feel connection, we have to be seen…really seen. The people who have a sense of love and belonging are the ones who believe they are worthy of it.  They have the courage to be imperfect. What makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful.

However, as a nation, we have learned to numb our vulnerability out of fear and shame.   As a result, we are the most in debt, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history.

The problem is that you cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb our “negative” feelings, we also numb our joy, gratitude, and love.

Ultimately, Brown suggests that we do the following:

– Let ourselves be deeply seen, vulnerably seen.
– Love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee.
– Practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror.
– Believe that: I am enough.

BELIEVE that: I am enough.  We create the experience of our lives through our thoughts, choices, and actions.  We are the creators of our value and our worth.  We create everyday with the thoughts we think and the words that come out of our mouths, so we must be very conscious of them.

If there are judgements or illusions that are holding you back, summons compassion, especially for yourself, and move into the fears.  Be willing to be vulnerable, get real, and ask for help, support, or guidance.  I have had to practice this for years and am still learning to go into the discomfort with grace and remember where to turn in good times and bad.

We’re not meant to do this alone, as I once thought we were.  Asking for help, unveiling true beauty, and being okay with sharing flaws are uncomfortable at first, and I celebrate those of you who do each of these things with grace.  Let us make space for the full spectrum that each of us is, and then when we step back, we will watch a strikingly beautiful rainbow appear.  I see a world where people are loved not “in spite of” but instead “because of” their ability to get real.

When we can begin to tear down the walls between us and truly share the unique truth that is within each of us – both those we think will support our feeling of worth and connection as well as the one we believe deem us unworthy – we become whole and real.  Your brilliance is my inspiration.  In our humanity, we find our strength.

To our wholeness,

S

4 Comments

  1. Linda on January 16, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Stephanie, I’m not sure how I came upon your article but I read through it once and had to read through it a second time. The things you said resonated so much with me that I wanted to hold the words in my heard so as not to forget them. After 20 years of employment at a local university, I am nearing retirement with mixed emotions. My inner wisdom is telling me that I need to move in a different dirrection at this point in my life and your thoughts will be a part of that “new direction”.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Linda

    • Stephanie on January 16, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Hi, Linda –

      I am so happy that this blog was helpful to you! Yes, listen to your guidance! May you path be showered with love and blessings!

      Love,
      Stephanie

  2. Dawn on October 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    That was beautifully written as if I’s written it myself. My story, the running to only find emptiness in what others deem success, the ways we run (food, wine, people) and finally understanding that the very answer lied in what I deemed for the “weak only” – God! I’m still finding my way but I feel more centered, more alive, and more sure than I ever have. Thank you for sharing.

    • Stephanie on October 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      You’re welcome, Dawn! Thank you for sharing your experience. May your path be blessed with love, peace, and grace.

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