Monday, April 23, 2012

Being Transparent and Vulnerable

I guess the reason we all have such a hard time with transparency is fear of criticism and rejection.

We all have such a hard time with showing our under bellies and being real with who we really are. I learned this the hard way when I went to a 12-step group and saw how the well-put together on the outside people were struggling as much as I was but just didn't look like it on the outside. Boy, was I off on my initial judgements of them. They were suffering just as much as I was but had the added burden of putting on a happy face to hide it.

And just what does that look like on the outside? A bum living on the street? Someone in a body cast?

Really? We can often cry tears on the inside and on the outside look perfectly "normal". And yet, this really serves no one. When we have the courage to be vulnerable, we give others the courage to be vulnerable too. And vulnerability builds trust and safety. Love is safety. We feels most loved with those we can trust our vulnerable feelings with knowing we won't be betrayed or judged.

For example, I am still grieving the loss of my cat. I'm not really talking about it very much for fear of being made fun of because people might say "it was just a cat".

But it wasn't just a cat. My cat was more loyal and loving towards me than 99% of most humans I've interacted with and that's pretty sad. I can honestly say that if all humans had the same disposition of my late cat, the world would be a drastically different place. I felt totally accepted and wanted by this cat. If I was home, that cat wanted to be on my lap or chest, not in the other room or somewhere else. Up to his last day when he could walk, he walked right up to me and even though he couldn't jump, he waited patiently until I picked him up onto my lap so he could curl up there. Totally vulnerability was what he showed. Almost too much. I often worried that if he were an outdoor cat he wouldn't make it because he was so gentle. He didn't even like to hunt.

So I go to work and I smile and I pretend that things are okay when things are not okay. My other cats are still grieving too and so is my husband. Sure, we all go through the motions. My husband at least. But we were talking tonight how we really aren't over it....and the cats are more transparent than we are but at least they don't have to go to work and live up to societal expectations.

What's happened to us as a society were grieving is something that needs to be done in 3 days or a week and then we are supposed to move on and "get over it"?

Some cultures have the grieving widow or mother wear black for a full year while they bring them meals and comfort them.

I have made a committment to live courageously and this means honestly and transparently because I've had to face my dishonesty in this area and how I don't show my vulnerable side out of fear.

And I know I'm not the only one.....I see the same fear in my workmates, my neighbors, my friends, my family, my online's a disease that we as a society have passed on to eachother.

This excerpt from Brene really spoke to me:

Want to be happy ? Stop trying to be perfect

 By Brene Brown ( Shame Researcher)

The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can't turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like "Never good enough" and "What will people think?"

Why, when we know that there's no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No -- the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.

We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.

We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never ___ enough (you can fill in the blank: thin, beautiful, smart, extraordinary, talented, popular, promoted, admired, accomplished).

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it's a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.

Living in a society that floods us with unattainable expectations around every topic imaginable, from how much we should weigh to how many times a week we should be having sex, putting down the perfection shield is scary. Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from "What will people think?" to "I am enough," is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this:

What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think -- or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?

So, how do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough -- that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy? Why we're all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known. Why are we so paralyzed by what other people think? After studying vulnerability, shame, and authenticity for the past decade, here's what I've learned.

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.

There are certainly other causes of illness, numbing, and hurt, but the absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering.

As I conducted my research interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It's as simple and complicated as this:

If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.

The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.

So many of us have created a long list of worthiness prerequisites:

• I'll be worthy when I lose 20 pounds
• I'll be worthy if I can get pregnant
• I'll be worthy if I get/stay sober
• I'll be worthy if everyone thinks I'm a good parent
• I'll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together
• I'll be worthy when I make partner
• I'll be worthy when my parents finally approve
• I'll be worthy when I can do it all and look like I'm not even trying

Here's what is truly at the heart of whole-heartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Letting go of our prerequisites for worthiness means making the long walk from "What will people think?" to "I am enough." But, like all great journeys, this walk starts with one step, and the first step in the Wholehearted journey is practicing courage.

The root of the word courage is cor -- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.

Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.

Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn't get braver than that.
So as I continue on my journey of being courageous and honest, I think of this beautiful image of how we all are coming out of our cacoons and transforming into beautiful butterflies:


  1. I've been thinking of you, Michele. ♥ Grieving is natural; some are just more able to acknowledge loss than others...and we all need time, patience, love, and understanding (wherever we may find it) to heal. I'm so glad you're giving yourself that gift.


  2. Dear Michele . . . I recently discovered this blog. You are wonderful!!! ♥ I TOTALLY understand about your precious kitty. He sounds so very special. I am still grieving my beautiful kitty Sophie (along with my husband) who died in a mysterious accident 5 years ago. Deep love and comfort like that cannot be forgotten. My best girlfriend is a veterinarian and she talks about the way that we are literally physically closer to our animals than to people, constantly touching, holding, stroking, and that intensifies our bond and closeness. It helps to know that we gave our kitties a safe and gentle life filled with lovingkindness. I think that is the best possible in this world. Just want you to know that I feel for you and with you. Love, Julie ♥

  3. P.S. I wish all animals could be that loved.

  4. Thank you so much Fruity Jules. :) Yes, I agree. We gain so much from our association with these loving creatures and my other three kitties are slowly coming out of their grief, too. Some beings simply are not expendible and cannot be replaced. Pepperoni was one such being.

  5. Thx Michele. I put this quote up with my Sophie's picture in my house and it sounds like it applies to your Pepperoni, too:

    There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.


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