Courageous Vulnerability

WomanCheeringInSunshineOnCliffOverOcean

A while back I came across Brené Brown’s TED-talks on vulnerability and shame on YouTube. Within the course of the 40-or-so minutes it takes to watch those videos I realized that I was standing in front of a major paradigm shift in how I would perceive myself from that moment on.

I have always regarded being vulnerable, and in particular my own vulnerability, as something that makes us humans weak, fragile and a little bit pathetic (sometimes a lot). That being said I have never really shunned away from potentially hurtful situations, although when things have not gone my way it has left me feeling weak, stupid and most importantly shameful. Shameful that I was not able to control myself better and that I should have been able to avoid going into a situation where I was not certain of a victorious outcome. My ego has thus far been quite successful at making me feel this way.

Then enter Brené Brown who after years of studying shame and vulnerability has a diametrically different take on it:

Vulnerability is not weakness. […] Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.

-Wow!

Investing in something you want where success is uncertain is not a sign of weakness. It is pure courage. My old self (read: ego) would say stupid, as you risk getting hurt, rejected or even humiliated. But why should we let fear of failure and rejection run our lives and limit our possibilities? Wouldn’t it be better if we all were brave enough to go after what we really want, trusting that we have what it takes to handle a possible failure? Are you confident enough to know that it is not your failures that define who you are, apart from helping you grow and evolve into something bigger, better, stronger than you were before?

Being vulnerable means giving a relationship your all even if you are uncertain of whether it will work out or not. It means having the guts to say “I love you” first even when you know the other person may not reciprocate. Being vulnerable is standing up for your convictions and ideas in circumstances where applause is far from certain. It is having the perseverance to be the stayer in situations where your for a prolonged period of time only can fly on instruments. Vulnerability is giving other people or situations the benefit of the doubt, when the ego in your head is screaming that this should not be trusted.

These situations are not about being weak. They are about finding the strength and courage to go the distance even when you are not certain that you will get there or what you will even find there. It is about following your dreams, and about trusting yourself, your instincts, and your strength and capabilities to handle whatever comes your way.

Going after something you want with zero risk is easy and doesn’t instil much growth. Going after what you want when there is a considerable chance you may end up getting hurt is transformative. It builds confidence and it reinforces the fact that we absolutely are able to create our own life experience.

But do not misunderstand me. Going after the girl you want when she has told you that she is not interested is not courage. It is stalking. Repeatedly trying to become the next big singer when no one except your mum has told you that you sing well is also not courage. It is being ignorant to the fact that your time and talents could be put to better use. Seeking out situations where you are likely to get hurt without any potential of a reward is also not being courageous. It is self-destructive.

Slack line in the nature.I am talking about situations where the only thing separating you from making that leap of faith is your own doubt and fears. I am talking about situations where you keep wondering if this actually could work, even if it’s a long shot.

Brené Brown had discovered that the one thing distinguishing people whom she would classify as happy and sorted was that they accepted their own vulnerability. That doesn’t mean that we should relish the feeling of being vulnerable jackass-style. It means that we could have a lot to gain from viewing our own vulnerability as a natural side to life that shouldn’t be ignored or feared.

While most people are busy contemplating all the things that could go wrong, it is not the pitiful and weak ones you see out there in the arena fighting for what they want. They are the brave and courageous ones.

Don’t you want to be one of them?

 

Vulnerably and courageously yours,

Kristian

Insidious Ego In My Head

The world as we know it is mostly driven by egos. On all levels. From conflicts between nations and religious warfare via corporate competition and political campaigns down to workplace politics, family dynamics and intimate relations. Although to various degrees, all of us have this innate urge to be heard, respected and appraised by others. And when this doesn’t happen (and I dare say this seems to happen more often than not) we react in a multitude of ways ranging from mildly indignant to downright cruel. Because it is only normal to react when our egos are hurt, right? Maybe. But it is not the only way, and certainly not the best way. Thankfully.

As I see it, the non-physical part of what I like to call me, is comprised of three components: my soul, my mind and my ego.

Zen stonesFirst and foremost is my soul which is the subtle essence of who I really am. The soul is indestructible, eternal and divine and the only part of my whole being which is capable of love as well as the source of my intuition.

Secondly, is my chattering and at times ungovernable mind. A cognitive tool I have been given to navigate this life experience, and until not long ago my mind was more or less in charge of the whole shebang I call life. I am slowly but surely learning to put my mind in the place where it belongs, namely as my faithful and obedient servant.

Then there is this third part. Easily insulted and humiliated, never completely satisfied and on an eternal mission to detect and mercilessly judge flaws in myself and others. It is everything my soul is not. It is my ego.

My earliest memory of having consciously thought of the phenomenon of the ego was several years back. Someone I dated repeatedly exclaimed “Well, I do have an ego!!” in order to justify his less amicable actions. Having never thought of this before I sort of initially assumed that honoring one’s ego was a normal and just thing to do. -I deserve to put me first! Needless to say, our little union quickly became history.

In Alcoholics Anonymous on the other hand, you learn that an important aspect the 12-step program of recovery is ego deflation. The ego is the origin of Stinkin’ thinkin’ and something that should never be honored. This resonated more with me than the previous notion.

With time I sort of developed an attitude of trying to recognize when my reactions were ego based and if they were, then try not to honor those influences. This is of course something that is easier said than done when gallons of adrenalin are flushing pure, undiluted insanity through your system and a clear, loving thought is nowhere to be seen. I had however not yet discovered the true nature of the ego: Pure malice.

DevilFace

The ego is “suspicious at best and vicious at worst.” And we should not underestimate its vengeance.Marianne Williamson

It was however not until I heard Marianne Williamson’s words on the ego in a recording from a workshop she held on A Course in Miracles that the penny really dropped. Never again could I be fooled into consciously believing that the ego should be honored some times and ignored other times. It will never have my best interest at heart. Not in a million years.

The Ego is an impostor that will make me self-sabotage everything good coming my way. It will set me up for failure and then mock me afterwards for having been so stupid to take the bait:

– Go on!! You know you want to! You deserve it!! You will enjoy it. Everyone else is doing it!! Come on now!

Then disaster strikes as if often does when I do something I shouldn’t have. And guess who stands shamelessly at the other end ready to assess my performance?

– How could you have been so stupid?? You should have known it would end like this!! It did the last time! You messed up again!! You’re hopeless!

This is only one of the numerous methods the ego has for making life miserable. Another effective trick is to convince me that I want, deserve and am worthy of something like a certain job or a romantic relationship, only to start finding flaws with my new job or special someone once it arrives. Never satisfied and always rejecting the now as anything but ideal and perfect. -There has to be something better out there!?! This can’t be it?!? Not to forget the oh-so-effective: This is too good to be true (-must find flaws)!

Marianne Williamson explained how she did not use to believe the Devil was real. She would convince herself: -The Devil only exists in my head, only to realize that in her head was the worst possible place in the universe it could be. Alas, meet your ego: The true Devil in your head!

Man on top of mountainSo how do we get rid of this dark force within us? We can’t eradicate the ego any more than we can eradicate darkness. But just like darkness cannot exist when light is shone on it, the power of the ego vanishes in the face of love. We need to recognize it for what it is, namely a force that is not acting in our best interest, and then choose not to act on the impulses it sends us. Choosing one’s reactions and emotions sounds like sorcery to many, but this is completely doable with practice. Meditation is an excellent way to build the mental stamina needed to face your ego without fear or compromise. Your ego can only ever hurt you or boss you around if you let it. 

Try to become aware of this the next time you feel the adrenalin pumping through your veins and you’re about to do something that may give you instant satisfaction but are likely to regret later. Like sending that angry email or buying that gorgeous thing you really cannot afford. Try to stop and ask yourself: Is this my ego trying to take over the show? And then try to choose a reaction that is in your best interest long-term. This is what true freedom is. Freedom from the ego’s cunning ways to make us screw things up.

In The Matrix the ubiquitous Agent Smith compares us humans to a virus on this planet. In our current state he might be on to something but I don’t think the human race is altogether incapable of harmony and sustainable abundance. That is if we collectively can learn to embrace our loving souls instead of our vicious egos. As a species we have the ability to create magnificent wonders as well as unfathomable destruction. Both forces are intrinsically embedded within every single one of us, in the form of the soul and the ego. Which voice we choose to make our master however, is entirely up to us.

Soulfully Yours,

Kristian