Making ourselves vulnerable is about stepping into what we perceive as risky space. It could be sharing one of our demons–maybe a closely held secret–with another person, or embarking on a path where likelihood of failure seems high. But positive energy blossoms and transformation magically occurs each time we expose one of our demons to the light of day by risking vulnerability. Confronting our demons head-on in vulnerability doesn’t necessarily make them go away forever, but it does diminish the power they exert over us, while instilling confidence that we, not they are in control of our destiny.
For me the list of demons is not long, but a few are very persistent. One of the biggies is I’m a man who loves both men and women. Over the course of my adult life, even just the thought of sharing my sexuality, which is viewed with skepticism by many in both straight and gay communities, has been ample fodder for sending me into a dark pit of vulnerability. But I’ve learned there are great rewards on the other side whenever I get up the nerve to open my heart and share this little tidbit with someone new. Not only am I rebooting depth of connection with the person I’m sharing with, but at the same time I’m feeding myself positive energy that inevitably flows from authentic declaration of self.
Another demon that lurks just beneath my skin is the little guy inside who says “you’re not good enough” (YNGE). I’m pretty sure this one is rooted in my less than stellar Little League Baseball career where, having demonstrated my inability to either throw or catch a ball, let alone hit one with a bat, I was always the last kid to be picked for the team. YNGE can rear its ugly head any time I’m faced with taking the risk of trying something new, or putting myself in a situation where failure means making a fool of myself in front of a bunch of people. But every time I confront YNGE and make it through to the other side without catastrophic psycho – physical meltdown, I diminish its power over me. I get a big boost to my self-esteem, it’s easier to take the same risk the next time. Giving a speech used to be a stomach-churning cesspool of YNGE. But after numerous confrontations with the demon, I’ve learned to accept the initial blood pressure spike as I’m being introduced, knowing that once I get rolling everything will be fine.
There are plenty of “opportunities” inherent in my relationship status, for risking vulnerability and embracing challenges. Is that a surprise, given I’ve chosen to be in simultaneous relationships with two very bright and strong-willed people? In some of these “opportunities” I exercise conscious choice as to whether or not to engage in what, for me, constitutes risk. For example, I may choose (or negotiate) letting myself be passive, open and vulnerable during intimacy. Or not. In other circumstances I may find myself in places of extreme vulnerability, my choice or not, by the mutual commitment to authenticity and openness in communication I share with each partner. These most difficult of moments, when my heart is open and on the line, are truly the juiciest for transformation and personal growth.
Being able to consciously choose whether or not to engage in vulnerability is empowering. One form of vulnerability I seem to embrace by choice has to do with confronting challenges and potential for adversity in the world around me. It seems I often deliberately choose the more difficult path instead of the one that obviously carries less challenge and risk of adverse consequences. This might have started out as a YNGE thing, but I’ve grown way beyond that now, into a realm where I (almost) completely bypass fretting about whether or not I’m good enough, or worrying about negative outcomes. I just dive right into the thick of challenges for the adrenaline rush, trusting I’ll be the better for the experience on the other side, however “painful” the getting-there might be. Seems to be working out most of the time.
When I’m traveling by bicycle, I frequently choose roads less travelled, that are more physically and psychologically challenging than roads predictable, and implicitly doable. I think it’s about risk and vulnerability associated with pushing the edges of my comfort zone. Maybe the demon is “are you really going to be able to do that?” Or “is that route even rideable, let alone survivable?” But the voice inside that rules the day is, more often than not, “I guess I’ll just have to find out.”