For the past few months, I’ve been battling depression and anxiety. While I typically struggle with pre-birthday depression, this year also started off with an abrupt end to a new romantic relationship. I had big hopes, as we’d been flirting with each other for several years, and had much in common, but ultimately the big hopes couldn’t overcome the big hurdles.
As part of my self-prescribed therapy to help me move through the worst of my heartache, I wore my moxie bracelet (seen in the site header) on a daily basis. I’ve long been a fan of jewelry with a message, whether it’s symbolic or text. Wearing the bracelet was a daily reminder to be courageous and fearless in all things. Last autumn I had taken a big chance in telling this man I wanted to see if there was something more to our flirtation, and just because it didn’t work out was no reason to let fear take over again. But vulnerability is still something I struggle with – whether I’m being vulnerable or giving someone else the space to be vulnerable with me – as it bumps up against my profound insecurity, the voice in my head that tells me I will never be good enough. I let insecurity run the show all too often, and the result is I don’t take many risks.
Last week I watched researcher/storyteller Brené Brown’s 2010 TED talk on vulnerability. I don’t think I’d seen it before, or if I had, it didn’t resonate with me in that moment. What she said about her findings made so much sense to me in light of everything I’d been thinking about related to insecurity, vulnerability – and moxie.
Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.
The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating…They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.
In my professional life, I’m getting much better at risk taking. I’ve learned that the worst thing that can happen when you ask for a favor, a contract, an opportunity, is that you’re told no. You just go ask someone else. What I have found is that the more I ask, the more chances I get to hear a yes. It’s quite basic math.
In my personal life, though, I flounder. I don’t set my boundaries and fortify them. I don’t always ask for the love I want and need from friends or partners. I hear no and I hang around, waiting for the yes that I’m sure will come if they only see how compassionate or patient or kind I am. And it’s all because I am scared to say – to myself – that I am enough. That my boundaries are solid and firm, and anyone who attempts to diminish or vaporize them – even me – will be stopped. That I will let go and move forward without fear. That even if that annoying voice inside my head wants to keep me small, I will take the risk of being vulnerable, over and over again.
Brown talks about this self-acceptance as well.
This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee…instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”
…when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.
In late February, I found a new piece of jewelry, a silver bangle inscribed with the phrase “Live Your Life.” These days, as my heart is still healing, I’m wearing that bangle a lot, sometimes with the Moxie bracelet. That’s because I am finally accepting that part of living my life is being unafraid to tell the stories of my heart, believing that I am enough, taking the risks to get to the yes, and remembering that I contain an infinite amount of inner moxie that’s there when I need it most.