The Power of Vulnerability

If you haven’t read anything about vulnerability, by Brene’ Brown, you really should. She has a Ted Talk about vulnerability… actually let me just do you a favor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

Watching her years ago, and then followed by reading her book Daring Greatly, followed up by gobbling more of what she has to offer… I really learned a lot. I learned more than I was even really ready for. She taught me the importance of bringing up the hard things, because if you didn’t that they would continue to stew and bubble over. She also taught me to embrace some of my most vulnerable moments of my life. I encourage you to watch that video if you haven’t, because then you will really understand what I mean.

I held on to this and started to really make incredible strides. I am most vulnerable when talking about my body, or my food, food addiction, eating disorders and WHY. Bouncing off of my previous blog post I needed to practice talking about these things.

I had worked out, and been through several weight loss and gains. People had seen my vulnerability in that retrospect. They’ve seen me struggle. But they didn’t really know internally what was going on. People might assume “it’s so easy to lose weight, just eat sensible meals, good nutrition and work out.”.  Yes thank you, thank you for stating the obvious. Most people, all people know this. We know that is a way to lose weight.

With that said, they don’t see the inner struggle that happens. The years and years of built up habits and patterns, ridicule, positive and negative reinforcement. We have to heal our inner selves sometimes in-order to move forward, sometimes it takes longer to heal than we realize. People also might make the assumption that you are not already doing something or trying to work on these things, or that you don’t eat right.

Regardless, talking about my weight, talking about the food struggle, and my body, and all of the things about why has been one of the most vulnerable places for me to talk about. Not many people do talk about food, or weight or whatever and when they do it can be so shaming. When I do talk about it, most people cannot relate because they do not understand the cycle.

Talking about the struggle has been hard, reaching out for help was harder. One of the hardest and easiest things I had to do was normalize the conversation. I had to make it something that I was comfortable talking about. How do you do this??? PRACTICE! I always knew I struggled with food addiction/binge eating/emotional eating. On my own I went to a few OEA (over eaters anonyms) meetings when I was in my early 20’s. Once in a while I went to online ones, or reached out to people on line. I also went to a few in my mid 20’s, and saw a counselor for a while (for other things). I reached out to a friend, who I knew went to OEA and I didn’t get a response. I went to another OEA meeting by myself. Which took so much courage, and I cried when I got there because I was late, and I couldn’t get into the meeting because I didn’t know which door it was, and then after words no one reached out to me. I felt so alone, and so vulnerable for showing up. I never went to another meeting again.

And… then I reached out to my mom. I was so nervous. I was scared because I never told her of my true struggle with food before. I was 28, just about 29. Right before I started at the weight loss clinic. She was surprised and helped me find Solutions weight loss clinic.

I started really talking about it at 29. I didn’t go to another OEA meeting, because my experience wasn’t that great. But I did join some Facebook groups that were about food addiction that were really helpful apart of my journey. I was able to connect with others, talk about our experiences and move forward while losing weight at the clinic. I talked to the ladies at the weight loss clinic and partook in their weekly self reflection tools. I lost a lot of weight really fast, and I’m not saying I was successful or had failed. I just know that as a long term solution, the weight loss clinic wasn’t going to help my emotional side.

What I’ve really wanted to share with you has been my newest vulnerable topic. I have talked a lot about inclusion out loud with people, and the importance of it. I have talked about judgment, assumptions and the negative repercussions of them.  I preach it so much because of how deeply rooted my own need for self inclusion and acceptance is. I started to realize the other day how much grief and anxiety I was carrying because of my own self image and what people (may or may not) talk about.

I worry so much about gossip, and what people say, or don’t say even to me. I worry about how I interact with the world, if I offend anyone, or make them uncomfortable. I worry if people don’t like me, or if I’m not doing something right. At therapy this past week I realized how deeply I carry this, and I realized that no matter where I go, or how much I overcome my past, that my childhood may always play a part in my life, and the grief is more present than I’ve realized.

Not to bring on a pity party or anything but imagine a child from birth, always walking on eggshells because of someone else, always trying to please so that someone isn’t yelling. This piece is a whole other blog post, may even be a whole other topic even, but none the less it’s real. I grew up in this space. A developing child living in these anxieties, now in the world functioning under anxiety and this idea that people are judging her for something she may or may not be doing. This is me right now. I don’t live like this every day, or all the time even, but it sometimes prevents me from making new friends, or partaking in activities. It sucks how the past can play such a huge role in your present and future. It’s so sneaky too.

Talking about this is hard. When I first started talking about my struggles, I felt easily judged. I felt scared, and fearful of what people would say, or not say about me. Though the more I uncover about myself in this process, and share with you, the less likely you will make assumptions about me. If I’m being authentic and sharing these vulnerabilities, it leaves less room for you to make the assumptions.

I also think it’s important to turn my experience into an opportunity. An opportunity for me to grow from myself and others, an opportunity to educate others and challenge peoples assumptions. Maybe it’s also an opportunity to challenge myself and my own assumptions about food and my capabilities in this world.

Before I sign off for the day, I wanted you to know that I re-watched Brene’s Ted talk and realized why I started this self journey in the first place. When I overcome my fears, I will be living my true authentic self. I will be doing and living in a space I love every day because I will have overcome some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to overcome and put in the work to get there.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path” Brene’ Brown

“When we work from a place “I believe I’m enough”, we stop screaming and start listening; we are kinder and gentler to the people around us and ourselves.” –Brene’ Brown.

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Practice.

Ever hear the phrase “Practice makes perfect”? Annoying right? It’s something that is really hard to hear. At least, I think it’s annoying. It reminds me of something my mom would have said when I was in middle school. I played the clarinet in band, for two years, big deal. The less I practiced, the more my mom said things like “Practice makes perfect”. Now because of that, the phrase seems like nagging. Nagging sucks, it only makes me want to practice less.

Though I have to say that practicing is the only way to get better and make progress, so unfortunately… my mom was right, love you mom.

I have always struggled with my writing. I struggle with focusing and I give partial blame to that, but a significant amount of blame has gone to my confidence. I never thought that my writing could measure up to other people and their masterpieces. I would use procrastination as an excuse not to write, turn my stuff in late and or not do it. I loved learning, just hated writing. Look at me now!

In graduate school I took a writing tutor class as an elective, for three quarters. I did this to supplement my writing and to help me write my final synthesis paper. The teacher for this class had combined psychology with writing, and had a deep understanding for people’s fear of writing. She offered something that would change my life in more ways than she could even imagine. She gave lectures every class period about different tips and tricks of writing. The one that changed my life taught me about practice.

She said that when we grow, we create neural pathways in our brain which are what we do every day when we do things over and over. They are learned behaviors. When we practice new ways of living, we create new neural pathways in our brain. The more we practice along these new neural pathways, the more likely we will continue to follow them. The old ones will always be there, but we will be less likely to follow down those pathways.  (You can google neural pathways right now and it will give you 10 ways to train your brain.)

I have been struggling with food for about 20 years or so. The earliest memories I have with my relationship with food goes back to about 9 years old. I remember being bored, so bored that I would eat to fill time, to fill comfort. Comfort from what? Comfort from loneliness probably. It was stimulation, stimulation that I needed to feel. I remember that I would often go for salty salty foods, or ones that were sweet (when we had sweet things in our house). I remember chicken noodle soup, tuna fish, and baking. I developed a lot of comfort in my relationship with food.

It takes a lot of practice to undo years and years of what the opposite is of what you are trying to accomplish. I have practiced a lot of new ways of living in order to get where I am today. Some good, some not so good, some that have made my brain crazy, some that have helped and some that haven’t helped. What we know from learning new things has been that I’ve made progress. How so? Because I’ve made an effort, I’ve put work in. I have committed to trying out new things and practicing them over and over again.

The point is, when it gets the hardest and you are at your most vulnerable, you put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward because you are worth it. You are deserving of healing. You are deserving of being healthy, and or following your dreams, no matter what those dreams are. All it takes is a little practice and eventually you will no longer be practicing.