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What does being vulnerable actually mean? How do you do it?

Being vulnerableSo last week we looked at being vulnerable and what’s so great about it…after all given that it’s scary, risky and rather uncomfortable at times, it’s worth knowing why it’s worth all the bother. 

…and as we now know, being vulnerable is a gift that we give ourselves…it can make us feel more relaxed, learn to accept ourselves more, prevent us from losing lots of energy and most importantly create real, honest, genuine connections with the people around us.

The question I have been asked a lot recently is “What does being vulnerable look like?” and “How do I do it?”

The first thing to say is that it’s OK to be a little anxious when it comes to being vulnerable.  Allowing ourselves to be fully seen by another person can be scary if we’re used to showing the world one of the many masks that we wear to try and protect ourselves from getting hurt.

But as we know, the things in life that are worth having are worth taking a little risk for…the reason that they’re a little scary is because they matter, and the pay off for following through is oh so worth it.

So what does being vulnerable look like?

Put simply being vulnerable is a practice.

It’s not something you do once and then your work is done.

As great as it would be to be able to say, “I was vulnerable last April 5th…so that’s me done!” it doesn’t quite work like that.

Being vulnerable is a choice you make every day.

In fact, being vulnerable is a choice you make every single moment.

Every time you open your mouth, or choose not to, you take a choice over whether or not to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is about sharing your truth, your heart, your soul, your reality, your experience, your needs, your wants, your desires, your fears, your questions, your (perceived) failings, your curiosities, your thoughts, your concerns, your shame, your worries, the words your inner voice whispers to you, the words your inner critic shouts in your ear, your ideas, your hopes, your dreams, yourself….exactly as you are, without the filters.

Without the ‘I shouldn’t say this’, ‘I shouldn’t think this’, ‘I shouldn’t do this’, ’I shouldn’t be this’ filters.  The ones that make us hide, edit or distort what we share to make it more ‘acceptable’.

It’s about saying what’s real for you, openly, honestly, truthfully.

But being vulnerable is scary…is this really a good idea?

To be vulnerable takes courage.  To allow yourself to be truly seen takes a lot of courage.  It’s important to remember that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s simply the decision that something else is more important.  This is one of those situations…knowing it’s a little scary, but that the benefits make it so worth it.

I once heard someone ask the question, “But what happens if you share the real you, and the other person walks away?”  Well, if that happens (which in my experience is rare), the reason is often that they don’t have the courage to be as open with you in return.  It means that you get to practice and learn how to be vulnerable so that when the right people are around you’ll be able to connect with them so much quicker and easier, you’ll know what being vulnerable looks like for you.  It’s like doing your stretches at home so that at yoga class you’re able to easily touch your toes.  It’s about cultivating your practice of being vulnerable, and understanding how to be gently true to yourself without being influenced by other people.

How to practice your ‘being vulnerable’ practice

Because we don’t practice being vulnerable, we don’t know how to do it, so in order to get comfortable with being vulnerable we need to practice our ‘being vulnerable’ practice.

So here are a few suggestions for how you might like to start your practice of being vulnerable.

  1. Start with you – In order to be open and honest about who you are with everyone else, it’s important to first be able to do this with yourself.  Begin a ‘vulnerability journal’ that you write in every morning or every evening (or both if you like), sharing in it your truth about what is going on in your life, your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, concerns, worries…anything and everything that comes to mind.  This is a great practice for two reasons; Firstly, you’ll get in touch with what is real for you, which makes sharing it with others so much easier, and secondly when you write out these thoughts and feelings they lose some of their charge, and the things that seemed impossible, will instead just seem a little challenging.
  2. Share the layers that are right for you – If you’ve seen the movie “Shrek” then you’ll know that he quite eloquently describes Ogres as being like onions (if you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend checking it out) …they have layers.  Well, this is true for women too.  We have layers.  …and sharing the outer layers is a little easier when you get started with the practice of being vulnerable than sharing the deeper inner layers.  So share the layers that you feel comfortable with…possibly starting with something that is a little nearer the surface before going all in and sharing something that’s closer to your heart.  Go with your instincts and share what feels right for you.
  3. Know that you are enough – Part of the reason that it can be scary being vulnerable is that we are afraid that when we show all of ourselves that it won’t be enough.  Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret.  You are enough.  You were born enough.  You are enough exactly as you are now.  …and in order to make the practice of being vulnerable a little easier, it helps to remind yourself regularly of that truth.  So every morning while you are cultivating your practice of being vulnerable, take 2 minutes to look yourself in the eye in your mirror and remind yourself with a smile on your face “I am enough”.
  4. Find a safe space to practice your practice – It’s so important when you first start practicing being vulnerable that you do so in a space that feels safe for you, and with people who you feel that you can trust to be vulnerable with.  If you would like to try being vulnerable in a safe space with others who are doing the same then come and join the conversation in the Feminine 1st Facebook group here…there are over 1200 amazing women in the group who help and support each other through our respective journeys in femininity and relationships…it’s a great place to begin to share some of your vulnerable layers as there are other women sharing theirs. If you have friends or family who feel safe being vulnerable with then I highly recommend giving it a go with them too.
  5. Share with others when you resonate with their vulnerability – When someone, anyone, is being vulnerable the words they most want to hear are “Me too”.  So if you see someone else being vulnerable and you resonate with what they’re saying, simply say to them, “I understand, me too”.  It will mean more than you know, and will encourage others to do the same for you.
  6. Recognise you are not alone – Being vulnerable is scary…I know, I practice it daily.  So in order to help inspire you to share your vulnerabilities I thought I would share with you here some of my most vulnerable posts.  The ones that were hard to write, the ones that had a piece of my heart and soul in them, and the ones that more often than not actually inspired the biggest response from the people who read them.  So here are some of my most vulnerable moments…I hope they inspire you to share some of yours:

I will simply leave you with a reminder that by being vulnerable you are showing that you, like me and everyone else on the planet, is perfectly imperfect…and you are giving others permission to accept and love that in themselves too.

So share your vulnerability, and share this article with someone you know who would like to know how to be a little more vulnerable, and let’s help each other to get to know and show the people who are hidden deep inside.

Stay Fabulous,

Claire xx

So what’s so great about being vulnerable anyway?

Being vulnerable, Feminine 1stOver the last couple of years we’ve heard a lot about becoming more vulnerable, especially when we’re talking about femininity. It’s generally understood that being vulnerable will help us to connect with our feminine nature…the question though is why?

What’s so great about being vulnerable?

It’s scary, it’s risky, it’s challenging and uncomfortable…so why would you want to do it?

Well as surprising as it may sound, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be one of the most rewarding and beneficial choices we can make.

Vulnerability is all about showing what’s really going on inside…good, bad or otherwise. So when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we remove our masks. Whether those are our masculine masks, our ‘it’s OK’ masks, our ‘I’ll be fine’ masks, our ‘no there’s nothing wrong’ masks, our ‘I can cope’ masks, our ‘don’t worry about me’ masks, or some other mask that we’ve put up to hide from the world, it doesn’t matter.

For that moment that we choose to be vulnerable, those masks come down.

Maintaining those masks when they are at odds with what’s going on inside takes a lot of energy. It’s exhausting pretending that everything is one way when the reality is something very different. Just keeping that mask in place takes a lot of effort.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we no longer need to expend that energy in maintaining the illusion.

When we choose to be vulnerable…we allow our bodies to let go

The other thing that wearing those masks brings us is tension…and a lot of it.

When you’re pretending life is one way, but in reality it’s something very different our whole body becomes tense. We feel it in our shoulders, our backs, our necks, our stomach. Our body is on high alert waiting for someone to see through the charade.

When we choose to be vulnerable, for that moment in time we can release that tension and allow our bodies to relax and just breathe a little. When we choose to be vulnerable, we’re more ourselves. We allow ourselves to be seen, exactly as we are. Nothing more, nothing less, just us.

…and when I say that we allow ourselves to be seen, that is as much by ourselves as by anyone. When we choose vulnerability this is one of the first steps to seeing the real us, the one deep inside that we might have forgotten is there. When we can see the real us, we can then begin to accept, love, appreciate and celebrate that person, exactly as she is, perfectly imperfect and beautifully human.

One of the fears of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is that other people won’t like us, accept us or choose to be around us…that we’ll feel rejected. As Allison Armstrong says…be yourself, the ones who aren’t compatible with you will do you the favour of leaving! Why would you want to be around people for whom you have to pretend to be someone you’re not?

The beauty of this is that when you choose to be vulnerable the relationships and people who remain in your life are real. They are true. You know that they are choosing to be around you, because they know you, all of you, and they are choosing you.

Being vulnerable is a gift you give yourself

When we are vulnerable, we give permission to others to be vulnerable too.

When we let down our masks, other people feel that it’s OK for them to do the same. In an unspoken language we say, “I trust you to see all of me”, and in doing so you reassure them that you can be trusted to see all of them in return. In these moments we can create real, true, honest connections with other people.

When we are really being ourselves, when we are really being seen, when we are sharing who we are, we can connect at the most authentic and genuine level. Connections created and shared in those moments are the most powerful of all…because they are real.

When these connections are shared the most beautiful truth of all is revealed. We are not alone.

In these shared moments of vulnerability we recognise that the fears, concerns, self-judgements, worries and struggles that we face in our daily lives are not unique. In fact, they’re everywhere, and most of the people that we know are experiencing similar, if not the same, challenges.

We are all connected, we are all experiencing a similar kind of life, with similar ups and downs, similar challenges and similar experiences…and when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we can see we’re in this together.

We go from feeling isolated and alone to feeling comforted and connected. We move from feeling challenged and confused to feeling supported and understood. We move from a single person climbing a mountain by themselves, to being part of a community of people all helping each other to move forward together.

A core aspect of femininity is the element of connection, community, relating to others, building and developing relationships and helping each other out along the way. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we can create genuine, heart-centred relationships built on solid foundations of honesty and trust.

We give others the ability to show us that we’re not alone, that we’re in this together and that we are stronger together than apart.

So I invite you to join me next week when I will be sharing with you how to choose vulnerability in your life, what it looks like, how to approach it, and how to ease yourself gently into the water in a way that will help you to feel safe and supported every step of the way.

In the meantime, please share this article with anyone who you know could benefit from learning more about being vulnerable….when we understand it more, we can see that it’s really a gift that we give to ourselves.

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

The power of vulnerability

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking a lot about remaining open despite painful situations and specifically how to deal with heartbreak.

Brene BrownWell, today I thought I would share with you a TEDx talk that I saw for the first time a year or two ago.  In the last couple of weeks I must have seen it pop up on my Facebook newsfeed at least 3 or 4 times…so I thought it would be good to share it with you.

The talk is by an amazing women called Brené Brown and is all about the power of vulnerability.

The ability to be open and vulnerable is key to embracing and living in an authentically feminine way…and Brené has a way of explaining it which is funny, entertaining, real and absolutely beautiful.

Now I could tell you all about it, but by far the best way to ‘get’ what she’s talking about is just to watch it…so here it is:

So I’d like to ask you…do you want to live a life that is wholehearted?  Do you have the courage to be imperfect?  Do you have the compassion to be kind to yourself?

Are YOU ready to embrace vulnerability?

…how are YOU going to live a wholehearted life?

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

when the going gets tough the tough get feminine

When the going gets tough…the tough get feminine?

when the going gets tough the tough get feminineA point, which is often raised when I’m discussing femininity, is “what happens when the unpleasant stuff hits the fan?” When things seem stacked against you and you’re really up against it, we often feel that we need step into our masculine in order to cope.

For years this was my primary coping mechanism for tough times…I didn’t believe there was any other way that would work.

As a result, when I started really focusing on and embracing my femininity, I found that difficult situations were my nemesis…

It was habit for me to toughen up and take control during these situations and initially it felt counter-intuitive to take a softer approach.

At times you may have experienced this too.

So I thought that my experience this morning might be helpful for you to hear.

It’s not always easy writing about personal experiences…especially when those experiences are challenging and painful…but if it helps you, it’s worth it.

At the moment there are some significant challenges in my life. The biggest one being that my partner has a serious but as yet undiagnosed medical condition, a condition that is getting worse. Among other things it meant that he spent most of New Year’s Eve in bed in pain rather than celebrating with me 🙁

He has been experiencing symptoms for nearly 7 months, and things are becoming more acute on a weekly, if not daily, basis. This morning it was bad again…and I felt completely overwhelmed.

I needed to talk to my partner about the things that were on my mind.

In my former life this is the point at which I would have stepped, both feet first, into my masculine and tried to take control of everything. I would have been forceful about the way I thought things should be done and I’m sure I would have come across as being dominant or critical.

However since reconnecting with my feminine, I have discovered a different approach.

Today I didn’t hold back and I didn’t push either.

I just let myself explain the way I was feeling, why I was feeling it and what I needed.

I was completely vulnerable, and shed more than a few tears.

It was one of those moments where we could both see the massive difference that this new approach is having in our lives.

Where previously there would have been a battleground, the lines of communication were now open and free flowing.

Instead of feeling criticised, my partner was able to see me and understand how I was feeling.

We didn’t shout. We didn’t battle. We were able to talk about it openly.

We were on the same side.

I poured my heart out, and with a relatively quick, open conversation we were able to find a solution to the immediate problems.

More importantly I gave him the information he needed (and the space) to step forward and help me through a time where I was feeling overwhelmed.

A short while later I was back to work, with a smile on my face and a sense that everything was on track and manageable again.

Sometimes, even when you don’t think something will work, it’s worth giving it a go.

You’ve no idea the difference it could make…

Stay fabulous,

Claire x

Fake Feminine

So having talked about masculine masks last week, this week we’re looking at the other side of the coin.

Because as difficult as a masculine mask is…wearing a feminine one can be even worse…

We have all seen women who are quite obviously prioritising their masculine tendencies, but the other extreme are women who put on the appearance of being a feminine woman: an appearance that is only skin deep.

I was at a Christmas party a week or so ago, speaking to a group of friends when the subject of femininity came up. Someone very kindly put me forward as an example of a feminine woman when one of the women in the group said something which I found really interesting. “Yes, but Claire’s the RIGHT sort of feminine, she’s obviously feminine but she has a power with it…she’s not one of those ‘other’ feminine women”…I was intrigued.

“What kind of feminine women do you mean?” I said. She replied “Oh you know…THAT kind”…and put on a silly giggle paired with an obviously ‘put on’ face that made her look like a four year old trying to appeal for a sweetie / cuddly toy / just one more hour before bedtime…

What fascinated me about this is that, in my opinion, that’s not femininity at all (something I pointed out during the conversation). It’s not something that you ‘put on’ like a pair of killer heels (like the beautiful pair of bright pink peep toes that I was surprised with as a birthday present this weekend…sorry just had to share that with you all!)

As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, true femininity can only come from the inside. It’s beautiful, authentic and real. It starts from within and is radiated outwards.

Yes, your appearance can help you to feel more in touch with your femininity – for some ladies it’s easier to feel feminine in a dress and sparkly earrings than it is in flat boots and a masculine uniform – but that’s not where it originates.

Wearing a mask that shows you as feminine if the inner you doesn’t match is no better than wearing a mask that portrays you as masculine. It’s still concealing the true you…and femininity is all about being true to yourself, inside and out.

As with masculine masks, there are a number of reasons that women can step into the role of a “Fake feminine”.

The most common reason is simply to mask insecurity. By putting on the mask of a pretty confident woman it is easy to feel that you are covering up and hiding away parts of yourself which might otherwise make you feel vulnerable. What we have to remember is that especially as women, our vulnerability is our power…by being able to embrace our own imperfections we give others permission to acknowledge their own, rather than shying away from them. It enables us to connect with others at a level which otherwise would not be possible.

Unfortunately there is also another reason why some women choose to adopt a ‘fake feminine’ persona. Some women believe that through adopting this artificial femininity that it will enable them to manipulate others and ‘get their own way’. It is unfortunate that women who do this can affect people’s perception of femininity…much like my friend’s perception from the Christmas party. Women who do this, in my experience, actually do this in order to cover even larger and deeper insecurities. It comes from a place of fear which leads to a need to control and protect themselves at all costs.

While it would be easy to judge women who behave in this way and criticise their choices, I believe that the better response is to treat them with kindness. They might just need someone to show them a little understanding to question whether they need to protect themselves to such an extreme. Remember…vulnerability is power.

Being true to yourself is so important…it would be great if more women could look in the mirror, smile and say “I am happy with me”, or even better “You’re gorgeous, inside and out”.

So we know that authenticity is the key…and the quickest and easiest way to authentically connect with your femininity is to dance. It doesn’t have to be in a dance class, or even need to be co-ordinated! Just moving your body to music that you love in a way that makes you smile is all it takes.

…and in so I want to share this video with you to inspire you to connect with your authentic femininity the way that this lovely little girl does:

Here is the link in case the video doesn’t display in your browser: http://youtu.be/_DqysFUF8WU

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

P.S. Remember that you can still get your copy of The Feminine Evolution audio programme in time for a last minute Christmas gift!  Order before Monday 19th December for delivery in the UK by the time Santa arrives 😀

The Feminine Evolution