How To Turn Your Vulnerability Into Strength

by Stacey Curnow on · 12 comments

As Joko Beck, an American Buddhist nun, writes in Everyday Zen:

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy-it often doesn't-but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

I don't spend much time looking in a mirror these days. Like many women, I'm sometimes unhappy with what I see-the signs of sun damage, for example. And my neck-let's just say that when Nora Ephron entitled a book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck," I knew exactly what she meant.

Fortunately, I'm pretty adept at looking at what I do like, and there's plenty there, like a warm smile and a strong body with lots of energy to do the work I love. But looking in a mirror also reminds me to take better care of myself, especially to be more diligent about applying sunscreen.

In a similar vein, if I think of a relationship as a mirror, and I don't like what I see, I think it's a great opportunity to be more diligent about applying self-love. In particular, it's an opportunity to take responsibility for my own feelings.

One of the least true phrases in English is, "That made me feel bad when it happened." We say it so often because we think that something or someone makes us feel a certain way.

But what if we decided to tweak our thoughts, so that instead of thinking, "That made me feel bad." we think, "That helped me feel bad," and "That thing"-whether it's a natural disaster or a domestic downturn-"helped me feel vulnerable or unworthy of love"?

Thinking about it in that way qualifies as self-love because it opens our hearts and minds to the possibility that we can act to make things better.

For example, one of my clients had a conflict with her partner this week: after it was over, she bemoaned the fact that she acted badly. This in turn led her to become distraught when her boyfriend didn't respond to her contrite messages. And so, later, after they had resolved their conflict, I suggested that she ask for his help in the future.

She could say, "When we have a conflict in the future, it would help me if we took a break as soon as we notice we're getting stuck. When I feel better, I'll send you a note and it would help me if you let me know you got my message shortly after I leave it. You don't have to respond with anything more than that. I respect your need for time to process your feelings. I look forward to talking with you when you are ready."

Thinking about things in that way puts the responsibility squarely on us to make it right. We can ask what we can do to help the situation -and there is always something we can do. And we can ask others for what they can do to help us.

We can apologize and make amends if we transgress. We can remind ourselves that we are learning and growing, and we are going to make mistakes along the way. We can remind ourselves that we are worthy of love and acceptance no matter what.

And so in the mirror that is our relationships, we are often presented with the image of ourselves as vulnerable, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

As in everything else, we have a choice: we can always shift our focus, see something different, and put everything together into a different story.

And once we do that, we will look in the mirror and begin to see someone vulnerable and strong, someone capable of learning from our frailty and making our relationships everything they can be

Is there any greater gift we can give ourselves or the people around us?


 

by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey June 10, 2012 at 7:28 am

Hello dear readers!

I just wanted to pop over first thing and say that I’m at a writer’s workshop all day, so I won’t be able to respond to comments as quickly as I like. But please DO leave your comments and I look forward to responding to all of them when I get home! xx

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Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan) June 10, 2012 at 9:33 am

I think my neck loos like the Marlboro Man’s – LEATHER – so it’s not just you ladies that have that concern. Granted, I won’t do much about it except be sure to wear sunblock.

My wife’s favorite words are, “You hurt my feelings.” My usual response is “No one can hurt your feelings unless you allow them to.” A practical and TRUE response but useless and foolish on my part. My wife is a woman and women are generally express themselves in terms of feelings.

Nonetheless, I still stumble when I hear those fateful words and, truth be known, I’m sort of sensitive myself.

There’s really not much we control in our lives, but our feelings can me one of them. I strive to not take things personally – I suggest we all work on that!
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Stacey June 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

Hi Bruce!

Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment!

I’ve noticed that as soon as I say something that hurts someone’s feelings, I can tell not only by their reaction but by the fact that *I* feel bad. Go figure!

So I’ve learned that I can feel much better very quickly if I say, “I’m sorry I said that. What I really want is for both of us to find a way to get our needs met in this situation. Would you be willing to talk about ways we could do that?”

And, yes, not taking things personally and assuming positive intent of the person who said the “hurtful” thing (thinking about what their underlying needs does the trick) is HUGE!

Thanks again for sharing and adding so much to the discussion!!

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Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan) June 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

How would you like to “talk” Stacey? Can someone correct the typos in my comment? I hate that … “loos” instead of “looks” and the extra word, “are” in the sentence about generalities. UGH…lol.
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Glori June 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

“As in every­thing else, we have a choice: we can always shift our focus, see some­thing dif­fer­ent, and put every­thing together into a dif­fer­ent story.”
Couldn’t agree more!
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Stacey June 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hi Glori!

I love your name and how it’s spelled!! Thanks so much for your kind comment and letting me know the line that especially resonated with you.

That helps me feel great! 🙂
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Nneka, Working Mystic June 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Hi Stacey, I loved how you softened “that made me feel bad” into “that helped me feel bad.” It’s such an empowering way of seeing every situation. I also caution clients about saying anything made them feel good. It’s giving away your ability to feel joy independent of what’s happening to them.
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Stacey June 11, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi Nneka!

Wow, I love your name too! I’ve always thought Lance has the BEST community at his blog, and now I’m amending it to include the best names too! 🙂

Thanks so much for your kind com­ment and let­ting me know that you like the way I created a more empowering way of stating your feelings and needs. That helps me feel really great!

I love that you encourage your clients to look for their inner sources of happiness. I think it was Thich Nhat Hahn who said, “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”

It’s so much nicer when we can eliminate the “middle-man”, isn’t it? 🙂

Thanks again for your kind comment and contributing to the conversation!!

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rob white June 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

This is a great perspective, Stacy. A great way to empower ourselves when feeling vulnerable is to acknowledge and appreciate others for the good they bring to our life. We can begin by simply smiling brightly and saying, “WOW, it’s good to see you!” This statement is a powerful gift; it inspires the recipient and thus inspires us.

If we’re to give up your unhealthy opinions, we must question our feelings of insufficiency at every opportunity. Do it with unwavering persistence. This enables us to see clearly that we have great merit, which brings out the best in us. What a great gift you give ourselves!
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Stacey June 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

Hi Rob!

Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment! I LOVE the conversation that’s happening here!!

Yes, whenever I’m feeling especially critical of someone in my life, I do an exercise I learned from Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks/Abraham. They encourage us to write out a list of “positive aspects” of the person or circumstance you find challenging.

I was struggling with a negative judgment related to my husband, but then I looked at all of his MANY positive aspects and it made it much easier for me to let go of the negative judgment and make a positive request.

This process also really helps me own the fact that the circumstance really is neutral and it’s my thoughts (or stories) about the circumstances that bring me suffering or peace and happiness.

Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful comment!
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Lalitha Brahma June 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

Great post and comments.
When we come across situations that makes us feel hurt/vulnarable, there is no PROBLEM at all, if we are able to think LOGICALLY and say “No one can hurt my feelings unless I ALLOW them”

Based upon my own experience and the knowledge gained, here is what I wish to share:
When we experience a negative emotion/feel vulnerable , there is a disruption in our body’s energy system. This in turn blocks us from connecting with our TRUE self (child-like self/unknown self/higher self). We don’t feel good. When we don’t feel good, it becomes difficult to think logically and implement some of the most valuable suggestions made in this post and in comments. Hence we need a tool to help us diffuse the disruption in the body’s energy system and make us feel good.
One of the tools that works for me and has helped my clients is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It involves 2 min tapping on various energy points. The effect is phenomenal, makes us feel good and brings a cognitive shift. We are able to logically and apply these valuable suggestions.

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Audra Krell June 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I love what you wrote about choices, because it seems as a culture we quickly forget that. We always have a choice and don’t have to read things just because everyone else is, react the way the world says, or even go with our “feelings”. We can choose to do the next right thing and to see the opportunities difficult trials present. The one thing we’ll always have, is choice.
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