On Being Vulnerable

I spoke  with someone about vulnerability yesterday.  And they spoke to me of intimacy.  And it turns out these things are two threads wound together.  We find intimacy when we are able to be vulnerable.  And we are vulnerable when we admit that we might not have it all together.  So I’ve been doing this project now for three months, a project which I am loosely calling “The Intimacy Interviews.”  And it makes complete sense that, in this project, I am asking sometimes complete strangers to be vulnerable with me.

I have no doubt that these women are holding nothing back from me.  And I am grateful beyond words.  And when I think about why they are doing so, of course it’s maybe because of the anonymity involved.  But I think there’s something else.  I think that we all have these stories locked up inside us that we are dying to tell.  Because we know we will feel better when we do.  But we keep them in; because we are scared of being judged; we wonder if anyone else can relate.  We are uncertain as to what it all means.

And that’s where we come to uncertainty.  Recently I’ve become part of a women’s group called Boss Babes.  It’s an organization that is just getting started.  The goal of the group is to empower women by sharing stories and doing some light networking.  The idea behind this is that Together We Rise.  Yeah, sure maybe we are all uncertain.  But when you are vulnerable enough to share with others and then to listen….truly listen…maybe you start to hear some truth that sounds familiar.

The other night we had our first meet-up in town and about 75 women attended, which was super exciting by the way.  Although I knew many faces in the room (I am so incredibly grateful every day that I surround myself with strong women), I made it a point to speak to new faces.  I told a couple of new people about my project and they told me what they were working on.  A few brave women stood up and told their stories; they were stories of difficult decisions having to be made in their lives, what they’ve done to heal, and what they are doing to affect change in the space that surrounds them.  And I listened and I thought, ‘thank you’.  I listened and I thought, ‘me too.’

I’ve been in situations before where I’ve felt as if I couldn’t be vulnerable.  In relationships that were toxic and professional situations in which I felt were keeping me held in place.  And I’ll admit it; not all of these situations involved men.  Some involved women and the mindset that I hope is on its’ way out of ‘if she succeeds then I can’t’ or ‘there’s not enough for all of us.’

It’s only now that I’m on the other side can I see why my life feels so completely limitless now.  I rent yoga class space from a woman with an online following and entrepreneurship that astounds me.  I could be jealous and wonder why I don’t have that yet.  Or I could learn from her because I know she’s happy to share.  There’s room enough for both of us.   I have started taking walks once a week with a woman who is creating a new business and doing something that I would love to do.  I could whine about why this hasn’t magically dropped in my lap.  Or I could talk with her for an hour each week and swap ideas about life, both of us admitting what we do not know.

And maybe there are people out there who are admiring what I am doing.  Which is great,  but I have no idea what I am doing, trust me.  But what I do know is the mistakes that I made and what has worked for me.  So now I’m just piecing it together from here.  And if anyone ever comes to me and wants to know how I did it, I will tell her.  Because we rise when we all rise.  Not when we elbow people out of the way in our efforts to always be first.

When this project wraps up and when (not if) it goes to print, it will certainly be the most vulnerable piece I’ve ever put out there.  It is, by far, the most intimate journey I’ve ever taken in my life.  And I have no doubt that this is all possible because I’m not doing it alone.  Every week I am talking to a different woman who seals her hands over mine and says ‘go forth with my story and allow it to help others.’  When we share….all of it, the peaks, the valleys, the shining moments and the black holes…..when we share all of this we learn.  When we learn, we succeed.  When we succeed, we rise.  And there’s just no telling where we can go from there.

One response to “On Being Vulnerable”

  1. Peg O'Connor says:

    The more of your posts I read, Ashley, the more impressed I become with you. You are a wonderful human being. Such a long way from that cute little blond 2-year-old I first met so many years ago!

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