Vulnerability and the man in the arena

I’m about to get really honest with you all – so get ready.

I can be a pretty positive and confidant person. In a social setting, I normally have a smile plastered on my face, approach strangers and strike up conversations about almost anything to put others at ease. Some like to call it ‘always being on’ – I sometimes call it ‘extremely mentally exhausting.’

I’m not perfect. No one is. I’ve been going through some pretty tough times recently that have knocked me down. I’ve been avoiding social settings, not been able to workout and feeling sorry for myself… all because I’m scared to let my friends (the people who I need to be connected to the most right now, I might add) help pick me back up.

For some reason, it feels shameful. We feel shame or embarrassment around letting others see us in our most vulnerable, uncertain, times. I’m extremely guilty of this.

I, like most people, have a hard time letting others see me vulnerable. When I’m feeling shitty, I keep to myself. I make up reasons to cancel plans or say that I’m ‘tired’ after a crazy day/week… because being worn out from having too much on your plate is regarded as admirable whereas feeling crappy because I’m stressed out and unable to make decisions, is seen as weak. And determined, ambitious, driven people can’t ever be ‘weak’.. right?

Wrong.

I’ve been listening to researcher (and storyteller, heh) Dr. BrenΓ© Brown talk about her very extensive research into vulnerability and shame. It started with a podcast on the Good Life Project and continued with watching her two Ted Talks (the first on The Power of Vulnerability and the second on Listening to Shame) and they have been the most emotion-provoking, enlightening, experiences for me.

Check out her talk on vulnerability (warning: it’ll change your life, be prepared):

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

While listening, watching, reflecting and well, crying…. I realized something quite profound. When Dr. Brown was describing mustering up courage to be the only way to overcome vulnerability… I realized that is exactly what Faith and I have been doing by ‘getting uncomfortable!’ It’s the same concept – but I was never able to truly describe the reason, or the human emotions behind why getting uncomfortable was ground breaking.

I try to get uncomfortable as much as possible, but i’m only human too. In times of uncertainty, I hold myself back out of fear. Fear of judgement, ridicule…. failure. It’s hard to walk blindly into the unknown without certainty.

Another quote that Dr. Brown mentioned in her talk was this one from Theodore Roosevelt:

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Side note:
Ultimate life goal: to be quotable one day.

Do I lack courage? No, I’ve faced many scary and uncertain obstacles in my life. In those moments I was vulnerable as hell, but I chose to be brave and through that came courage to overcome the fear of vulnerability.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert. I never claim to be and i’m definitely not superhuman. I’ll face many vulnerable obstacles in my life, but with this perspective, education and knowledge – I’ll do my best to over come the fear and uncertainty to face vulnerability head on.

I’m choosing to be the man in the arena. Dust, sweat, blood and all.

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Coffee shop conversations

When’s the last time you had a meaningful and uplifting conversation with a stranger?

There’s no denying it, winters in Vancouver are dreary. The constant rain and cold makes it easy to justify staying in and cuddling up in your warm bed instead of venturing out… Netflix marathon anyone? If you’re like me, cooping yourself up in the house, avoiding the crappy weather can make the days lonely and leave you feeling uninspired and demotivated.

I have to admit the rainy weather gives me the lonely winter blues from time to time. Today, I decided I wasn’t going to let the rain be an excuse to sit around the house – so I got my butt out the door and headed to my favourite place to go when I need to feel inspired: my local coffee shop.

I came with my ipad, notebook and pen in tow, all set to read the news paper and then get to mapping out some juicy goals and action plans with my steaming cup of coffee!

I grabbed a coveted window seat and proceeded to look for today’s Globe and Mail (my favourite paper).. I started glancing around with no luck, then was informed by the older gentlemen sitting two seats over that there were no papers today due to the holiday. Darn.

He continued to tell me that he too was disappointed that there was no paper to read with his coffee, and then looked at me with an inviting smile and said: “I guess we’ll have to just talk to one another instead, huh?”

Wait. What? Talk to each other? For some people, that kind of invitation would instantly make them think ‘no way, i’m too busy to spend time talking to a stranger’ or – even more common, a profound uncomfortable feeling. I could have easily turned him down and exited the cafe… but I plastered a smile on my face and said: “Sounds like a great idea (extended my hand), I’m Amanda.”

For the next hour I chatted with my new friend, Sol, and learned all about his his wonderful wife, two beautiful daughters (his face completely lit up every time he talked about them, I might add) and his dog, Gucci (who I recognize as the beautiful boarder collie who’s often tied up outside of the coffee shop). We shared a few laughs, got deep into a conversation about politics and the civil unrest happening back in his home country in the middle east – and then he spoke, almost tearfully, about how grateful he was to be able to live in Canada.

Ah ha! One of my favourite topics. Whenever people talk about how fortunate and grateful they are to live in a country as free and prosperous as Canada, I immediately find that wonderful meaningful connection that lights me up inside.

An hour flew by before I realized I had to leave, but before I could, he asked me what I did with my spare time? I told him about my love for weight lifting and fitness and he looked at me wide-eyed and said: “On top of your career you do all of that?! You are one wonderful woman. After a big smile and a hug, I said goodbye, thanked him for the wonderful conversation and headed outside to give Gucci some love before I headed off.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to get inspired and energized is to engage in meaningful conversation – especially with new people. I love hearing people’s stories, experiences, history and most importantly – perspectives on common issues. By talking and sharing our thoughts with others it allows us to earn new things, meet new people and find meaning – both in the most simple or complex of ways. To some people, striking up conversation with a complete stranger sounds bizarre, uncomfortable and honestly the very last thing you want to do when you’re feeling lonely or not your best self, but I know meaningful conversation and connection is what lifts my mood and inspires me the absolute most.

The sad fact is, we don’t make time for random conversation and experiences anymore. You never know when that next stranger you chat with could become your next partner, mentor, business associate or life-long friend.

So, the next time you’re at your favourite coffee shop, why not start a casual conversation with a stranger? You might not get lucky every time, but I’m confident you’ll come away with new found energy, new perspectives, knowledge, or at the very least, a new face to say hello to the next time you stop in for your cup of joe.

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