There is Strength in Vulnerability

Most people think that being vulnerable means you are weak. Our society shows us over and over that the strong prey on the weak. If you show any signs of vulnerability, any cracks in your armor, someone bigger and stronger will exploit those cracks to their advantage.

Yet my experience has been that being vulnerable is actually a way of being strong, of being courageous.

Let me give you an example.

Me on the hike on the way in to the waterfall, with ginger flowers in my hair.

Me on the hike on the way in to the waterfall, with ginger flowers in my hair.

Several years ago, when I went on my first retreat with The Peaceful Woman, we had hiked in to a beautiful waterfall. There was a deep pool, and the cool water was exceptionally refreshing after the heat of the hike in. There were several women who chose to go topless in the pool, and our guides made sure that our group was safe – there were no other tourists around.

I was in my bathing suit, uncomfortable about disrobing, even under cover of the water. As more time passed, though, I began to work up my courage. I stood on a ledge in the flow of the fall, letting the water cleanse and heal me. I asked one of the leaders to take a picture of me in the falls, as I had recently written Healing Waterfall Guided Meditation.

My bathing suit at the time was black. A picture of a very white me in a black swimsuit against black lava rock would not likely come out well.

And then an image came into my mind – a Goddess with arms up-stretched, receiving the healing pouring down from above. Here was an opportunity for me to push my comfort zone in a safe and supportive space. I swam in the water, and in my fear for quite some time. Finally, I worked up the courage and asked our facilitator if she would take a picture of me standing in the falls in a Goddess pose. Without the bathing suit.

Floating in the waterfall pool

Floating in the waterfall pool

I explained how uncomfortable it was for me, and she was very understanding. I managed to get my suit off in the pool, so that no one would see my ugly body – at least that’s what I thought of it. And then I had to wait my turn for the ledge, while doing my best not to chicken out.

The moment arrived, I gathered my courage, and pushed up onto the ledge. There wasn’t a lot of room, so I couldn’t stand with my arms up for very long before diving back into the pool. It was a relief to be back in the water, covered up once again.

Everyone else in the group told me how beautiful I was. And then they all took turns posing in the falls, in the nude. By being vulnerable and stepping outside my comfort zone, I inspired others to do the same – including one woman who was very afraid of the water. She allowed us to float her across the pool, so she could take her turn in the falls.

I’m finding the same thing working with Aphrodite. I’m being open and vulnerable about my body image, and my mixed feelings about sexiness and sexuality, and I’m hearing from others that they have experienced similar things. Some people are further on the path, and have reached out with tools that have helped them be more comfortable in their bodies, while others are taking inspiration and beginning their own healing journeys.

I’m not in a place of total acceptance and comfort yet. There are days I wake up and look in the mirror, and I think, “Look at that beautiful, curvy body!” And there are other days that I look in the mirror and all I can see is the rolls of fat that I wish weren’t there.

That just means I have to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Like Marianne Williamson says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

So go ahead. Be vulnerable. And above all, love yourself…just as you are.



4 Responses

  1. Hi Mary. I love this post. Congratulations to you, your experience in the waterfall sounds amazingly liberating.
    I too have problems letting myself be vulnerable. Its been something I’ve been consciously working on. I leapt hugely out of my comfort zone only last year and, unfortunately, was burned. I guess it’s a little bit different being vulnerable with your own perceptions but in a trusted group, and being vulnerable by opening yourself up to another individual. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
    Your post has inspired me to try and be open again. After all, I know how wonderful I am, it’s the other people who are missing out on my wonderful-ness.
    You’re a lovely lady. Keep up the good work. Blessed be.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I admire you for getting up and dusting yourself off and going at it again! It is challenging to overcome the fear. Good luck, and thank you for your encouragement!


  3. I think one of the biggest problems of body image is the incessant chattering of society and media telling women that they are not good enough. It is steeped in hundreds of years of oppression and the fear of the female force. It is incredibly hard to reprogram your brain into thinking that you are beautiful, talented, intelligent etc, when you spend your whole life growing up in a world that tells you you’re stupid, fat, ugly, worthless etc. It does such a disservice to humanity to program people with hate from birth.

    I don’t really know what else to say, other than, I am happy for you that you were able to silence those voices, even for a brief moment. I’ve known you for a couple years now, and I’ve always thought that you are a BEAUTIFUL and amazing spirit, inside and out. 🙂

  4. It is challenging. And I think we change society by changing ourselves, lighting the way, and encouraging others.