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Amy Chan

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Courage is Having the Strength to be Vulnerable

Posted: 12/12/11 01:09 PM ET

If you've been following some of my recent blogs, you will know that in recent months, I've been thrown a few life challenges. To sum it up, I lost my job, my income, endured an abrupt and painful breakup, and lastly, lost my home. A lot to take at once, and I was in pretty bad condition.

And while I pride myself on being a "solution-oriented" person, it was frustrating to feel that time was passing by so slowly. I felt guilty for feeling upset when there were greater problems out there. While I was crying about my broken heart, I knew there were people in the world surviving broken homes and all other sorts of problems. But knowing that there were bigger issues in the world didn't make my hurt any less painful. I just felt ... well, to be perfectly honest, a bit ashamed.

I felt ashamed that anything could trigger a dry heaving cryfest. I felt ashamed that my conversations with friends and family were constantly dominated by my drama and healing. I felt ashamed that I couldn't just figure it out, solve it or move forward. I just couldn't.
And then someone told me that what I really needed to do was to "just get over it." And that deepened my shame even more. Because there was no magic button to press for me to just "get over it."

And then I realized that there is nothing wrong with crying, feeling sad, feeling shot down and needing time to carefully recover and get back up. There is nothing weak or wrong with feeling vulnerable.

We live in a society where we are rewarded for moving forward, and the quicker, the better. We equate strength with those who can champion through any challenge or hardship with efficiency and speed. While this may work in the corporate world, it doesn't work with matters of the heart. It doesn't work with mourning loss, or when dealing with deep, powerful emotions.

In my opinion, males are especially socialized this way, and it has damaging spiritual and emotional consequences. Men are taught to be strong, to numb pain and emotions, move forward and keep a poker face. Instead of mourning, or really healing what's going on inside, the emotion is suppressed, ignored or tranquilized. Unfortunately, it does eventually come out sooner or later, in some shape or form. And usually when it does, it comes back more powerful and destructive than in the beginning. It is not weak to tend to your healing, in fact, it is quite the opposite. True courage is not blocking out your emotions, it's having the strength to deal with them, to handle yourself and others with care even when you're down. Courage is having the strength to be vulnerable.

I've decided to embrace this period in my life and honor myself in the process of grieving. I've decided to stop feeling ashamed or disappointed in myself for not being able to "get over it" like I would a scratch on my car. This is a matter of the heart -- and when you disconnect yourself from that, you really don't have much at all, do you?

So I challenge you -- both men and women. The next time life throws you a curveball (or two), and you feel hurt and pain, allow yourself to feel it. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Don't numb it, don't take a pill to ease it and don't hate yourself for feeling a bit broken. Tell yourself that it's okay to feel, to fall, to take your sweet time to get back up -- to be human. And when you are ready, then dust yourself off and get back up. But only when you are ready.

I fall. I cry. I get back up.

Sometimes, it just takes longer than others. But when I cry, the tears means pain is just leaving my body. I guess I have a lot of pain to get out, but I'll get there eventually. We always do, don't we?

 

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