I lived with my parents in their home for the first 17 years of my life. Just like any other Asian home, I lived with hidden rules that were set to teach me the ways of living in the society. I still practice most of them until this day. It is ingrained in my veins. I love some of the ancient traditions about kindness and respect. But some of them also puzzled me from time to time. Let me share some these examples that I still vaguely remember until this day:
“This is your grandfather’s niece. You must call her Auntie. Come here. Smile. Huh, where’s your manners?”
“This is an adult conversation. You will not understand.”
Regardless of how the rules were said, these rules shaped my boundaries over time. What I should, and should not do.; can and can not do. I learned a lot of rules through observation. I did not realize until many years later – how powerful that skill can be. And that is a different story.
If you think that I lived under a regime, you are wrong.
I had a lot of freedom in my life growing up in my parents’ house. My parents never expected me to study or do home work, which is a total opposite of many other Asian parents. They would be the first ones I called to pick me up after I spent hours hanging out with my friends. They would let me sleep in on weekends.
I never had to do any chores other than being responsible for my own space. They would be the one to rush me to hospital when I had weird rash in the middle of the night. They were amazing, and they still are. I will forever be grateful for them being my parents.
One thing I learned very well from my days in Malaysia is staying emotionless.
I struggled a lot with this as a teenager. I had really bad temper. I could not control my anger towards the people around me. I was in a dilemma every single day. I wanted to express myself yet my environment told me to restrain my emotions. It was painful.
I got better after a while. I created a new identity for myself, the queen of poker face. I successfully locked my feelings away and spent my days in thoughts. I brought my poker face along after I moved to The Netherlands. I worked hard to get rid of it. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it did not.
There are several levels of experience in your life.
You think, you do then you feel. One of the toughest challenge I have is to maintain a good balance of all these three elements. I spend a lot of time lost in my mind and wander in the far away universe. When I get back into reality, I usually hit the ground running, and get very busy with being productive. I am a thinker and a doer.
Both the thinking and doing are coping mechanisms for vulnerability.
Resisting emotions and feelings is a way of staying away from vulnerability.
Vulnerable is an uncomfortable feeling.
We live by everyday thinking about how to appear strong and not to feel vulnerable. The only way to feel many other things except vulnerability is vulnerability itself. When I locked away my emotions, I lost my ability to feel vulnerable too.
When you learn to feel vulnerable, that is when you do not feel vulnerable anymore.
There are a few ways that you can welcome vulnerability and other amazing things in your life. When you can do that, you will not see vulnerable moments anymore.
1. Practice duality
For us to be fully alive, you have to first learn to feel vulnerable. Both things that are opposite from each other. And they coexist. That is duality. Give yourself permission to be in duality.
You and I are always conscious about not excessively exposing ourselves to vulnerability 24 hours a day. We will always be. It is a catch-22 situation. You need to feel sorrow to feel rebirth. You need to feel shame to gain your pride. You need to feel weak then you will feel your power.
Allow yourself permission to feel vulnerable. When a moment of vulnerability happens, disregard your reasoning. Observe the emotions that flow through your body. Remember to take deep breathes. The surge of power and strength originates from being able to let yourself go through the vulnerable moment.
2. Take Risks
We do things certain ways because other paths will lead us to the outcome we fear about. You may choose not to ask for someone’s number because the person may not like you. You may resist intimacy because of shame and fear of getting a “No”.
Risk is this rebel that you have no control over.
Taking risks in loving and being emotionally moved by inspiring stories. All the risks in life represents opportunities for vulnerability. When you see love approaching, open your heart and welcome whatever that comes.
I stopped writing when in my 20s. I started writing again recently. I want to write about my experiences and connect with others that are going through the same challenges.
When it comes to creating vulnerable moments, writing has a specific purpose. It is a good way to connect with yourself. It is a way to give yourself permission to explore your feelings and your mind. Allocate five to ten minutes a day and write about:
- What is important to you?
- What does your ideal world look like?
- What are you afraid of?
- What are you feeling right now?
The list can go on. The common theme of these question is always you.
When you are writing, emotions may appear from no where. It is ok. Close your eyes and take deep breathe. Feel the energy channeling through your body. The uncontrollable shudders turn into wave of force on your limbs, your body, your mind, your veins. You are powerful.
Reach out to someone when you feel vulnerable. Share about why you were vulnerable in that moment. Most importantly, witness what your vulnerability does to others. If you prefer, you can even speak to the mirror. Imagine those people that hurt you being next to you right now. Vocalize your feelings. Listen to your words that you use. I can assure you, it is a powerful feeling after this exercise.
I learned as a child that there is no guarantees in life.
Accepting vulnerability is a different business. You have to accept that your ideal vision of life is imperfect. Love will be lost. Death may happen to people around you tomorrow. Nothing is certain. If you can accept this, vulnerability will give you power. If you continue to be honest with yourself, you will always have this power with you.
So be grateful about vulnerability. When you learn to feel vulnerable and how to show your vulnerability, vulnerability will no longer be that scary anymore.
When do you feel most vulnerable? What is the one thing you do when you feel vulnerable?