Making Space for the Vulnerable

Instead of being upset with ourselves when we feel scared or unsure, we can make room for these qualities in ourselves and others.

When I think of mothering, I think of protection and nurturance of ourselves and each other when we’re at our most vulnerable. Our culture does not look kindly upon people who are different, vulnerable, or sensitive. We value instead independence, self-reliance, and sturdiness. However, without sensitivity and vulnerability, we cannot enjoy intimacy, love, and openness to new experiences. A world without vulnerability and sensitivity would be a very harsh, sterile existence, I believe. On Mother’s Day, I hope that we can make space for the sensitivity in ourselves and in others.
How does one go about taking space for the vulnerable? I believe that all behavioral and conscious change starts with paying attention first and foremost.

What are the tendencies towards not making space for it? Impatience, judgment, harshness, and certain expectations all can hamper our making space for the vulnerable. We must that just as we are sensitive and would not want to be treated certain ways, other people are also sensitive in their own ways. Impatience comes up quite a bit when other people are not doing what we think they ought to, especially with children. However, we can be impatient with other adults. When we soften our gaze on other people and remember that everyone needs time and space to grow and learn, we can start to change this tendency.

Judgment is ubiquitous in our culture as well, and it’s very tempting to fall into thinking of other people who are different as inferior. In a divisive environment such as ours, it can be very easy to classify people into them and us, excluding people without perhaps giving them a chance to explain whether coming from. We may still hold onto our beliefs that we hold dear, yet give other people the respect of allowing them to feel and think differently from us. Instead, we can remember that we all struggle, we all falter, and we would not want to be treated as harshly as were treating either ourselves or the other person. What does the person in that moment need? What could help them achieve their goals and be a better person? How can you facilitate and nurture that in yourself and others?

Similarly, when we feel harshly towards other people and are in aggressive mindsets, we can ask what it is that we need to make more space for the other person. Anyone in the 12 step recovery culture knows the phrase HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. We can check in with ourselves and see whether any of these conditions is fueling our aggression and harshness. Then we can lovingly take care of ourselves so that we can maintain kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.

In cultivating mindfulness and self-compassion, we learn to be kinder to ourselves and to others. Without this, the world is not a very pleasant place to live. How empowering and exciting it is to know that each of us has the opportunity to become a beacon for nurturing, compassion, and positive growth. When enough of us develop this within ourselves, we spread the light of awareness and create a nurturing environment for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

Equally Gifted, Equally Flawed

Here I am borrowing a phrase that my husband likes to use frequently. I like this phrase because it brings attention to the fact that we all have struggles, and things that we don’t like about ourselves, as well as areas where we truly shine and are gifted. We all suffer to some degree from judgment, whether it’s about ourselves or others. I think there’s a healthy balance between caring what other people think about us, and living our lives freely and joyfully without concern of others’ judgment.

In my practice I see a lot of people who have a great deal of anxiety about others’ opinion of them. Some people have panic attacks, others have social anxiety where their throat gets dry, they sweat, and the seal their heart palpitations in their chest. Others still have negative judgments that they assume others think about them, running through their heads. I understand that through evolution, we needed to belong to a herd or a pack in order to survive. There was a certain amount of conformity that needed to develop in order to promote cohesiveness. That part of our brains does not seem to have heard about appreciation of diversity, equal rights, or many of the newer social developments that have occurred in the world. People who are different or are seen as different from the majority are still regarded with distrust and in some cases, disgust. Some of us are more sensitive to the pressure of what other people think of us than others. Our brains haven’t adapted very well to the changes in society, where we embrace people who are different as innovators and creative thinkers. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace our own selves and our differences as things that make us unique and special.

Something we can do for ourselves is check in periodically about how we feel about ourselves. They can do this through meditation, prayer, or just noticing what we say to ourselves about ourselves. But we noticed that others seem to disapprove of us, we can first asked if our perception is based in reality. For example, has the person actually said or done something disrespectful to us, or are we assuming that we know what they’re thinking? If they are saying or doing something disrespectful, is it hurting us? If it is, how badly is it hurting us? If you want you can rated on a scale of 1 to 10. If the pain is less than five, we can choose to let it go and just think that the other person doesn’t know what they’re missing by disregarding us. If it’s more serious, and it really causes us a lot of distress, we can assertively respond to it. However, depending on the relationship to that person, this requires a certain amount of finance and practice in order to avoid getting enough physical or verbal fight with the person.

Overall, I hope that we can become less sensitive to what other people think of us and more affirming of our own selves. This does not mean we have to become arrogant and insensitive to all feedback from other people. We don’t want to be conceited or obnoxious. The healthiest, happiest people I know have a blend of humility and confidence in their character and what they know they do well. Some people seem to be lucky and bored with that confidence; but that doesn’t mean it can’t be developed. I encourage you to work on that if you feel vulnerable to what other people think and say about you. You may have some gifts and talents that you could share with the world, that may not be readily apparent on the surface. Let your Shine and your flaws be invitations for personal growth.