Moving Forward in 2021 by Embracing Vulnerability
Well here we are in a new year, just weeks in and as much as we wanted a clean slate for the new year…. That’s not reality. We are still living with so many realities and challenges that feel out of our control. Be it in our individual lives or in our country at large, so much of our world still feels like it is in chaos. We still feel vulnerable even though we want so desperately to stop feeling this way.
Dr. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.”
Which can be challenging because we live in a country that tries to insulate us from vulnerability, but this last year showed many of us how quickly we could become vulnerable to disease, to our jobs disappearing, to not being able to pay bills, etc. Then as we have also experienced social and political unrest in our country (some good, some bad), but regardless of our perspective, it’s been a lot of change and felt fairly tumultuous for most people. And when we spend an extended amount of time living with chaos, it can put us into survival mode.
Unfortunately, we have been in survival mode for an extended amount of time, which means a lot people are still struggling with their overall mental health. Which in turn makes us continue to feel vulnerable and overexposed.
Remember, we don’t have to have a diagnosis or an illness (either temporary or chronic) to have fluctuations in our physical health; the same goes for our mental health. As much as we’d like to just move on, the truth is that potential extended separation in our social relationships, stressors in our environments, constant change, and if we are practicing regular self-care or are we just engaging in behaviors that numb us out can significantly impact our day-to-day mental health.
And this past year absolutely qualifies, both on a micro and macro level, to have brought us pain, chaos, grief, anger, etc. that has made it more difficult to function in our everyday lives, and that includes our productivity, how we show up at work or school, and so forth. A lot of us aren’t as okay as we feel like we need to be, so we pretend that we are fine. Unfortunately, because of some of the practical financial challenges that some are facing or also because of the stigma around mental health, we often don’t utilize or pursue things like seeing a therapist or a life coach to help us deal with the fact that our general mental health is struggling.
So if you haven’t taken the time to acknowledge the grief that you’ve been holding, I’d encourage you to think about that. The weight of that kind of sustained grief doesn’t just disappear; it lingers in our bodies, it affects how we interact with others, it can impact how we show up in every role in our lives. If you’re just trying to “hold it all together”, know that you’ve done an incredible job, the best you possibly can…… and it’s okay if it still feels like too much. It’s okay if you feel like you need some help carrying the emotionally heavy burdens of what the last 10 months have brought your way. It’s okay to still feel like you aren’t okay.
Even as we step into a new year, we are carrying some of that with us, that survival mode. There has been so much change that has occurred that we didn’t choose. While some of the public health, social, and political realities that may feel stressful are still a part of our lives, I know that so many people are hungry to move out of survival mode. They are exhausted from living in that space. Maybe this is you personally, it could be your co-workers or classmates, your family or friends, but there are so many people who don’t feel like they have access to their best selves right now and still feel like they are just trying to get by.
So how do we embrace change that we DO choose? How do we move forward into 2021 without living as deeply in survival mode, while still acknowledging some of the stressful circumstances that exist in our lives that are out of our control? We need some intentional, desired change and ironically part of moving towards that is by embracing vulnerability.
Talking about messy, hard feelings when we just want to feel happy may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is, we don’t get to shut off the emotions that make us human and not experience any consequences. We live in a culture that promotes this myth, but truly, it does not set us up for holistic success. Let it be known that just because that is the way it has always been done does not mean it is the right way or the wise way.
Cutting off our humanity and living in a space of permanent compartmentalization does not set us up for success because we don’t have access to our full selves. Research has shown us that we cannot selectively numb our emotions (AKA cut off access to the emotions we don’t like and then only feel the feelings we do like). We have to realize that
“Vulnerability isn’t just the center of hard emotions [fear, shame, grief, disappointment, sadness, etc.]; it’s the core of all emotions. To feel is to be vulnerable. Believing that vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. And like it or not, we are emotional beings…. Vulnerability is the cradle of the emotions and experiences we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, and joy.” Brene Brown
So if you are craving a new perspective on 2021, to step out of survival mode, then you have to learn to embrace vulnerability. Learning skills that can help us sit with the complicated, messy, Both/Ands of life are what actually help make us more resilient, not pretending that everything is awesome or convincing ourselves that we are impervious to vulnerability. To be human is to feel and to feel is to be vulnerable. It is an asset, not a liability. We need our vulnerability to become who we were meant to be.
If you’re not sure how to move forward with that, Nicole is available for individual (virtual) coaching sessions. You can find out more at
Meet the author:
Nicole Clifton is a writer, public speaker, life coach, and leadership development specialist. She holds her Masters in Psychology and has a decade’s worth of experience working with young adults. She is a Phoenix-native, a voracious reader, an Enneagram 8, a passionate advocate against injustice, and is committed to being a life-long learner. Nicole isn’t afraid to talk about the messy, vulnerable topics that so many people avoid like embracing diversity, LGBTQ+ awareness, faith deconstruction and/or reconstruction, healthy relationships & boundaries, body image, and the power of vulnerability & owning our stories.
To hear more from Nicole, you can visit:
Facebook: Nicole Clifton – AlwaysNYourCorner
TEDx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uLHjwpuFXc
For more info on individual life coaching, visit https://www.restorationcounselingnoco.com/nicole-clifton