Living Open, Connected and Vulnerable

by Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit) on March 17, 2012

To read more on the living series; a selection of lessons I learned in India, be sure to check out living every moment, and living fearless.

The ability to feel connected is coded in us on a neurological level. It’s what gives us purpose, meaning and ultimately the reason why we’re all here.

Knowing this you’d think that the world would be full of free, open, and fearless individuals. That there would be endless trust, never ending love, no such thing as a person that guards their feelings or emotions, and most certainly no self doubt.

Sound like your reality?

It wasn’t until I was a couple weeks into my trip to India that I began to understand the importance of connecting with the people and experiences in my life. In the past, I’d seen myself push away friends, reject experiences, and catastrophize my feelings to the point where it was easier for me to just live life alone. It meant I didn’t need to rely on anyone by myself, I didn’t need to feel disappointed, and I surely wouldn’t get hurt. As a result, I kept myself at a distance from everything and everyone.

When I began to explore this, I quickly learned that I was absolutely terrified to make real connections. I harbored feelings of disappointment, shame, rejection, and the mere thought of opening myself up to others was downright crippling.

At home, I was often scared to say hello to people in fear that they wouldn’t recognize me or that I wouldn’t have anything valuable to say. I was hesitant to speak what was on my mind in fear that I wouldn’t be able to defend myself if people began questioning me. I became scared to show my true self partly because I wasn’t confident that people would like what they saw and because doing this meant I had to trust someone and accept that I may get hurt.

So instead, I drowned myself in distractions, I spent money on things I didn’t need, I spent my time doing things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, I put my energy into things that meant little to me and in doing this, I lost sight of my purpose and meaning… which in turn made me feel vulnerable and ever more scared. So I added more distractions, I spent more money on things that I didn’t need, I wasted more of my time, and wouldn’t you know it? I lost even more of myself, felt vulnerable, and began the cycle all over again.

This; unknowingly at the time, was why I went to India and why I was so sure that when I returned I would know exactly who I was and how I was going to stop this cycle. I wanted to learn how to live for myself.

But to fully embrace this, I had to…

feel worthy of everything.

be willing to let go of who I thought I should be.

live and accept my truth.

love myself.

feel like I belonged to something.

believe that I’m good… enough.

find the courage to live from my heart.

trust my intuition.

embrace my imperfections.

be compassionate and kind to myself.

be authentic, and raw.

surrender to it all.

And most of all, I had to understand that in order for a connection to happen, I had to allow myself those experiences.I had to accept that there was no guarantee I wouldn’t get hurt, that people weren’t going to disappoint me, or even be nice to me.

But you know what? As soon as I surrendered, as soon as I said hi to everyone, helped people without expecting anything in return, spoke my truth, lived from my heart, and freed myself, the compassion and respect I had for myself increased tenfold.

All the things I knew I had to do in order to live vulnerably came naturally.

I’d leaped, I’d surrendered and I’d learned that, I am worthy, I am good enough, I am imperfect…

and it felt awesome.

I was able to practice gratitude and joy for the positive and negative experiences I had with people. I understood that the only way I was ever going to get to know myself better, to feel whole, and loved, was to become vulnerable. I realized that I needed to build connections with others and jump unknowingly into friendships and experiences with the understanding that even if they were short-lived; the time we would spend together wouldn’t be a waste because I would have learned something along the way and it didn’t mean I was a bad or ugly person. Life goes on, experiences go on, and I owe it to myself to continue to grow with them.

This has seriously changed my life and allowed me to make connections I never would have in the past, including the three very strong relationships I made in India that I’m certain I will carry with me forever. On our last day together in Varkala, I wrote the following in my journal about each of them to remind me of just how lucky I was to get to know them; and how proud I was in myself for surrendering to it all,

Not once have I ever considered that being with others; from different walks of life with different experiences, could help me to get to know myself. I never in a million years would have opened up to people as I did to them. But I did and it felt good. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have before – the world, morals, religion, and how to just be a good, open friend.

Scott – has helped me to find joy in sharing my passion with others. I’ve learned that it is perfectly fine to speak your mind and have no idea what you’re saying, that you can express yourself, share who you are, and trust that it just feels good to share even when you know that not everyone is going to like what you’re saying. I fave him some of my hemp hearts; which I’d generally never do just because I like them so much, and was amazed at how much joy it brought him. When he’d told me he’d shared them with other Canadians that missed home just as much as he did it made me realize just how selfless he is and how selfless I could be. No matter how little I have, it’s always nice to share with others.

Jody – helped me to see that I need to believe in myself constantly, trust my instincts, connect with things regardless of my fears and check in with myself so I can get the most out of life. It’s okay to jump without thinking when you trust your intuition is the thing guiding you. Friends are like family, everyone gets lost at one point or another, and it’s okay to want to be a separate person from your spouse. That the strongest of relationships are those that are formed by two individuals.

Lina – taught me that there’s no such thing as introducing yourself to too many people, eating too many hard candies, laughing too much, or giving to those in need. It’s empowering to find issues to believe in that we feel would make a difference in our world, even if we’re only one person. You need to follow your heart; no matter how scary, you don’t have to have a home, or a plan, just a passion for life, and belief in yourself.

When I came home I decided that I would continue to be vulnerable and allow people into my life with an open my heart, and accept that whatever they provided me with would be exactly what I needed at that moment.

So far so good! And man, is life more beautiful this way.

Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? What sorts of things do you do to drown yourself when you’re scared?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

sophie

Leanne, this post really spoke to me. I have been and am doing exactly what you set out to stop.
I distance myself from everyone…I distract myself with things that don’t necessarily bring me joy, etc.
As I write this, I’m not sure how to change yet, but I know I have to, so that I can really start enjoying life… instead of just passing through it…
I appreciate you sharing your truth through this post. <3

(Also…have you been reading Brene Brown? A lot of what you wrote reminds me of her book. She's great. Check out her Ted Talk!)

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Leanne @ healthful pursuit

I’m happy this post resonated with you, Sophie! It’s funny you should mention that video. I was really struggling with writing this post. I’d been working on it off and on since I got back from India until last night, when I felt it was exactly how I wanted it. Just after that, one of my girlfriends sent me that video! I couldn’t believe how in sync I was to what Berne brown was saying! I can 100% agree with everything she says in that video, it was like she explained my trip to India. So strange. Enjoy the journey ;)

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Divya Yadava

Leanne! First of all, I wanted to say that I’ve been reading all your posts, but haven’t had time to comment yet (darn magazine is taking up all my time!). I’m so glad you went to India and had some time to introspect and learn new things about yourself. That’s exactly what a trip like that should do for you. It should be life changing!

As for this particular post, it really resonated with me. I’ve been in your shoes before and constantly find myself keeping a distance from people just to prevent myself from getting hurt. I sometimes feel that it’s hard for me to accept new people and jump into friendships with an open heart because of a few past experiences. I know that has to change and I hope that I can slowly do that over time…..

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

You look absolutely radiant in these pics. I’m so glad you had such a good time.

I struggle with vulnerability. My role with family and friends is often that of a caretaker or advisor, so I don’t feel that I have “permission” to show anything but strength and confidence. This is an especially timely post for me… I’m about to dive into caretaker full-force with my mom. I need to remember to allow my friends to be there for me when I need a break.

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Linnea

Hi Leanne! I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. I too struggle with this, the distancing from others och belief in myself, and it’s nice to see I’m not alone.

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Ann

Hi Leanne
Wow and holy smokes – the first part of this – you have taken the words out of my mouth. You have so eloquently put into words some of my deepest feelings. I have been on my own journey in the past few years to find what you found in India. Thank you so much.

I have just recently found you and I really appreciate your posts. I will continue to read them!! Thank you, again, for your willingness to share!

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Averie @ Averie Cooks

What a post, what a journey, it’s all so larger than life, big, profound, wonderful. I am truly so happy for you to have had this amazing transformation. They say that India changes people and can really change your life and in your case, seems like truer words were never spoken. Namaste!

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Andrea

Leanne, you are such an amazing and beautiful person. I wish I could say something with more depth, but that’s one of my struggles. 99% of the time, I do not allow myself to be vulnerable. I feel like I just don’t know how. It’s something that I need to work on, but like you before your trip to India, I have so many fears built up inside of me. More often than not, I can’t even TALK about what I am thinking and feeling. It’s like my mind and my mouth don’t get along. I also have a very hard time finding anyone to connect with. I feel this way especially with the people that are closest to me, which seems ironic. There are many times where I feel so alone, and long for a place that I can have real friends, people who truly care and show that they care about me and me care about them just as much. Many things to work on, but reading your blog is very inspiring for me, and I appreciate you so much!

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Cara

I love that picture of you looking at the ocean. It encapsulates so much! And I LOVE this post so much. So vulnerable and wonderful, wrapped up with beauty. Sounds like not only did you find important pieces of yourself but you found friends who will forever be in your heart.

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Rachel

This is a very raw and encouraging piece of writing. You have captured the fear a lot of people struggle with in their lives. Learning to recognize what it is that drives us to do the things we do and is so important to a happy life! It’s something all people, including myself, should get in touch with. I love reading your blog because, along with the way you listen to the needs of your body concerning food, you’re so brave in putting out your emotional path out there for others to see. Brave beyond words!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thank you, Rachel :)

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Nadine

What a beautiful gift to give to your readers! To share of yourself is the most amazing thing anyone can do and I admire your willingness to write this post and let us be part of your journey. Clearly it is speaking to a lot of us and is certainly inspiring for me! Thank you Leanne!

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Rebecca haak

Hi Leanne,
I admire your openness in these recent posts. most of the comments from your readers have made me realise how many people are out there ,just like us ,struggling a force from within our selves.
You are very inspiring ,to the point where I too,am going to try to live more openly and let more people into my life as hard as it may be .I am sick of being so lonely.
Keep Writing.
Becky

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Amy Ellison

Beautiful post from a beautiful heart.

Sounds like you are on the path towards freedom!

I spent a month in India in 1997, and it changed my life forever…

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Sara

really FELT your post today. I am so embarrassingly shy or vulnerable. How did you begin to change what small choices helped you make the change.

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks, Sara. I guess I just started noticing myself pulling back when others were trying so hard to be nice to me. I took it one day at a time, and just slowly went from there. I started with a lot of positive self talk, I really think that’s where we all need to begin. The minute we feel we’re worthy of those connections, is the moment we are sitting in a place of vulnerability!

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Cindy

Thank you so much for this post Leanne. As I read it I thought to myself, wow, she nailed me here….but as the responses continue to post, you’ve nailed all of us. I may need to print this one out so I can read it every couple of days. I think there is a good chance I’ve been hiding from myself and everyone else for the past 3-4 years. So tired of feeling this way….thank you for a nice firm poke to get my attention.

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Gloria

Wow, thank you for posting this. I have been struggling for a very long time, and hope that some day I can get to where you are now :)

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Richelle

Wow, what an amazing and raw post! It brought tears to my eyes. I distract myself from making real connections and am starting to see this and trying to change it. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen)

This was an amazing post! It’s weird, I just said out loud to Tony how truly happy I am right now. I haven’t said that out loud in forever, if ever. After the last year I’ve had, I have finally figured our who I am and what I am capable of personally. I have had some profound losses in my life recently and finding the strength to stand up tall and fight for me has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In the end, I know who I am, I know what I want and I know how to use my experiences to grow.

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Kristin

I love this :)

I think a lot of people are working on themselves in this same way, myself included. Sometimes it takes a step away from everything that is familiar to be able to see yourself (for who you are) from the crowd. Kudos, girl!

I often wish I could craft things (or even have to time to do so) that you come up with on your blog. Sometimes it’s even just wanting the formatting on mine to resemble yours (I feel like a little bit of a fangirl right now lol) but at the same time I know that I need to be who I am, and my blog is a reflection of part of myself. And not you. You’re an inspiration Leanne, be true to that.

K

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Mikelle

What a beautiful and honest piece of writing. I am so inspired by what you have expressed here. I feel the same way, as I think so many of us do yet are so surprised and relieved when we hear it from someone else. I have closed myself off to others for so long. After not revealing my true self for years, I have been forced to be vulnerable lately as I have been dealing with thyroid disease. I now have no choice but to be as truthful as possible. At 38, I was getting more and more closed and then illness happened – forcing me to open. I am filled with gratitude, which helps get through the day-to-day management of my situation. Thanks for choosing to share your story.

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Lesley

Wow, thanks for opening yourself up to us. Your blog is a constant encouragement to not give up living the healthy life, which can be so challenging at times. And your India posts have been so inspiring! I have definitely felt this way many times in my life, struggling to make connections and feel worthy of even having friends. Thank you so much for sharing, Leanne!!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I’m happy to hear my story is resonating with you, Lesley. Hope you’re having a fantastic day :)

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Lou

Dude, this post is amazing…. your thoughts/fears were/are SO similar to me it’s kinda scary. This sentence jumped out at me – “it’s perfectly fine to speak your mind and have no idea what you’re saying” – I struggle with feeling as if whatever I have to say is wrong/not important – more often then not I just shy away from sharing or connecting with others. Just reading your post has made me realise I’m not alone in some of my thinking… which is so comforting. Thanks :)

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thank you, Lou! I’ve been amazed at just how many people struggle with the same thing. You’re right, it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in this.

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richard recardo

thanks leanne,
for writing about that, i know you’re right, my problem is forget easily and get trapped, like a computer with a bug. but i’m going to try my best today; because i know it’s right, i don’t want to live by myself in a world which i separate myself from: it’s lonely. so today i’m going to try to be open and loving and not be scared by what i think people will think of me :)

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Vanessa

I saved and reread this post this morning, after putting my opinion out there, and anxiously waiting for a response (oh Twitter). I’m telling myself that it is okay to have opposing opinions and to discuss them. Thanks for helping me with this.

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