To paraphrase Brene Brown, a renowned researcher, professor, social scientist, and author amongst other things: the marker of being considered trustworthy by others is not only found in whether or not you can listen to their pain and hold their secrets, but is most often primarily and crucially determined by how willing you are to be vulnerable yourself.
In other words, people can only trust you according to how much you allow your true, authentic and flawed selves to be seen.
This realisation greatly shifted the way that I understood myself and moved through the world. Not only did I come to understand how my resistance toward vulnerability would shape the relationships I was able to develop with others, but I was also forced to fundamentally examine the ways in which this had impacted the most important relationship of all: the one with myself.
If I failed to sit in the discomfort and pain of my own vulnerability – whether that be fear of failing, accepting imperfections, asking for help, needing love, allowing my body to ride the waves of sadness, anger and deep hurt whilst trying not to drown – then that meant I was failing to come through as the true, authentic and flawed being that I am, in my own body. And if that’s what I was doing, then I couldn’t trust myself.
Why? Because when we refuse to feel pain we create a belief system in our brains and bodies that we must avoid this innately human experience at all costs.
We are saying to the very deepest parts of ourselves: ‘I do not trust you enough to deal with this’.
When we have to live inside the same skin as someone who we do not trust, we create a profound level of suffering. And as the old saying goes: ‘pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’.
The pain of being human is never going to go away, and why would we want it to? After all, it is in the times that we have fallen that we have learned how to get back up; the times when we have shown up and allowed ourselves to be seen despite the gnawing fear, that we have felt truly fulfilled; and the times we have experienced great loss and suddenly discovered what it means to be alive.
Pain is human and it is beautiful.
If we allow it to – that is, if we trust ourselves enough to surrender – pain can be the most profound and even gentle of teachers, for all it asks you to do is sit and breathe and listen and be. In return, it offers up growth, resilience, the fullness of being alive and human, and the knowledge that you do not need to live your life running away from pain, because you can in fact trust yourself.
And when we trust ourselves, when we empower our sacred primal selves to exist in their beautiful flawed, whole and authentic forms, we give ourselves permission to show up, as Oprah says, in the ‘greatest, truest, highest expression’ of who you are meant to be.