Uncovered and unprotected

Today’s blog is not a well-woven story, it’s more of a disjointed burst of emotions. A cry for help, if you will. I googled the definition of the word “Vulnerable” and it did not paint a pretty picture.

  1. Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.
  2. Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.
  3. Open to assault; difficult to defend.

It’s no wonder that for most of us, being vulnerable carries a very negative undertone. The only neutral definition I could find involves Bridge, a game of cards, which is not what this blog is about. In short, if you’re vulnerable, you’re a sitting duck and suffering will be the likely outcome. We must avoid becoming vulnerable, at all costs.

Actual reconstruction of the effects of being vulnerable.

Lean in to discomfort

The Homeward Bound journey didn’t start for me the day I was accepted or the day the program kicked-off, not even when I applied. It started when I heard about the program for the first time. I immediately wanted to participate, but I felt unworthy. The fact that I had to answer a series of personal questions and talk straight into a camera to pitch why I should be part of it, seemed more than I could handle. I was afraid of ridiculing myself by getting ideas above my station. Long story short, I decided to take it one step at a time, applied, and got in.

Take a look at our reactions when we learnt we were selected for Homeward Bound’s fourth cohort.

My experience is not unique at all, which is why the first assignment of the program was to watch this incredible talk by Brené Brown, and discuss vulnerability. Turns out vulnerability has nothing to do with weakness or defeat, and everything to do with courage. 

Brené argues that we are biologically wired to seek connection, but in order for connection to occur, we must allow ourselves to be seen. That is, we must be truly authentic and present ourselves as we are, flaws and all, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to rejection. The flip side of connection is shame, the fear that there is something about us that if people see it, we won’t be worthy of connection. This fear is universal, the only people who don’t experience it are people incapable of empathy. In her research, she found that those who are ok with being vulnerable, are those who have a healthy sense of worthiness; they believe they deserve love and belonging.

So vulnerability is good, it’s indispensable and it’s admirable. Every time we decide to lean in to discomfort and lower our guard, we are being incredibly courageous and giving ourselves the opportunity to grow and prosper. I now see vulnerability everywhere I go, and I’m awe-struck by the fearlessness of people around me and by the benefits they reap. 

It doesn’t feel good

Still, it’d be easier not to expose myself and wonder about what could have been, instead. I’m the third Costa Rican to participate in the Homeward Bound program and I have some big shoes to fill. Mónica Araya is an incredibly accomplished lawyer who is leading the shift towards electric mobility in Costa Rica. Melania Guerra is an oceanographer who has worked with the UN, NASA and has been part of amazing expeditions. Every time I see one more piece of news covering their accomplishments (which are countless, believe me) I just want to crawl back to bed and give up. 

Add to it the astronomical price of the program (twenty thousand dollars!) and my absolute inability to convince companies, groups, individuals or education centers to support me, and the pressure is almost unbearable. I have to be prepared to invest all this money and time, and come back to look my partner in the eye and say: “I decided to go for it, and I have come back empty handed”. I’ve made an almost blind bet. Going through this experience might open the next door for my personal and professional growth, or it might just end up as a collection of social media likes and awesome landscape photos of Antarctica.

Being vulnerable is really hard. It demands an amount of kindness towards myself that I’m not sure I possess. But I’m in way too deep now to back out. One thing is for sure, if I had not accepted this challenge, I would have always wondered what it could have been. So for now, I must lean in to the discomfort that that first lesson of the program has unveiled: deep and torturous vulnerability. 

I mean… I’m sure Antarctica is going to be freaking awesome.

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