The word Courage originates from the Latin word cor, meaning heart, translated into the Old French word corage based around the word coeur, also defining the word heart. It is said to be defined as meaning “valor, quality of mind which enables one to meet trouble without fear” dating back to as early as the 1300s. When I am searching for the courage to be, and the vulnerability to rise up to myself, I have to remind myself to call on my Lion Heart.
Lion Heart is a phrase I keep engraved on the ring on my finger, written on the wall of my studio, and as the background of every screensaver to be mindful and present when I feel like backing down from myself, and shying away from the lion within. The courage needed cannot exist without the vulnerability to ask for it. Perhaps it’s the everpresent astrological Leo rising who deeply wants nothing more than to shine and allow herself to be seen and come forth as the sunlit personality she truly is, but often feels the need to shrink down to this small body that was specifically chosen to challenge her in this life.
Energy matching has been something trained, something learned, and something presumed throughout my entire life - I’ve learned to play small because of the interactions I’ve had, the judgments that have been deemed upon me, and the fears that have been innately instilled until they’ve planted deep roots. In order to break away from these habits and to explore a life where the lion can take charge, I’ve learned it takes a bit of courage through acting vulnerable to grow.
Vulnerability is scary. I don’t really like to use that word, so I’ll say vulnerability is intimidating. It’s something we all struggle to bring objectivity to at one point or another. Vulnerability takes courage.
Vulnerability is often compared to weakness. It can be confused with the symbol that you lack strength; contrarily, displaying vulnerability takes courage to conquer. It cannot exist without having the vulnerability to crack it open and back it up.
I can promise you: everything on the other side of vulnerability is worth the risk.
This piece has taken about 8 months to write. From the journey leading up to a life-altering trip home to Paris, I’m still working through the feelings associated with the uncovering I’ve learned, understanding truly that the healing process is a difficult one but one that could not exist without the courage to be honest, nor without having the courage to be vulnerable to get to that honesty.
September 2018: I’ve been feeling so emotional as the weeks leading up to my trip to Paris have been getting closer and closer. This past year has been the most emotionally charged (potentially ever) in my lifetime. I have unveiled the deepest, darkest secrets of my past and discovered hidden truths that seem so unreal not even the most inventive screenplay writer would think to use them (please stay tuned for future memoir). I have felt an overwhelm of emotions while simultaneously feeling numb to it all, working my hardest to stay mindful and objectify them where I can so as not to deplete my reserves.
It has taken me nearly 12 months to process these feelings, these deep-seeded memories from such early childhood that they are embedded in the cellular root of my veins. My goal is to find the root at its source, and rip it out. Some symptoms of this root appear as: lack of self-love, shame, anger, difficulty communicating, challenges in understanding feelings, fear, introversion and self-doubt. The list goes on. It has taken me nearly one year to process these feelings. I’m still not done. I’m still working through them, carefully, each day -- in meditation, in reading, in researching, in conversations, unraveling them slowly like a game of Cat’s Cradle to get to the stem. I have faced and begun tackling the fear of asking for help, recognizing weakness does not exist outside of stubborn tendencies to feel you can tackle it all on your own.
I chose to keep some individuals at bay who have subconsciously and (mostly) unintentionally been hurting me for longer than I can fathom to be possible. People who have their own demons, their own pain, their own suffering, their own lack of presence, their own shadow-self to recognize should they ever choose to look in the mirror with love and pick compassion rather than judgment. People who cozied up so closely to fear and made it their home. In creating my own boundaries as an act of self-preservation and self-respect, choosing not to be selfless as an act of self-destruction any longer after more than 12 years of giving away endless efforts and energy into a bottomless well, I have learned, so far, that how you regard yourself will domino into every other relationship into your life. Because I had chosen to perpetually give it all away, I had nothing left for myself, and I was seeking it so desperately from the outside without recognizing I needed to be the first one to allow that love and gratitude inward. Understanding the concept of unconditional self-love was absolutely the most challenging so far.
Vulnerability is most often avoided because emotionally it’s linked to fear.
The fear to be seen.
The fear to be judged.
The fear to be loved.
The fear to be left.
Fear is only destructive - it causes pain, dishonesty, resent and loathing, and when it exists at such a subtle, persistent level, it becomes nearly impossible to see until it’s spread to the next person, and the next, and the next, as the nest of fear expands like a virus.
It took me 28 years to recognize that fear was the underlying root infecting everything else in my life, and I had unconsciously clung to it like a friend. Once I identified her, I didn’t want to be friends with fear anymore. It simply took me making the choice to choose it. Because once you realize it and you become aware, you can no longer blame it on your subconscious - you have to choose.
From there I had to make more difficult choices. I chose to remove myself from reaching out to the people who instilled the fear that they also clung to, so that I could take the time necessary to heal and give myself the gift of unconditional self-love that I never knew as well as fear.
Choosing myself was foreign. It was hard. It felt wrong. I felt guilty.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that choosing to love and honor and learn myself was not selfish, and choosing not to interact with those people was not spiteful, nor intended for hurt.
I needed to work on my self, my projects, my goals, my healing. I needed to present vulnerability. I needed to choose courage over fear.
That choice was the best choice I’ve ever made.
I was raised to be afraid of judgment. My greatest fear often came down to the worry whether I would be accepted as I am -- from the hairstyle I chose, the outfit I wore, the books I read. Instead of braving the world and exuding unapologetically who I was, I shied away from conversation and chose to sit quietly, observing, not being seen. Not being seen felt safer.
Safety always nestled in fear. It was an illusion.
With role-models who were very self-assured in their stories, feeling confident they could pinpoint and determine a person within fifteen seconds of meeting them, they believed those people would forever stay the way they defined them. As a child, these stories became my stories, and I too began to operate from fear of being vulnerable, rather than relaxing into my truth. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned that these stories were perhaps not made from an objective perspective, but from a biased opinion from one person’s experience.
These stories could change. People could choose to change.
Vulnerability is choosing, consciously, to demonstrate self-awareness, recognizing that perhaps we have obtained certain patterns from learning, that have then transferred into habit, which then become our “normal” mode of operation, ultimately becoming a subconscious way of being until we align them as a way to define ourselves through our own stories.
Vulnerability is the conscious reconciliation that perhaps we don’t actually know what we don’t know, and it is, in fact, possible that there could be another way.
Vulnerability is courageously choosing to open up and release stubbornness, choosing instead to be curious - to ask questions, to learn, to listen, to grow, to evolve.
I always feel most admirable of the people I meet in life who wear their heart on their sleeve - who happily “make mistakes” and ask for help. These people are self-aware warriors, perpetually asking the question what if? and seeking different ways to be better - to be more loving, more mindful, more present, more generous. So why is it that we often as a society deem these people to be weak and overemotional? These are the courageousness through vulnerability demonstrators, and they are here to teach us to be brave.
As I approach my Saturn return in my 29th year, my sole mission is to honor myself in every moment I can - to take the healing journey forward and practice mindfulness by never stopping to ask questions, to dig a little deeper, to do some more research, to ask the “hard questions”.
To relinquish pride and replace it with vulnerability, to release fear and adopt courageousness, and to lovingly embrace the little girl within, inviting her Lion Heart to come to the forefront and make her permanent home.