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Jeffrey Meek: Robust Vulnerability Allows Us to Be and Be Seen for Who We Really Are

Finding connection and compassion is why we’re here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Neurobiologically, that's how we're wired.

Jeffrey Meek
Jeffrey Meek

Shame is the fear of disconnection. We desire that others know and see that we are worthy of connection. Shame is supported by the critical inner voice claiming, "I'm not good enough, I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, and/or smart enough.”

The support system of the critical inner voice is being excruciatingly vulnerable. In order to find and feel connection, we have to open our hearts and allow ourselves to be seen for who we really are with robust vulnerability.

There are those who have a sense of worthiness — people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, and folks who struggle to find worthiness — those who are always wondering if they're good enough. The one major factor separating them is the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. They feel they are enough. That's it.

What do worthy people have in common? They live wholeheartedly. They live from a deep sense of worthiness that helps create a strong sense of courage. (Courage is from the original Latin word cor, meaning heart.) And so the wholehearted have, very simply, the courage to be imperfect, the courage to explore and the courage to fail.

They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because we can't practice compassion authentically with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. When we feel worthy, we are willing to let go of who we think we should be in order to be who we are.

Wholehearted people also fully embrace vulnerability. They believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautifully alive and engaged. They don't talk about vulnerability as being pleasant or painful. They just talk about it being vital and necessary. They’re willing to fail.

It’s incredibly difficult to practice service, gratitude and joy in moments of terror and a feeling of unworthiness. We must believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place of "I'm enough," then we stop defending, kicking and screaming and start listening.

When we’re enough, we can relax, breathe and realize we’re OK in the moment, and this makes it easier to recognize when we are living in the fear of the past or the anxiety of the future. We're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves. We become freed up to be ourselves at our best.

— Jeffrey Meek is an actor and teacher in Santa Barbara and co-artistic director of PlayFest Santa Barbara, a nonprofit new play and musical festival that takes place every January. The opinions expressed are his own.

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