Recently boxer Muhammad Ali died and left an incredible legacy behind.
Ali the activist fought outside the ring for what was right as well as in it. He supported Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and lived up to the words, 'there is never a wrong time to do the right thing'.
He risked much in his stand against conscription to the army and opposition to the Vietnam war. He fought prejudice and inequality.
However it’s how he lived his life with Parkinson’s that I find so remarkable. His biggest fight was outside the boxing ring.
He developed Parkinson’s in 1984, aged 42, associated with brain injuries from boxing. The fast talking fighter who ‘floats like a butterfly stings like a bee’ was reduced to a silent trembling man when he lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta 1996 and held the flag in the 2012 London Olympics.
There was however a dignity in the presence of this chronic, debilitating illness.
He didn’t go invisible, or retreat into the shadows. He showed an acceptance of his vulnerability.
Vulnerability and acceptance are two key areas that we all have to work on. In life vulnerability is often seen as a negative. The person who openly cries when upset can be more easily dismissed.
This is the case with one of my patients whose partner had her frequently in tears. We worked on how to make her heard while being upset “Even though I am upset and crying what I am saying is important, you need to ……”
A key skill if vulnerability is being used against you.
We all have vulnerabilities. In true relationships we open up and reveal them, a big part of the connecting and bonding process.
In public, we are taught to act guarded and immune to the slings and arrows of life. We could be setting ourselves and our children up for even bigger falls.
Often we look for it in others and deny it within ourselves. It can be a hurt, heartbreak or a setback.
But if we didn’t have these experiences then where are we with experiencing the joys and happiness of life?
To be our ‘real self’, to embrace all of our experiences, that is a real strength.
Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty.”
Here are five reasons why.
1. It helps you to become more authentic and truthful to yourself and others.
2. It takes you out of the safe comfort zone to where the magic happens and we grow.
3. It allows you to connect truly with yourself, and to love others on a deeper level.
4. It enhances your romantic and sexual relationships as you are more available.
5. It moves you from ‘human doing’ to ‘human being’, promoting your wellbeing.
Often we hold on to hurts, grudges or a diagnostic label - depression, anxiety. Its toxic, like leaving a pepple in a shoe. It impedes our growth and ensures emotional wounds never heal.
The challenge is to identify our vulnerabilities and find acceptance. As Ali said, “It isn't the mountains to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe”.