For me, the holiday season is all about mixed emotions. On the one hand, I love the wrapping of gifts, the decorating of the Christmas tree and the smell of yummy goodies, while joyful music plays in the background, silenced only by the sound of merry laughter and the occasional sibling squabble.
But then there is also the stress of endless socializing, from end of the year parties at my children’s school to social evenings designed to help employees step out of office roles and to connect through celebration. Although I do appreciate their purpose, I shy away from this form of large scale socializing. Quite honestly, it makes me feel vulnerable.
The Isolated Introvert
I’ve often shielded myself from this vulnerability by excusing myself from a fair share of the parties. I’ve justified this by reaffirming my belief that as an introvert, I’d rather be in the company of silence and solitude. However, the resulting feelings of isolation and loneliness have begun to remind me that its not introversion that’s holding me back. It’s the fear of social judgment that plagues the shy amongst us.
To feel whole again, I need to bring down the walls I’ve been building around me, and embrace my vulnerability instead. Research shows that this may be the best gift I give myself and others this holiday season. Brene Brown’s work highlights a common human vulnerability that we all share, and claims that it is in acknowledging it that we connect with others in the deepest way.
The Vulnerable Extrovert
The realization of this collective vulnerability dawned on me in a coaching session with a client. She was an extrovert by any stretch of the imagination, forced into solitary confinement because of an accident that had rendered her temporarily immobile. I went in thinking she needed guidance in what to do with her time. Instead, she sought help to survive the silence of not doing anything.
Here was her moment of vulnerability – the vulnerability to look into her own soul. The vulnerability of reflection, that she had often masked with action. In her openness to every external pursuit, I had seen someone who was totally fearless. Now I understood that fear is embedded deep in the human experience.
Rising Above Our Fears
If we are to rise above our fears so that they do not scare us, constrain us, and ultimately define us, we need to embrace vulnerability. This means replacing perfection and certainty with risk and emotional exposure. For my client, it means peering into her own soul, without fear of what she will find.
For me, it means opening up to others with authenticity, fearless of judgment. The quiet moments of reflection and conceptualization that I crave are only one part of the existential cycle. An equally important part is what we do with these concepts and how we apply them in the real world. Knowing is one thing – but it is our actions that ultimately define us.
The Magic of Self-Compassion
There are many strengths that can help in this endeavor. But there is one magic pill that can make all the difference. It is self-compassion. Self-compassion is not self-pity, not self-esteem. Instead, it is the warm embrace of a kindly heart and the wise counsel of an understanding mentor, merged together to form the courage to do the right thing.
I believe in the magic of self-compassion, because I’ve experienced it first hand and because I’ve seen its effects on those I’ve worked with. And given it’s the season of magic, we could all use a little of it to calm the stresses along the way!
About the Author: Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach, a cognitive behavioral therapist and a writer who specializes in the area of self-worth. She helps women break free from the grip of low self-confidence through scientifically backed strategies, programs and courses, so that they show up fully in their relationships and rise to their full potential at work and in life. You can read more about her at www.homairakabir.com