How Vulnerability Changed My Life and Led to Still I Run
adjective vul· ner· a· ble
Definition of vulnerable
1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded 2: open to attack or damage: ASSAILABLE, vulnerable to criticism 3: liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge Wounded. Attack. Damage. Penalties. Pardon my language, but what a crap way to define vulnerable. To me, this definition from Merriam Webster makes it seem like being vulnerable is bad and something to be avoided at all costs. I mean sure, vulnerability can be scary as hell. But can it lead to change? Absolutely! That’s exactly what it did for me and I’m so thankful. Without researcher Brene Brown’s work on the topic, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Brene Brown Changed Me
If you’re not familiar with Brene’s work, I want you to stop reading this blog post right now and watch this video. When I first stumbled upon Brene’s TED Talk, the Power of Vulnerability in 2012, it changed my entire perspective and worldview on human connection. In a nutshell, Brene explains how embracing vulnerability in a whole-hearted manner helps us to embrace all of life; the good, the bad, and the ugly. In her TED talk, she sums that up by saying, “I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging, love.”
When we’re brave enough to open ourselves up to vulnerability, we’re saying “I am enough. This is who I am.” To quote Brene’s words from the video again – “When you work from a place, I believe, that says ‘I’m enough’, then…. we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
Turning the Bad into Good
After I listened to the Power of Vulnerability, I started feeling differently about my diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Why should I feel bad about who I am and who I was created to be? For me, being vulnerable meant giving myself some grace in life. That then led to me embracing my mental illness. It doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of me. And sure, it sucks to have depression and anxiety, but there’s nothing I can do about it. However, I can take the pain it has caused me and reroute it so that it serves a greater good. When I combined this newly found passion to help others with my new vulnerability superpower, I realized I should “go public” with my story because perhaps sharing my story would inspire others to get help.
Coincidentally, it was around this same time that I was also looking for a group or community of people that ran for their mental health. For a couple of years, I casually searched for a community of runners that rallied around mental health, and couldn’t find anything. Finally, in 2016, I decided to take matters in my own hands and create the community myself.
Why Still I Run Works
When I launched Still I Run in October of 2016, I did so with a wing and a prayer. I really had no idea how many people would be interested in such a community. In my anxiety-riddled mind, I kept thinking to myself that the reason a community like this never existed before was that people just didn’t care about running for mental health. I honestly thought only my friends and family would like the Facebook page I created for SIR. I also didn’t have a really clear goal in mind when I launched either. That’s all different now. Today, there are a couple of thousand people across the US that follow the running for mental health movement on social media and it grows daily. We’re also way more focused and have a strong three-pronged mission statement.
Promote the benefits of running for mental health.
Defeat the BS stigma around mental health.
Provide a safe place for people to share their stories of mental health and running.
The last bullet point listed is why SIR works. Through sharing on the blog and the private Facebook group, SIR has created a safe haven for people to be vulnerable. It’s through that vulnerability of story-telling that the SIR community continues to inspire others to share their own stories. When you step back and look at it, it’s a positive feedback loop that’s self-reinforced and continues to grow the more people share. I wish I could hug everyone that decides to be vulnerable and share their story of running and mental health with the SIR community. Words and stories from those who share are more valuable and inspirational than all the money in the world. For real! I truly hope that everyone that shares, knows that no matter how small they feel their contribution to the conversation may be, that it is making a difference in this world. Sure, it might not be an overnight change, but if we keep working together, this world can be a different place for future generations. And that, my friends, is all because of the power of vulnerability.