“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

The path of personal development always begins with coming to know yourself.  This involves setting aside time to reflect and examine your strengths and vulnerabilities, likes and dislikes, habits and patterns, boundaries or lack thereof, your basic beliefs about the world around you and much more.

Inspired by the book Vulnerable Leadership, Danette from FibroHaven did just this, and shared her vulnerable side with her community of readers.  Revealing your vulnerabilities can be an important step in creating a greater sense of trust and connection, and may also be the impetus for others to engage in a similar self review.

That’s exactly what happened for me after reading Danette’s article.   I felt admiration for this genuine, vulnerable yet also strong woman.  I was  prompted to reflect upon my own vulnerabilities too, and share my revelations with you now.

As a preamble, let me suggest that in exploring your vulnerabilities gentleness is the key.  The point isn’t to string yourself up by the thumbs or to develop self-loathing.  Whatever you find in yourself, be assured, you are not alone.  We all have weaknesses and work to do in this school of life.  As you navigate your vulnerabilities, remember your positive qualities as well, and bear in mind Buddha’s advice:

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

My vulnerabilities

1.  Fear – Fear has been a major factor in my life since early childhood.  I was frightened at an early age and fear became a continuous theme.  Although I expressed a great deal of bravado as a teen, trauma that occurred as a young adult, suddenly painted the world unsafe once again.

For the greatest part of my life, I was ashamed of being fearful. I pushed forward trying not to let others know, finding workarounds to avoid fearful situations.  This deep lack of self acceptance automatically creates a knot of tension inside.  Without intentionally wishing to deceive, you are still straining to hold up a facade. Georgia O’Keefe once said,“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”   In a similar spirit, I soldiered on, but there was a price to pay.

In Ayurvedic medicine, each person is said to have a unique constitution (“dosha”), a mix of three basic types.  Understanding your constitution sheds light on your innate temperament, which is said to be genetically determined.  Having this knowledge was like a healing salve for me.  These are the challenging emotions associated with each type when they are put under stress:

  • VATA – Impatience, fear, worry, anxiety
  • PITTA – Anger, hatred, jealousy, and other fiery emotions
  • KAPHA – Inertia, attachment, greed, and envy

Reading this explanation had a huge impact on me.  At long last, I was able to see and begin to accept that we are all alike in having vulnerabilities.  Thus, I didn’t have to be ashamed of my fear.

Although the system holds that these inclinations are genetic and cannot be overcome entirely, it is possible to master them to a great degree. That’s what personal development and spiritual transformation are all about.  With understanding and perseverance, they have far less hold over you.  You can even come to see them in a humorous light. It’s equally important to know that in Ayurveda, each constitution also boasts wonderful positive qualities, just as each and everyone of you do too.

As to my fear, it’s had a stranglehold on me such a big part of my life.  However, I can now happily report that through regular meditation, the Buddhist view of emptiness, and the skillful techniques of Amygdala retraining, it’s not the huge menace it used to be.

2.  Arrogance – By now you may have guessed that I’m, at least in part, a VATA type.  You’re right!  But my arrogance is decidedly a PITTA characteristic. I’m actually a blend of VATA-PITTA.

I confess, I can be a know-it-all.  So much so that I missed recognizing this most of my years, because naturally I am always right, aren’t I?  My way is the best way!

Arrogance can be a terrible characteristic because it blocks you from fresh possibilities and the opportunity to learn from others.  I’m an intelligent person.  I do know and understand a great deal.  But many times more than once, I missed a vital point stubbornly clinging to my approach or point of view.  I could count the times I might have suffered less if I had only been more receptive.

While I haven’t embraced total humility by any means, there is a beam of light shining through a tiny crack allowing me to see that I may not always be spot on.  More than ever, I understand we are each on individual journeys.  What’s right for me, may not be right for you.  Sometimes, the wrong way is the right way.  Maybe I don’t know as much as I think I do, and am truly just a beginner on the path. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” -Suzuki Roishi

3. Hopelessness – My guess is that hopelessness is a KAPHA quality.  Overall, I have very little KAPHA in my basic constitution.  Generally, I am optimistic even to the point of being naive at times.  But when the going gets rough, I can drift into a black hole of hopelessness and float there for periods of time.  It’s not an overwhelming force in my life, but I need to stay on the lookout for it so I can steer a different course when it does arise.

The list does not stop with these three vulnerabilities alone!  For the sake I brevity and a little mystery, I won’t go on.

Understanding and accepting your vulnerabilities is the first step forward on this journey called personal development.

Have you explored your vulnerabilities?  Care to share?

Recommended Book:
Prakriti:  Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Robert Svoboda

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