snifflesLessons in Vulnerability

What happens when a “healer” gets sick? Well I’m afraid in this is a lot like the understanding that doctors and nurses often are horrible patients! So much of my experience and learning over the past 20 years of my natural health training has been a lesson in practicing what I preach. Ouch! Shouldn’t wellness be automatic by now? Sadly no.

It costs something for a naturopath to be human. All my training told me the lovely sugary treats of the holidays were risky business. Having a daughter who is a pastry chef, who makes the most amazing and wonderful sugar-filled treats, means that I will forever try to hold this fact of sugar’s immune system challenge in tension with the idea that some things are meant to be enjoyed-even if in moderation. I will likely never give up sugar completely. Maybe I will learn to balance these treat indulgences with extra juicing or raw-food healthy snacks, and maybe I’ll practice extra stress reducing disciplines to help build up what I’m breaking down. At least I can try!

Today will be a slow day. It started great with coffee with friends then a very fun exercise class. Now I rest-possibly all day! Uhh recovering from my bronchitis/walking pneumonia (?) has not been an easy or quick task. I’m learning to be kind and patient with myself. I also continue to work at practicing what I preach!

The consequences of this respiratory health challenge have not been small. I’ve had to laugh (or cry) a little when telling people I’m a natural health practitioner and wellness coach with a voice that sounds like I belong in a TB ward! I wanted to redo a voicemail greeting since my current one is not ready for  prime time as I take Healing Pathway into a full time, professional health building business. Some of you know my record of listening to voicemails has left a lot to be desired.I apologize and commit to change this! Alas, I sound a little too much like Froggy from the Little Rascals!  The greeting recording will wait a bit longer.

So what is the point of this confession? I think the key word might be vulnerability. As a recovering prideful perfectionist, vulnerability over my weakened state would have been filled with shame. Sounds silly maybe but those of you who have struggled with perfectionism relate to this idea. One of the insidious things about perfectionism is that it is rarely kind to self. It rarely results in motivation to succeed. More often for me it has resulted in disconnection, demotivation, and fear of discovery. All of which block the very thing which can most bring us healing. Vulnerability and the transparency it creates requires two things, a willingness to risk and a great amount of courage. Things most perfectionists find to be in very short supply. One of my greatest teachers in this area has been Brené Brown. In her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. She wrote, “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”  

So yes, part of me feels this horribly uncomfortable sense of failure that this wellness coach has been sick for weeks!  But I’m learning to accept this vulnerability and sit with it a bit. It’s not really comfortable but it is sort of wonderful at the same time. I feel a little more courageous when I admit my weakness, allow failure to be my teacher, and tell perfectionism it is no longer allowed to maintain control over me. Brené showed me, “When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation.” I want to be creative. Healing is a creative act.

Over all these years of training I’ve learned a lot about how the body heals, how the systems work, what we need to do to be well and help others find wellness. Some of you have probably heard me “preach it.” Yet again Brené has taught me an important lesson, “What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable.” So I am learning to be. Sometimes it’s being vulnerable.  It’s never being perfect because perfect only existed in one Human. So maybe I can record that voicemail greeting after all!

Terri Shannon Renfro is not a medical doctor or licensed medical professional. She is not presenting information to substitute the advice and care of your physician or other medical or psychiatric professional. Please see the about us section of this site for more information about Dr. Shannon-Renfro's qualifications. These blogs are for educational purposes only. The opinions expressed here belong to Terri Shannon-Renfro or the author quoted and do not constitute treatment in anyway. Dr. Terri Shannon-Renfro does not diagnose, prescribe or treat any medical or psychiatric condition.