I was talking to a friend this morning about some personal life stuff and the topic of vulnerability came up, which seems to be a reoccuring thing for me over the past year or so.  The ability to be or not to be vulnerable, and I'm writing about it here because I think it plays into strength sports and athletes big time.

I'd say this for men mostly, but I've seen it in women, specifically myself.  The inability to admit when things are just not going well, to admit that you're struggling, to pull out of a meet because you know it's not the right time for it, to literally just say how you feel about something or someone, the list is endless.  In strength sports, or sports in general, there is this perceived notion that in order to be strong one must be indestructable.  I think there was a time where I shared the same view, and so often I see everyone talking about what it takes to be the best or how they work the hardest, push through the pain, etc. whatever it may be.  And there's a lot of talk around how the iron is therapy in and of itself, how people involved in the sport of powerlifting or even bodybuilding are individuals with deep seeded issues; which may actually hold some validity.

And so if this is true and the iron is your therapy, that's awesome.  I guess my only issue with this is that the iron really does not talk back.  Yes, you get to take out anger and frustration and sure you get to think things through, find out what you're made of, etc.  but I guess I'm just wondering how therapeutic is something that gives you no feedback, does not question you, does not help you grow on an emotional or intellectual level...ok you get the idea.

I would say that sports in general, and specifically powerlifting in my adult years have served as a form of therapy for me.  However, I am also able to recognize my inability to show or become vulnerable in my younger years, which has since affected my adult years in terms of relationships - both friendships and intimate partners.  Powerlifting is often used as outlet or a release of sorts through physical activity, but there is little to no verbalization of problems or emotions, which in my opinion, leads to more bottling of emotion than showing it.  Think about it, you're using lifting as an outlet for pent up emotions and releasing it physically, but not verbally...therefore everything is still in your brain and isn't actually being worked through, but more or less pushed to the side.

Vulnerability is defined by the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally and for purposes of this log we are referring to emotional vulnerability.  When you verbalize your emotions and the things you feel and reveal your weaknesses, legitimately exposing yourself to rejection or judgement from others, this is vulnerability. I guess what I'm trying to get at is the idea that vulnerability is strength, because through vulnerability comes growth.  Never revealing weakness or emotions or fears, never putting yourself in the position to get hurt due to fear is not strength at all, at least in my opinion.  I'm not saying to give your vulnerability to every single person, you pick and you choose and you will learn on your way who is worthy of it and who is not.

I lost a lot last year, mostly surrounding lifting and my entire sense of self.  I would say there's a correlation between the two.  Losing lifting, among other things, has taught me more than I could ever have imagined.  When you lose the only outlet you've got, it will drive you mad, and it did just that.  I'm a therapist, and yet never put any real value on getting therapy for myself.  When I finally started to verbalize the things I had been feeling and actually working through all of my "shit" is when I  began to feel whole.  I am no longer pushing things to the side or using the gym as an outlet, in fact, I will skip the gym on a bad day and have a talk with a friend hashing everything out, really looking into what the problem is and how I can fix it.  Because when I go to the gym, yes I feel better, but tomorrow when I wake up that problem, and all of the emotions that I failed to deal with at the gym are still there.  For me, verbalization of feelings has been a work in progress and started out with something as simple as me letting my friends know I'm grateful for them, telling someone I miss them, recognizing I'm bummed about my back or unhappy with my job.  I used to feel that expressing emotions both positive and negative ones was awkward or weird, and I can tell you I do so much more freely now.  Never will I ever apologize for saying how I feel about someone or something.

I had always thought showing vulnerability was weakness, and to be strong (both physically and mentally) one cannot show weakness - that perception is inaccurate, in my opinion.