No Belonging without Vulnerability

We can not find belonging without vulnerability

These words were spoken to me recently by a wise woman, a doula, who is a friend of mine. We were sharing in celebration of the gift economy, and of a generous community that can sustain us.

We were celebrating our recent success in raising tens of thousands of pounds for a woman in need of support; herself a yoga teacher, healer and mother, and someone who has been consistently outspoken against injustice and oppression in all its poisonous flavours.

She was on the edge of financial ruin, thanks partly to certain parties and individuals who had tried to silence or diminish her and her work. For someone who has spent her life supporting others, here came the moment to allow herself to be supported – and to ask for help.

And by expressing this vulnerability an outpouring of love and appreciation was unleashed from hundreds of people – some of them complete strangers – who believed in the importance of her work and wanted to help.

I am sharing this story because I believe it can teach us all a lot about the power of vulnerability, particularly for those of us who are helpers or carers of one sort or another.*

Photo by Arjunsyah on Unsplash

This is important because the humanitarian and human rights sector is made up of thousands of people who are giving, giving, giving all the time; as well as giving their energies to a specific cause or crisis, they may also be giving as parents and carers within their family and community. Many will be giving without any desire for anything in return; they will be giving simply because they want to show solidarity, or be of service.

And this is a beautiful element of humanity: our capacity for unconditional love, and for caring and supporting others – not just our loved ones.

But sometimes, it can come at a cost to ourselves. Perhaps we will forget that we too may need support, love and attention. Perhaps we will forget how to even ask for it.

The power of vulnerability is the power to recognise our own struggles, to share them, and to allow ourselves to feel supported.

Having had many episodes within my own humanitarian career of working alone, of feeling alone in what I was doing, of thinking I could cope with whatever was thrown at me – even though my body and my general mental health were telling me otherwise – I know how hard it is to admit that we might need help.

But it is this sort of denial that can lead to burnout or a complete draining of all our physical and emotional, perhaps also financial, resources as we continue to give to others without allowing ourselves to receive.

Photo by Marlis Trio Akbar on Unsplash

We find support, we find community and we find belonging when we are vulnerable: when we take off the mask of being superhuman (I know that mask too well), and we are brave in showing others that like every other human being we need love and care and a hand on our back.

I encourage you today to reflect upon the situations where you may be going it alone needlessly. Where you may be afraid to ask for help. Where you may have lost sight of the community or colleagues who are able to provide support.

Can you allow yourself to soften, so that you too may receive? It may be one of the biggest actions you can take to find your belonging, and a return to wholeness.

  • Important Side Note: This story also reminds us that in the absence of satisfactory interventions from our governments in horrific situations such as the unfolding genocide in Gaza – a situation where aid agencies too are falling short – individual charitable giving is an increasingly potent tool for giving immediate financial or material assistance to those who are in desperate and urgent need of it.
    There are many other ways too to show your support for an end to the genocide in Gaza, and an end to Israel’s illegal occupation in the Palestinian territories. If you are an aid worker reading this, consider joining the GlobalDev4Palestine campaign which advocates for an end to ‘aidwashing’ and the silence of many humanitarian leaders in the face of Israel’s ongoing colonisation and destruction of Gaza and the West Bank.