Those who know me also know that I grew up on the streets of Boston. I pretty much raised myself with some guidance and protection from a gang.

This background meant I was both street-smart and direct. I once believed that being vulnerable meant I was weak and gullible.

I was a tough guy.

To me, this seemed to work out well.

As a young adult I excelled in my corporate positions because I could go toe to toe with the “big guys.” I was “fearless.”

This also meant very few people could get close to me.

Those that did get near still were not let in completely. I was the strong one. I was the financial “bread-winner.” I was the one who made everything right.

I carried the world on my shoulders and was very much alone and very much lonely.

I saw vulnerability as being frail and thought the people I believed were vulnerable where those that over-shared in their life. They had to “speak their truth,” or they had to seek help every step of the way.

One day I found myself being prepped for cancer diagnosis and just needed to get the world off my shoulders for just a minute. I understood the fear my family felt because of this, but really needed my husband to be strong for me this time.

He was not.

It was in this moment that I had a few awakenings.

• I can only be strong for myself and can absolutely not be strong for anyone else.

• When I admitted my fears to myself, the weight I was trying to offload dissolved.

• I had been creating unrealistic expectations of others and of myself my entire life.

This had been how I protected myself in the past, and now it was holding me back.

Unlearning a lifetime of protective strategies has taken a while and helping others do the same has made the realization of what vulnerability is clearer. Turning inward and being honest with my own values and my own beliefs also means I own my own actions.

Not yours, not theirs, simply mine.

We all fear change. We resist personal development because we are walking away from dear old friends, both physically and emotionally, and that means, for a while, we are alone.

I have found that being alone with myself is far less lonely than being with others, yet still alone behind the walls of self-protection and resistance I once embraced.

Being vulnerable takes courage. It means you show up without expectations of others to be seen even when you have no idea of the results of your results.

It means you do the real work every day.

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