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The Emperor's New Clothes... and Other Tales of Vulnerability

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When I was a child, I remember hearing the tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes." For those who have forgotten, it's about a vain king who is swindled by two con artists who make him what he thinks is the finest attire in the land, when there is actually nothing there. And he proceeds to parade through town, with every villager too afraid to tell the truth until one little boy comments, "The Emperor has no clothes!" My reaction to that was, "Wow, was he brave!" I would certainly have been like those villagers, too afraid to speak up, ignoring what I knew was true. Fortunately I have grown up a little since then!

This tale is, of course, about vanity. And about fear of consequences. But I think it is also about vulnerability. Throughout my life I have felt like the King, knowing inside that something is not right, but parading around anyway, hoping there is no one in the crowd that will point it out. The irony is that in most cases, people can already see that "secret." And if you've hidden it away so completely from view, it is likely to pop up somewhere else. It takes allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to allow others to see you completely, to let you keep walking proudly, whether you're "fully clothed" or not.

Take for example what I am doing today: going to see a financial advisor. I hate doing this. This one of those "I'll hide it as long as I can and hope for the best" situations for me. It is the equivalent of parading naked down 5th Avenue in my book. It has, unfortunately become something of a shame-filled activity, which, in the past, I have tried very hard to avoid.

Any time there is something that causes us shame, it is not uncommon to try to hide it. This could involve spending too much money, eating or drinking too much, or engaging in any behaviors which require denial or justification in order for you to feel all right with it. The irony is that in many cases people can already see what you think you are disguising. Or if you are adept at pushing it so far undercover, it is guaranteed to pop up somewhere else in a slightly different format. In either case, anytime you are holding yourself back from vulnerability, you are doing just that: holding yourself back. By stepping forward into the truth, you are freeing yourself from the self-perpetuating behaviors that prevent your spirit from soaring.

Becoming honest and allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes courage and can be downright scary. But the rewards far exceed any momentary uncomfortable feelings. I am sure our King, in this case, was not the self-seeker type, unless it was for his vanity, but I know he could definitely have been on the right track. For me, I'm committed to living my life as honestly and openly as I can, allowing the light that I know is inside to shine as brightly as possible. Let the parade begin!