I was diagnosed with a severe eating disorder, specifically anorexia, in my early 20’s and I went downhill fast. My hair fell out. My skin turned grey and was scaling off. My teeth turned black. I had no life, no personality, no joy, no vibrancy, and no interest in anything. I was dying inside and outside. My parents tried an intervention, twice, and they were both wildly unsuccessful. I tried to commit suicide once, and thankfully, that was indeed unsuccessful.
My journey out of hell
My journey out of hell and into my “Olympic life” was a process to say the least. There are so many takeaways that I learned along that road, and many shaped who I am today. But there is ONE takeaway, one loud and obnoxious truth that came up over and over again for me, and it’s not what you think it might be!
I bet you’re thinking it would be something along the lines of these options:
- Perseverance and Dedication
- Goal Setting
- Positive Self Talk
- The Art of Good Mental Imagery
Although those played a healthy role in my pursuit of Olympic glory, the idea of having the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable are what shaped my truth. I found great power and solace out of a wretched, near-death life, in vulnerability. It shaped every part of who I am today.
The power of vulnerability
There are layers of psychological research which show us that connection and the ability to connect to one another is why we are here on this planet. It’s what gives purpose to our lives.
Connection is powerful. If we can’t connect, we are dead. We were born to connect with others.
But in order for us to be connected we have to be vulnerable and allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. If we don’t strip down our barriers, if we don’t remove our masks, we can’t truly connect with others. If we can’t show people our weaknesses and our failures along with our victories, we won’t be seen as real, as honest, and as trustworthy. It’s in our weakest moments that we can make the deepest connections.
What’s holding you back from being vulnerable?
I believe shame and fear are the greatest inhibitors of your true self.
We think, “There’s something about me that if people found out, they wouldn’t want to connect with me, they won’t want to be my friend anymore, they won’t want to know me.”
And in order to eliminate this fear, we must fully embrace vulnerability and not that it’s comfortable, but it’s necessary.
We must be willing to do something where there are no guarantees.
We must be willing to invest in something that may or may not work out, whether it’s sport or life or friendships or business.
Let go of who you think you should be, so you can be who you are!
Being vulnerable is difficult!
Why is that? BECAUSE IT MAKES US FEEL.
This is why we struggle with addiction, because in overcoming it, in healing, we must feel to get well, and we don’t want to. We try to numb it all out, but we can’t selectively numb, just like we can’t selectively “spot train” in the gym. So when we try to numb those yucky feelings we also numb our joy, we numb purpose, we numb love, and then we feel empty.
And the cycle continues...
So how do we overcome this difficulty?
This is what I have found: We do overcome fear by being and feeling worthy. When we feel worthy, we can then be vulnerable. But how do we feel worthy?
- By doing something that matters, something that makes a difference in the lives of others, something that drives passion for change and growth for others.
- By doing something that scares you, challenges you and makes you act out on commitment and perseverance because commitment and perseverance build character and hope.
When you feel worthy, you feel purposeful.When you feel purposeful, you feel confident. And when you feel confidant, you feel brave and you take chances and you are vulnerable and you open your life to never-ending possibilities!
Surrender to your vulnerability
When I decided to go for the dream of making the 2012 Olympic team, there was an immense amount of vulnerability I had to overcome to get there, because I sucked many, many times in training. Many times, I was not strong enough, I was not the best, I was not perfect. I was tired, I was scared, I was lonely, I was injured, I felt worthless and unworthy. I mean come on, it was me, the anorexic, drug addicted loser who was going after this lofty goal only 1% of the population has ever achieved.
I found I must surrender to vulnerability and walk into it, to come out strong. Only through experiencing all the weakness in vulnerability, can you come out strong. You have to go through it, get uncomfortable, be brave, and lay it on the line.
Most people take their greatness, take their ideas, to the graveyard with them.
The wealthiest place on the planet is the graveyard, where inventions lie that we never knew, dreams that were never fulfilled, actions that were never taken because people did not want to put themselves out there, they did not want to suffer, they did not want to fail, they did not want to hurt and they did not want to be vulnerable.
Don’t be those people. Live your truth.Be great. Be your authentic you. Be real. Be amazing. Be vulnerable.
An Olympian and silver medalist from the London 2012 Olympic Games, a 7-time U.S. National Champion and a 2x Pan American gold medal winner, Bausch is in her fifteenth year of racing. While Bausch has scored major victories on the bike, perhaps her greatest victory came from resurrecting her own life from the depths of severe eating disorders, which threatened to take her life over a decade ago after a promising modeling career in New York City. It was during her recovery that she discovered her passion for cycling.