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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Are You All In?

Jun 30, 2019 02:00AM ● By Mandy Roberts
When scrolling through recent images from a photo shoot, I saw a photo of myself that stopped me in my tracks. I thought, “Hey, I think I know her!” It took my brain a moment to realize it was me. I looked so vulnerable and real—like who I really am.

I have a love/hate relationship with the camera. Over the past few years of photo shoots, I’ve learned how to take a pretty good photo: how to elicit joy and play, and how to create a mood to give off a certain vibe. I learned how to tuck away my vulnerable parts to stay safe; I learned how to keep those parts of myself hidden unless I invited them out to play.

Still, deep down, I am secretly terrified of being fully known and seen. I’m afraid of rejection.

But vulnerability is just life asking, “Are you all in?”

These days my answer is a resounding “YES!” but it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes I still catch myself holding back to protect myself, and sometimes I jump into the deep end headfirst, heart bared wide, with no strategy for the swim home. Saying “YES!” and holding back are both risky moves.

Vulnerability is unarmored; it’s courage. It’s real. Author of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown asks what experiences make us feel most vulnerable. Her answer is that for many of us it’s moments of extreme joy, such as standing over a child while they’re asleep, going into remission, having a baby, falling in love. I would add sharing a photo and baring your heart in social media as a vulnerably viable option.

We often mistake vulnerability for weakness, but in fact it’s a great strength. It’s showing up in our fullness without the need to rely on some overprotective ego pattern to shield us from life. We often value vulnerability in others but shut down our hearts when it’s our turn to be vulnerable. (Psst . . . That is fear running the show. The heart likes to feel safe.) My work is in recognizing when fear is holding me back, and it isn’t always easy. Fear will keep us stuck in a pattern or stop us from going after something we really want in life. Sometimes fear feels safer and more comfortable.

While I have gotten better at sitting with these aspects of myself, I know that those parts—even the ones I don’t want to fully embrace—make up my wholeness. I know that recognizing where I get stuck is the first step toward liberation, and that is a lifetime practice.

I value seeing my patterns through the many mirrors I am offered so that I can consciously choose how to live my life instead of armoring my heart to keep it safe. I am learning over and over again to let go of the past, my ego stories and fears that are holding me back from living my very best life.

Mandy Roberts is the owner of FORM {yoga} in Decatur and co-director and senior retreat leader with Soul Nourish Retreats. For more information, visit


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