2016: One Word


My word for 2016 is vulnerable. If I can be perfectly honest in a nonjudgmental way, this is hard. When I first heard that being vulnerable was actually “in,” I was confused. Brene Brown has written books and been on tv talking about it, and I just couldn’t get it. Why would anyone think that being vulnerable is ok?

In 2007, my ex-husband and I separated after seven years of marriage. With all of the many other things that make divorce hard, there was one thing that I didn’t realize happened in the early part of 2008.

I became guarded. I started to limit the number of people I trusted. No man had a fair chance at having anything that remotely resembled a decent, romantic relationship with me.

My heart had hardened. It would stay that way for the next seven years.

There have been a few times in the not too distant past that I have been challenged to be vulnerable and I have just flat out refused. Well, as much as I could anyway. Let me tell you right now though, I learned that you really can’t refuse to be vulnerable, and trying to do so will just make you feel worse. Let’s look at the instances I tried…and y’all, I tried hard.

1. The divorce. No matter how you slice and dice it, divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best, even when your not the one at fault, even when you should be rejoicing instead of crying. My divorce was no different. It made me vulnerable and raw to my core. Because the pain cut so deep, I thought that people could see just how hard I was taking the demise of my marriage. To avoid being vulnerable, I kept our separation secret until after we moved. Then, I sent an email to all my friends explaining our current relationship status and made myself really busy when they would call so no one would hear the crack of heartbreak in my voice.

2. The cancer. Let’s take a brief look at my cancer event of 2013. It was exactly two years ago this week that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. For a couple of weeks, though, we didn’t have the exact diagnosis, we just knew it was cancer and somewhat related to the thyroid. The diagnosis went from thymoma to lymphoma to thyroid lymphoma to finally thyroid cancer. In case you don’t know this, hearing a doctor say, “We need to talk and I need to shoot straight with you” brings nothings but vulnerability to the situation. Except for me, the girl who is anti-vulnerable. So in true Toni fashion,  even though I was scared, sick and sad, I did what I always have done and put on a brave face covered in strength to hide my vulnerability. Now, let me tell you this. I truly believe that two important parts of any health crisis are 1. positive thinking, and 2. eating healthy. However, I can now honestly say that I used my “positive thinking” rule to cover up the vulnerability.

This time, though, my coping plan didn’t work so well. The fact that I physically felt bad and fatigued a lot ensured the fact that I couldn’t cover up a lot of the truth, meant I needed to be vulnerable. Well, at least a little bit.

3. When the seizures came back. When my sweet first born was two years old, we were playing at home one afternoon and he fell over in convulsions . After a lot a medical tests and hospital stays, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. After three years, the seizures subsided and we didn’t see any activity until he turned 13. But six months after I was deemed cancer free, the seizures came back. And this time, I felt since I had just been vulnerable earlier that year, I didn’t need to be vulnerable again.

I’ve learned that vulnerability doesn’t operate on a calendar. You cannot decide how many times a year you should be vulnerable. If you are hurt, you are vulnerable. If you were taken advantage of, you are vulnerable, and if you are in love, you are vulnerable. If you are alive, you are vulnerable. And that’s okay.

While I mentioned three of the big hints in my life to embrace vulnerability, I need to tell you that there were several more smaller hints that I just didn’t catch. Looking back, there were moments almost every day where I choose to hide my vulnerability.

Enter the need for one word.

be vulnerable


At the end of each year, I reflect on the word from that year and the  important events that shaped my life during the previous 12 months. I then enter a place of prayer and meditation where I ask God to send me more word or phrase for the coming year. And as He knows my struggles, that phrase was be vulnerable.  Fyi, if you have a good relationship with God, it’s okay to fuss and fight with him over something he’s charged you to do. The key is that you must submit to His will and decide to do it. So after I fussed and cried and fussed some more. I decided to embrace the concept.

Since I’ve opened myself up to the idea and started exploring the concept more, incredible things have happened in my life. Hmmmm…we’ve only been in 2016 for 11 days and I’m already seeing results. And you know what else? Brene Brown has a new fan in me.

I truly believe that this wouldn’t be my word if I wasn’t meant to help others, so I’ve created  a free blog challenge using the hashtag #bevulnerable. I’d really like you to join!

If you want to work through the process of accepting vulnerability and experiencing the shift in the universe that occurs when you are vulnerable, then this challenge is for you.

Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.

And even if you don’t join the challenge, I’ve got a little gift for you. Click here to access a free printable with a quote on the importance of vulnerability. If you do join the challenge, I’ll send our daily tasks and items for exploration via email. I’m also creating a secret Facebook group for us to work in and there will even be videos and other fun items I am sharing. To sign up for the challenge, click here.

The biggest fear I faced when I decided to allow myself to #bevulnerable was that I would be judged by others. That was really hard for me (and frankly it still is) because I try so hard not to judge other that when I feel judged, I feel attacked personally. So needless to say, this challenge is a judgement-free zone. We are going to do the work and see what manifests as a result of it.

Tell me in the comments below, what impact does the phrase “be vulnerable” have on your life?

If you’re a little unsure about this whole vulnerability thing, I would suggest you start with researching the work of Brene Brown. I started by watching this Ted Talk and eventually reading this book. Good luck!


32 thoughts on “2016: One Word

  1. Toni, while reading this I thought how great it is that you decided to open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Then, when I read the challenge a wave of emotions just overflowed and the tears started to flow.. I don’t know why… or what to do with them. This will be very hard for me…very hard…but I think I’m willing to try.

  2. What a wonderful word choice. I love that you are taking control of the vulnerability after experiences that forced you to be. Intentional and perfect. Great post!

  3. This was an awesome post! Being vulnerable is something I often struggle with. It’s truly a faith walk, plus, being a grown-up is hard work! So happy you share your story with us.

  4. Great article. I think life can leave you feeling pretty beat up at times so it’s easy to see why people would become guarded. I think being vulnerable is great advice but I would still be cautious about who I showed my vulnerability to. Not everyone deserves to see that side of you. IMO πŸ™‚

  5. Be vulnerable has a big impact on my life. I’m always vulnerable, I get hurt sometimes, but I am happy and feel blessed. If you block your emotions to not be vulnerable, you also block the positive ones…. Great post! Hope you are doing good now!

  6. Absolutely love this. As I have been writing more, I have been struggling with the vulnerability piece. If I post something really personal (which I just did), it’s a challenge. But you are so right – if you want to have meaningful relationships, with God and with others, you must be willing to be vulnerable. There is risk there, but it is a much fuller life than living closed up and hardened to those around you.

    Also, I don’t think being vulnerable means telling everyone everything. There is definitely wisdom involved. But no matter what, there is always the risk of being hurt when we are vulnerable. Thanks for this post and the encouragement!

  7. This is a spectacular post. It gave me goosebumps. Especially the part about your kiddo having seizures. My 13 y/o has had a seizure disorder now for about four years and her birth mother had epilepsy. Since we found the right medication [finally] she’s been seizure free now for almost a year. Best of luck to you!

  8. Wow, with every reason to throw your hands up, you continue to persevere! You sound like an incredible woman. My 4 year old son started having seizures last year. He’s been diagnosed with Dravet syndrome (although I think it’s actually Doose). Anyway, I know what that’s like and it’s awful. Saying special prayers for you tonight.

  9. I love how you put a completely different angle on the idea of vulnerability; how it can be a good thing to be vulnerable. Vulnerable doesn’t always have to bring with it a negative connotation. Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. This is a beautiful post and you have a beautiful soul! You are so courageous for sharing and sharing all of this with folks you don’t know shows how committed you are to accepting vulnerability as a part of life this year. Keep it up!

  11. Wooooooooooow! Just read your brief…completely transparent life story was refreshing. All I can say is you are a warrior and survivor. Your honesty is inspiring. Truly thank you for sharing!!!!

  12. Vulnerability is something that I’ve always struggled with. I need to break the association that I have of vulnerability with weakness. In fact, it’s usually the opposite and requires a great deal of strength. (That is probably why I struggle so much with it. :/ ) — Thank you for this post. Not allowing myself to open up has gotten in the way of a great number of things for me. I needed this nudge/reminder to get back into the habit of opening up.

  13. Cancer is the devil. My 1 year old cousin was recently diagnosed with a stage 4 neroublastoma. A good friend of mine is watching her 14 year old daughter battle cancer for the 3rd time. She had leukemia as a child and the “cure” being given to these babies is actually linked to brain tumors, which is what her daughter currently has. Just absolutely heartbreaking.

    I loved this post! Keep your head up and remain positive. Sometimes that’s all we can do!

  14. I too was surprised the first time I heard Brenee speak of vulnerability. It seems counter-intuitive to embrace vulnerability when you are going through a crisis, when your instinct is to put on your brave face and smile at the world. It is far braver, however, to open yourself up and show your vulnerability. Your post was very well written and insightful. I wish you and your family a stress-free and fabulous new year! πŸ˜€

  15. Pingback: Do You Know What You Need? Are You Willing to Tell Others? – My Life With Him and Them

  16. Pingback: One Word for 2018: Obedience – Hey Twilli

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