Vulnerability. It’s a word I’ve heard and seen a lot lately. A friend recommended I read Brené Brown’s writing about it. I haven’t done that yet, but I will, one day. Today, I have my own thoughts on the subject.
Vulnerability is difficult. Seriously, it’s a tough act. But that’s the thing: it’s not an act at all. Vulnerability is the exact opposite of an act: it’s being 100% yourself, no matter what. It’s not saying “to Hell with what everyone else thinks”—and, let’s be honest, you do care—what people think of you, how they interact with you. It’s caring about all that and still being true to yourself. It means honestly facing the rejection, the hurt, and the fear and carrying on, no matter what.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I want to put up walls. I want to act as if I don’t need anyone, as if I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I used to think that fierce independence was strength. In recent years, I have realized that it was simply denial. Because eventually the reality of caring reappears: the reality that we are not creatures that are meant to live in isolation, that, to flourish, we require the support of a community, whatever that community may look like. And truly feeling and benefitting from the support of a community requires us to show our authentic selves.
In other words, flourishing requires you to be vulnerable: exposing your true self, your soft, unprotected underbelly, to whatever dangers lurk out there in the big scary world. And sometimes, the world cuts you open. You feel as if your insides are lying on the ground for everyone to see, and it seems impossible that you’ll ever be whole again. And so you put yourself in a little fortress, behind a protective wall, to allow yourself to heal. But eventually, it’s time to take down the wall and repeat the process—because when nothing can get inside to reach you, nothing happens: no new growth, no new joy, no real living.
Let me be completely honest here. Some days, tears stream down my face because I am terrified of never being truly seen by that “one special person.” At those times, I am tempted to fiercely say, “It’s fine. I don’t need anyone.” I may believe that, for about 20 seconds, and then I have to admit that it’s not true. Because while I am certainly capable of living happily on my own, and I have plenty of friends and a wonderful family, I have always known, without a doubt, that my truest beauty, my best gift, is my heart. So for me to give the world my best gift, my journey is to continue being open to all the hurt and disappointment until that one person sees me and cherishes my heart. And that will be the beginning of a beautiful and joyous new chapter (which I’m sure will come with its own challenges and lessons). My current challenge is to be brave enough and strong enough to continue showing my true, vulnerable self without those self-protective/self-destructive walls, knowing that I can and will heal whenever I need to.
That’s just my story: perhaps your challenge is something very different. But I have a feeling that this theme of remaining vulnerable and not putting up defenses may hold true in many ways. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Regardless of what you’re facing, keep this in mind: There’s nothing wrong with being scared; just don’t let the fear prevent you from living. Being scared, recognizing the dangers, and yet still going after what you want and living your life to the fullest: that is bravery. That is strength. And that, my friends, is beautiful.
Wishing you strength, vulnerability, and a beautiful life ~ CW