My Relationship with the V Word
My Relationship with the V Word
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What lessons have you learned from being more vulnerable?
The urban dictionary defines vulnerability as someone who is completely and rawly open, unguarded with their heart, mind, and soul; a word which resonates with who I am now, but is someone I haven’t always been.
I’ve spent most of my life looking for self-validation in other people and, because of it, I’ve been afraid to share my true self with the world out of the fear that the world wouldn’t like me.
This is a belief that I can link back to my early childhood. I was bullied in elementary and junior high, to the point where I was terrified to go to school. I remember my mom driving me to the bus stop one day and she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t get out of the car. I gripped onto my seat belt crying, as she tried to coax me out the door. Grabbing me by the shoulders, she asked me in a sincere mom-like fashion, “what’s going on? you can tell me anything.” But I lied and pretended I was sick. I didn’t talk to anyone about what was happening. I’d learned not to after making the mistake of opening up to a student counselor who told me, “brush it off and be a strong.” This taught me to bury my emotions, and be careful not to let anyone know what I was ever really feeling.
My teenage years and twenties were even tougher. Like a lot of young adolescents, this time was spent in self-exploration, trying to figure out who I was and where I wanted to go with my life. However, I was bombarded by constant pressure to conform to an identity of a person I thought the world wanted me to be. So much that I refused to live as the authentic version of myself and instead created a version of myself I thought everyone else wanted.
For a long time, I managed to keep up a pretty convincing façade that everything was perfect. But deep down I was struggling, and too afraid to openly say, ‘THIS ISN’T ME!’ The possibility that people wouldn’t accept the real me if I let my guard down was way too much for me to deal with. There was too much shame in it.
But it took experiencing shame to realize how beautifully liberating it is to be vulnerable. And in being vulnerable, you open yourself to living a REAL, unparalleled, wholehearted life.
This realization happened for me a few years ago, when I was twenty-five. I came to terms with the fact I was struggling with an eating disorder. At 5’7” I was roughly 100-pounds. I was exhausted and gaunt; my hair was falling out and my circulation was failing.
Getting out of the shower one night, I had to brace my weak body against the edge of the sink as I dried off. Standing in front of the mirror, I saw the bony outlines of my hips and my concave chest and broke down. I was ashamed of what I saw. I didn’t recognize myself.
Where was the girl who had a silly sense of humor, who loved writing and reading books, was quietly intellectual and loved listening to classic 80’s?
Why wasn’t that girl staring back at me? The person I saw wasn’t the real me, and I was tired of hiding her. I knew for the real me to be seen, really seen I needed to be honest with myself – and others.
So, I decided to bravely step up to the plate, let my guard down and allow my authentic-self shine through.
This hasn’t been particularly the easiest process. Actually, it’s been terrifying. But it’s also been SO rewarding and freeing.
In showing more vulnerability, I’ve also learned some important, life-changing lessons that have flipped my perspective of how I live every day, and how I’m able to be the most authentic version of myself.
MY LESSONS IN VULNERABILITY:
#1. There are going to be people who don't always like you, and that’s okay
Not everyone is going to like you, or what you have to offer. But there’s nothing wrong with that, them, or you. You can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t aim to. You attract the people who are supposed to be in your life, who are looking for exactly what YOU have to offer.
#2. The world wants YOU
The is no one in the world who is exactly like YOU. Embrace that notion, and all your unique characteristics and quirks. These belong to you, and you only. The world doesn’t need a replica of someone else.
#3. Never apologize for how you feel – or afraid to show it
I’ve spent a lot of my life being ashamed for feeling emotion. But what I’ve come to realize is that emotion is what makes us innately human. We’re meant to feel what we feel.
The unfortunate part is that as a society, we’ve been conditioned to keep our feelings and emotions bottled up. Sharing them outwardly has been pretty much taboo. The truth is, keeping your emotions bottled inside can be emotionally and physically damaging. So, let it all out. Don’t be afraid to be real with yourself. Plus, showing emotion feels damn good (reminder: you have tear ducts for a reason).
#4. Vulnerability can help you create more meaningful and honest connections
Being more honest and open has helped me create more meaningful connections in all my relationships, as well as more trust, honesty, and understanding.
#5. Vulnerability helps you live and learn from your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. That’s the fact of life. Being more open and honest about the mistakes I’ve made/make reminds me that I am not perfect – and I’m not supposed to be.