~ Audre Lorde
Growing up, vulnerability was not a good thing. I never heard, “I am lonely,” or, “I ache,” or, “I am confused.” …though I’m pretty sure they were all felt along the way through the years at some point. Mine was that image family from American Beauty – the one that looked great on the outside. We had it all – good house, my dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse and dietician, three beautiful (ok I was pretty awkward until 30 or so) girls who were all smart and athletic, two small, white, fluffy dogs. We went to church every week, …the all-American image. We weren’t even that messed up on the inside, but then again, how would we know because we never talked about anything other than schedules, vacations, funny stories of the day – anything that didn’t have to do with matters of the heart. In fact, if someone got mad when I was young, there wasn’t even ever any yelling. The mad person would just walk away. Confrontation was completely foreign to me. I’m pretty sure this upbringing was not intentional – it was simply the pattern of my parents’ generation, and they were doing the best they could with the arsenal of emotional tools they had. No blame, seriously no blame.
But what resulted was a stunted ability – even a disability on my part – to let my soft underbelly show to anyone…ever. The answer to any question to my well-being was, “I’m fine.” …and then quickly change the subject. I learned quickly how to put the attention back onto the other person in order to keep them engrossed in conversation and forget to ask questions about me. Have I mentioned I’m a great conversationalist? You’ll walk away from a conversation with me feeling great and liking me more. Why? Because we talked all about you.
So what exactly does wearing full armor all the time get you? You get to know a heck of a lot about other people, and very little about yourself. You forget to ask yourself how you’re doing, what you’re feeling, and even what you want and don’t want. Because you don’t know where you are or what you want, you don’t establish boundaries for yourself – boundaries that are so very important to have. In essence, you forget to be vulnerable with yourself, and stop knowing who you are…you are not even comfortable in your own skin.
Vulnerability is opening up, being exposed, and letting in. It’s counter-intuitive to people like me where being closed feels safer. But look at what being closed prevents. It prevents connectedness with those around you and with the bigger world at large. You can’t participate fully in life if you’ve turned inward. You may see beauty, but you’re not letting it in. You may have friendships, but you’re always keeping them at an arm’s distance on the polite and small-talk level. You’re not letting yourself be known to the greatest person in your life – YOU.
Vulnerability is risky. Opening up means risking heartbreak, deceit, betrayal, and pain. I’m pretty sure that risk is the reason people who have been hurt in the past can make themselves go callous and put themselves on ice. But in this case, the case of life, even the people who get hurt time and again will say the benefits of vulnerability far outweigh the risks. You can meet new and wonderful people, deepen rich friendships, be open to new opportunities and experiences, and live more fully in a world of interconnectivity. But most importantly, you can love and be loved.
I found a list of things we can do to start on the path of vulnerability:
A study was conducted and found that most people fall into two categories – those who have a sense of worthiness, and those who struggle for it. The people who had self-worth had one thing in common:
I found my quotes in this good blog about vulnerability.