Vulnerability is the act of being emotionally exposed. It can leave you open to the possibility of being attacked. Does this sound like fun to you yet? Yeah, me either. I prefer being stoic and showing as little emotion as possible. No matter what happens in my life I take it as a, “It is what it is” moment, find the humor and move on. Being vulnerable, for me, is one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’m learning to do in my adult life. According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to a connection in our relationships.
Vulnerability meant the possibility of emotional pain so I basically turned my feelings off for a long time. I believed that if I had no feelings, they could not get hurt. This worked to a certain extent. I was numb to the pain others might cause, but I was hurting myself emotionally and physically. When I wasn’t allowing myself any feelings towards the outside world, I compensated by overfeeling and I stayed “in my own head” a lot. My mood swings were off the charts. I went from crying hysterically to extreme agitation. I became an overeating hermit who hated life and blamed the outside world for my unhappiness. I lived in an unfeeling bubble of numbness for many years. I was lonely and the few remaining people around me were miserable.
I just woke up one day and decide I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that.
One day, after not leaving the house for seven days (I probably didn’t shower for three if I’m truly vulnerable here), I saw this quote on Pinterest. Something clicked. I didn’t have to be this miserable. I didn’t have to continue hurting the few remaining people around me. I didn’t have to continue living this way. This is my life, and I had a choice. I could take my power back and live my life in a way that made me happy…but it would require vulnerability. I would have to start showing some real emotion again and admitting my weaknesses. It was time to take responsibility for where I was in my life and the role that I had played to get myself there. I was so tired of feeling numb. I was ready to succumb to the possibility of a better life, of happiness.
I slowly started to do little things. I joined a gym and began a fitness journey. Going to the gym meant outside contact with the real world. I had to make myself vulnerable to criticism of my extremely out of shape physique. The most surprising part about joining the gym was how little criticism I received. When I reached out and asked for help, I received the help I asked for. I also communicated with the people around me exactly what I was feeling in my body. I spoke more openly about the struggles I went through on a daily basis. I stopped viewing my vulnerabilities as a weakness but as a means of honest and open communication. I live with pain daily, and I felt that it was only fair that the people around me were aware of what was happening. It not only made life easier for me but it made life easier for them as well.
Vulnerability has been a long process for me, and I am still not completely comfortable with it. When I started to become more vulnerable, it left me feeling very exposed and raw in the beginning. What if I didn’t receive the response I needed from others? For most of my life, my mood was dictated by someone else’s response. When I finally realized that the only validation I needed was from myself is when I felt true happiness. I currently live my life by my rules, and I am an open book. But, I still tend to keep people at arm’s length. Being vulnerable is hard, but I am making progress. How do you decide what to share and with whom? Is being vulnerable easy for you?