Lately, I’ve been thinking about the practice of vulnerability. I feel like all of my posts come from some journaling and reflecting I’ve been doing and this is one of them. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be more open to those I want to know me more. I’ve found podcasts and books to help me dive in, I’ve asked the people around me, and honestly, vulnerability is hard.
It’s probably easier for some people rather than others, but it’s hard. Growing up, our parents and friends had a way of relating to us, of creating a connection with us, and often when things would go wrong, the way our parents and friends would react caused patterns of disconnection – if they would yell at us or lash out, we would learn to avoid saying things that made them angry or distance ourselves from them in their anger. This factors into vulnerability because we take these patterns into adulthood. In new relationships, when someone responds in anger, we keep quiet or distance ourselves in order to avoid conflict. When our default is to hide, it’s no wonder that doing the opposite is so hard.
Don’t teach an old dog new tricks. But what if those old tricks are unhealthy and problematic? What if those old tricks are keeping us from a life of true freedom?
The root of this difficulty with vulnerability is fear. I’m of the belief that truly all our actions stem from love or fear – and for me, this is rooted in fear. The trust exercise where you fall and someone is supposed to catch you is kind of concerning. Because it signifies that the default is we’re all meant to fall, and in avoiding conflict and hard conversations, I have been avoiding the fall. I have also come to the conclusion that if I miss the fall, I miss the trust. I miss the level of connection, of being seen and known, that cannot be found any other way.
I know this. I know that I’m missing out on something extraordinary. But the fear is stronger. At the very least, it’s had me longer. (Interesting rhyme.) I have been taught to feel fear and live in response to that fear, instead of responding to love will trust. I let people in the more that I learn to love them, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt in the first place.
Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.
The thing about vulnerability that terrifies me is the lack of control. In so many aspects of life, specifically, this college season, I can control my schedule, my classes, my clubs, what I say yes and what I say no to. But I can’t control how someone will react to the opening of my heart to theirs. And the reality is someone may not receive me the way I want to. What do I do if this all goes wrong? If I lose someone I love because I opened my mouth?
Deeply rooted in this – is that I fear how I am perceived – that what other people think of me is more important than the healing I will receive if I let go of control. Part of it has to do with upbringing, but this fear has kept me stuck in this pattern that I am so used to, it feels like there is no point of trying to get out.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.
The thing about life, though, is that if we are living in fear, if we are living in hiding, are we really living at all? The Maine, my 8123 fam, has these lyrics of my favorite song off their sixth album, “How do you feel? What’s your condition? Are you alive, are you living? Give me your voice and I’ll give it a listen. Are you complete or is something missing?” I don’t want to live a half-hearted life. I don’t want to spend years in the shadows, yearning for something more. I want to be fully here and now. Fully in this moment, present to the hurt and beauty that could come.
And it’s hard. Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard to not cut yourself off from the world and hide away. But I guess it all depends on what type of life you want to live.
Lean in with me. To where it all hurts. To where all the fears and wants lie. Share them with someone else. With a pounding heart. With stuttering words. With all the worry you carry. Be open to what love can do.
In what ways does vulnerability scare you? Who do you need to be vulnerable with and why?