Vulnerability has never been my strong suit. It’s no wonder. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be okay with all of you. That’s the thing about vulnerability that no one tells you about.
Being vulnerable is not just about showing the parts of you that are shiny and pretty and fun. It’s about revealing what you deny or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent. I bet you’ve never said to a friend, “Oh my god, I just love that I’m insecure.”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? You’ve got to love everything, if you want to be vulnerable by choice.
Most of us have probably experienced vulnerability through default. More often than not, we are either forced into that state through conflict, or we are surprised by it after our circumstances feel more comfortable.
Few of us consciously choose vulnerability. Why? The stakes are too high. It is way too risky.
If we reveal our authentic selves, there is the great possibility that we will be misunderstood, labeled, or worst of all, rejected. The fear of rejection can be so powerful that some wear it like armor.
My first real experience with vulnerability came when I turned 22. I had just received an official diagnosis that I undoubtedly have lupus. This was quite possibly the most intimidating situation I had ever experienced. I have the ‘disease of 100 faces’… the disease with no cure.. the most extraterrestrial of all autoimmune diseases – REALLY?!
To make matters worse, I asked my husband for advice… Being a logical, black and white thinker, Monkey conceptualized my ‘news’, looked at me and said – “It’s ok Ursie your a tough cookie. Its not thaaaat bad.” I didn’t want to be a quitter, so I listened well when he told me that I needed to be strong from the get-go, that I needed to show lupus who was boss.
I took my husbands’ advice to heart. In the first week, I demanded to see specialists. I yelled a lot and behaved like a real wench. I went to all of my appointments alone and spent a good chunk of time crying in my jeep again alone.
When I read those words now, I can’t help but cringe.
But at the time, I believed vulnerability was a liability. I was okay with being the dragon lady. It was safe.
And under that façade, no one knew how terrified I actually was. So I wore that armor as if my life depended on it. If I had my way, I would have kept my guard up for the rest of my life. But my husband was much smarter than me. He must have known on some level that, in the presence of true vulnerability, no one could remain closed off.
Perhaps no event demonstrated this better than when I recently found out I had inflammation in my brain causing numerous dysfunctions in my body.
At this time I was convinced I was going to die. I felt severe pain in my joints, constant migraines, numbness in my extremities, blurred vision, cardiac palpitations and extreme fatigue. I was a walking zombie simply going through the motions of life with no passion unless in front of an audience. I was very close to throwing in the towel. I was sick of watching my diet and trying to manage my stress. Most of all I was sick of being in pain. I was done with fighting all the time.
Being married to a zombie was stressful to say the least. When Monkey expressed his feelings honestly and openly, I could not turn away. Now, I wanted to fight not only for my life but for the man I love.
When I thought I would have no choice but to allow lupus to win, I remember telling Monkey that I wanted to quit. For the first time, I was very honest with him about how I was feeling.
I was, perhaps, the most vulnerable I had been since we first met. And that moment of vulnerability paid off big time. Now I am fighting and I wont ever stop.
Over the past few weeks, I have continued to experience that place of vulnerability. I cannot say that all my experiences have come through choice, but I do try to enter that state as much as I can.
While I am far from being an expert on this subject, I have come to some conclusions that I hope will be meaningful to those who want to choose vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability is so much easier when you love yourself.
Think about it. When you don’t love all of you and are afraid to show people the less than stellar parts, the space between you and vulnerability is like the Grand Canyon. You will need all the courage you can get to make the leap across. But when you love yourself, and I mean all of you, you don’t worry so much if someone else doesn’t. And when you’re less afraid of rejection, you step right into that place of openness.
2. Vulnerability takes practice.
You don’t just learn it once and then—ta-dah!—you’re easily open to everything and everyone. My experience with my lupus diagnosis was very profound, but even now, many years later, I still have moments where I’m more guarded and less willing to share the scared shitless side of me. Thank goodness life continues to give me opportunities to consciously choose openness. And most times, I do.
3. The rewards of vulnerability are immeasurable.
When I have chosen to be open, to show my authentic self, my husband, our clients and family / friends have always met me there. And when they’ve met me there and formed that connection, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish.
With vulnerability, you experience true connection—true love for yourself—and you begin to attract people to you who are inspired by your openness. While it’s not easy to be vulnerable, you’d be surprised how loving all of you and then sharing it with another can help you to connect with anyone. In my own life, I’m continuing to open up to others.
I’ve been showing others a little more of the complexity that is me. For example, I have lupus and health scares almost daily that scare me to death. I suck at anything agility related. I love science, baking, bunnies and all things purple. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with others. The inability to show your true self limits your ability to develop healthy nurturing relationships with others.
Being vulnerable does not mean you are weak… Being vulnerable means you are human – it means that you are alive.
With love from the Trench Kitchen,