Some equate vulnerability with weakness...with tears or fragility or brokenness. I see it as authenticity. In an age of social media fakeness where everyone presents only their best selves to create an illusion of success or joy, a person being vulnerable and exposing their truth is a sign that they are in touch with their own power.
It's hard at first to peel back the layers of social brainwashing that tells us to be perfect or to be positive all of the time; but once you begin to strip away that mask, you will discover an intoxicating level of freedom.
When my husband died, I was struck by how many people averted their eyes if I showed my sorrow...if my voice trembled or a tear escaped my eye. I instinctively recoiled at their discomfort. Fuck them, I'd think to myself, I'm entitled to be sad at my husband's death! Why did I need to even state that to myself? It's okay to be sad...it's okay not to be perfect...it's okay to be angry.
Being afraid of bullies or judgment or rejection are human fears that cross age groups, genders, and races.
This week a client of mine said she's afraid of being too vulnerable as she writes her memoir because she's worried what her family may think of her--but it's her truth that she's scared of revealing. I understand her fear, more that that, I understand the culture that has caused all of us to be afraid of being real.
Our nation is experiencing a tremendous increase in suicide rates amongst teenagers. I'm sure there are many theories as to why and I'm not intending to solve the issue here on my blog today. I do want to tie the theory of societal pressure to be perfect, the acceptance of bullying in our culture, and the fear of being real into it, however.
Our youth are being bombarded with images of perfect people leading perfect lives. They compare, even if they are told not to do it. Bullies believe it's okay to mock those who don't fit into a mold because our culture rewards them for bad behavior. We may speak out about bullying---and honestly believe it is wrong--but do we speak out when we see it or do we say it's not our business and go on with our lives (usually because we're afraid of retaliation from other bullies)?
Mothers are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with the other moms instead of admitting that they may be tired or longing for a quiet night with their families. Why? Because that would mean being vulnerable, or maybe they fear being mocked, or perhaps they fear not being good enough because they are comparing themselves to an illusion?
Being afraid of bullies or judgment or rejection are human fears that cross age groups, genders, and races. To protect ourselves, we learned to put on a "brave face" or to "suck it up" or "to be positive"--even if we were dying inside or our world was falling apart. In the process of all this positivity and sucking it up, we started chasing perfect and lost ourselves.
...once you begin to strip away that mask, you will discover an intoxicating level of freedom.
It's easy to blame social media, but I remember this culture when I grew up, too. Social media simply amplified it. Perhaps we lost our humanity while trying to be perfect...chasing trends and comparing ourselves to celebrities and models.
The point is: we can all reclaim our authenticity by allowing ourselves to show our flaws. More than that, we can embrace our flaws for making us the unique humans we are! Practicing being vulnerable is empowering because you are conquering a fear of social rejection. With each baby step toward your inner truth, you learn to trust yourself to handle whatever comes your way. Truth becomes your armor.
I no longer apologize for being sad or weird or awkward or happy. Isn't it crazy how we have been trained to apologize for being ourselves?
I told my client to ignore that inner censor and to write her truth with as much passion as she can.
I reject anyone's judgment of my life because they aren't walking in my shoes or enduring my struggles.
I encourage my children--who are now in their early 20s--to do what is best for their lives rather than listen to the drum of others' expectations.
Vulnerability is powerful...so expect some people to be afraid of your new found confidence. Be okay with that. You only have one life to live, why not live it your way and be your best and most fabulous and somewhat flawed self?
Peace to you.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also works as a professional editor and creativity coach, takes road trips with her dogs whenever the mood strikes, and advocates for suicide awareness. Her life motto is: Imagine, Create, Become. No matter what challenges life tosses her way, she gathers the pieces to create something weird and wonderful. Find out more about her books by visiting her website at amberleaeaston.com.