I've been told many times, in both my childhood and as an adult, that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. That by portraying myself as vulnerable to emotions, to sadness, to fear, to disappointment, to hurtful things that other people say or do, to anything that makes me anything less than happy...is a sign of weakness, and therefore must be quashed. Immediately.
Well, today I call B.S.
Actually, I've been calling B.S. for a while, but today I'm going to blog about it. Because that's what I do. Instead of a journal, I blog...and send my words out into the universe like astronaut pee.
Unsure why I said that? Google it. That's what I do with my words. Type them out and then WHOOSH. They're out there floating around forever. It's what I do.
I would like to refute the notion that being vulnerable is a bad thing. That by being open and susceptible to unpleasant emotions means that you are broken and need to be fixed. That being willing to admit I'm not good today means you need an intervention...or better yet, need to be promptly shut up. Why? Why?
Why are we, as humans, to turned off by vulnerability? Frankly, some of the most poignant moments of my 41 years have come at the heels of being extremely, painfully, embarrassingly vulnerable in a situation that God placed in front of me to bend me, push me, change me, and force me to grow. Sure, when I'm in the middle of that dreaded vulnerability, I hate it. I hate that people can see beneath my hard candy shell, to the squishy, overly-sensitive mess that I am. I hate that I am being pushed to grow. Growing sucks. At least it does when it's happening. I hate that I sometimes have to open all of my most private moments and secrets and fears and sadnesses to the world, in order to achieve that d*mned growth.
I don't like people seeing me in a vulnerable state. I detest people seeing me at my worst. It makes me feel like that helpless, gross, messy Voldamort horcrux that Harry Potter sees when he "dies" and meets Dumbledore in the heaven/Kings Cross station place. Remember that?
But it isn't all bad...
In my life experiences, I have found myself coming out of the other side of a vulnerability moment infinitely grateful I went through it in the first place. It has been in my moments of greatest sadness, weakness, anger, fear, and uncertainty that I've found friends. True, strong, loyal friends that become like family, and stick with you until your dying day. It's all because I've held them up when they were weak, and I've allowed them to hold me up when I was weak. Friendship blossoms not just when you're strong for someone, but when you allow them to be strong for you, too. It is as good to give your friends opportunities to serve, as it is for you to serve.
I've found love in vulnerability. When my husband proposed to me, he said "I want to take care of you" (among a dozen other romantic things--le sigh!) and he'd done that because I'd exposed every single fear and worry I had to him. I'd opened myself up and let him see all of me--the good, the bad, the ugly....all of it. And he fell in love with it. With that vulnerability. He appreciated that I didn't gloss everything over. I didn't pretend to be okay when I wasn't. He knew what I was feeling when I felt it. No guessing games. He loved me for my terminal vulnerability, and somehow, by the grace of God, found it to be a positive attribute.
I've touched my children with my vulnerability. Since my son left for his mission, I've written letters explaining things about my fragile family relationships that I've always sheltered him from. I've exposed my flaws and my fears, my shortcomings and my mistakes to him, and stopped glossing over my life disappointments. I've admitted defeats. I've asked for forgiveness. And in return, I've been given more respect and consideration from my adult child than I ever expected. He has forgiven my flaws, and complimented my attributes--adult to adult--and it has been more life affirming than anything else I've experienced as a mother. It is in those (rare) moments when I've allowed myself to break down, to show the raw-ness of being just another flawed human being that has allowed my children to see me as a fellow human being. I'll always be mom. But I'll also be human.
There have been times in my life when my family has been in the thick of grief and sadness so deeply, it felt like we were positively choking on it. It was during those times when I've reached out and told my fellow humans: we're not okay...please help us...please show us compassion. And it's because of that willingness to expose our inner gross, weak, vulnerable Voldamort, that we've found ourselves buoyed through the roughest waters we've seen as a family. Those times are irrefutably the most pivotal moments on our life journey, hands down.
Without vulnerability, I wouldn't have some of the most significant relationships I have. Without being vulnerable, I wouldn't have come through experiences that would've broken a lesser woman. Personally, I consider vulnerability an asset. I wish I'd figured that out years ago. I wish I'd accepted my whole flawed, vulnerable self at 20, rather than 41. I hope I'm able to teach my kids this lesson so that they don't spent 20+ years resenting themselves for being "weak" from time to time.
Vulnerability is not weakness. It is strength personified.