I typically think of myself as an open book. I don’t mind sharing my struggles, challenges and shortcomings. I’m not worried about appearing perfect or like I have it all together and I’m not all that concerned with how I’m perceived by society.
What I’ve realized though, is that my willingness to share is dependent on my ability to feel in control. I won’t tell the story of how I almost drowned until I’m safely on the shore.
The drawback of this very rigid belief system is that, in an attempt to create safety for myself, I’ve inadvertently created isolation. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to feel emotionally secure before sharing, but at some point, emotional safety will be created by opening up, not ahead of it.
I love the safety I create for myself. I have learned, through many years of practice, to recognize myself as a human, doing her best in the world. I am kind, compassionate and gentle with myself. I know I always have good intentions, even when it doesn’t appear that way. But I don’t usually trust that the people close to me will offer that same compassion. The fear voice says “They’ll think you’re too much. They won’t understand. I won’t get what I need.”
What’s funny here, is that what I’m wanting, and arguably needing, is connection. Humans are wired for connection. We’re a social species (yes, even us introverts.) And by refusing to share the parts of me that are messy but very real, I cut myself off from that connection I so deeply crave.
If I’m really honest, the most acute fear isn’t that I’ll be rejected by others, it’s that I’ll reject myself. If they think something’s wrong with me, I might believe them. Then I’m right back in the self defeating hell-hole I worked so hard to get out of. That’s the story my brain offers me anyway.
Vulnerability feels like diving off a dock in the middle of a murky lake. I know I can swim, but I don’t know what’s waiting for me under the surface of that water. I could slam into a rock that renders me unconscious, and then my swimming skills are irrelevant.
The water could also be freeing and wonderfully refreshing. And the people I love are in there. It’s probably way better than sitting alone on the dock.
Vulnerability itself doesn't feel good, it's the connection it facilitates that feels amazing.
This has been, and continues to be my work this year. Inviting, allowing and sometimes forcing vulnerability. I’m in the middle of it. It’s messy and so hard and it kind of feels like I’m drowning.
See what I did there?