Following on the heels of my previous post on authenticity, I’m now turning my attention to vulnerability. Vulnerability is scary. It’s similar to authenticity in that way. You have to be willing to be vulnerable in order to live an authentic life. I think vulnerability is scary for a lot of people and while it feels similar across the board (think sudden exposure of your most intimate aspects and the risk of rejection as a result of said exposure), different things trigger vulnerability for different people.
When I think of vulnerability, I’m reminded of a dream I had when I was maybe seven or eight years old. God knows why I still remember this dream out of all the hundreds and thousands of dreams I’ve probably had during my lifetime thus far (most likely some sort of mysterious and deeply rooted psychological thing), but here it is. Let me preface this by saying that the dream involves being naked in a public place. We’ve all had those, right? Again I think this stems from our unconscious (or maybe very conscious) fear of being vulnerable and exposed. Are there any psychologists out there who wanna back me up on this?
Anyways, let’s get back to what you really want to hear about. My embarrassing dream. It begins in medias res (in the middle of the action, in other words…yeah, sometimes I like to show off my lit knowledge from my college days). Little dream me “came to” in the middle of class, as I sat at a low table, criss cross applesauce, doing some kind of crafts with a few other classmates also seated at the table. I continued along happily for a few seconds when I suddenly and inexplicably realized I was naked.
Trying not to panic, I covertly glanced around at my classmates who were crafting at my table, and then around the room at large. Good, no one had noticed yet! I managed to slip out of the classroom and then out of the school without anyone realizing that I was completely nude. How lucky! As I was walking home, desperately trying to cover myself, I saw my mom running down the sidewalk towards me.
“Vanessa thank god! You forgot to get dressed this morning! I was bringing your clothes to school for you!” She sounded as panicked as I felt. But really Mom, why would you let me leave the house nekkid in the first place?! Weird dream logic aside, I was so relieved to have made it through this mortifying ordeal, totally exposed both emotionally and physically, and return to my classroom fully clothed with my entire class none the wiser.
Clearly this dream, as silly and strange and impossible as it was, stuck with me for a reason. That reason is probably tied to my innate hatred of being vulnerable. Something inside me absolutely shrivels at the thought of sharing my realest thoughts and emotions with someone else. My husband is my best friend and I still have problems being totally vulnerable with him. I hate it that much. Bless his heart for being so patient with me because I probably would have dumped my own ass long ago.
But I’m trying to change all that. Granted, I don’t expect myself to tell my entire life story in excruciating detail, but I do want to get more comfortable in my own skin and with who I am in general. I no longer want to live in fear that I’ll say or be something that someone else will see no value in and then reject. I hate the idea of being judged. I just want everyone to like me! I want to be friends! I want other people to see the stuff I’m doing and think it’s cool or inspiring! What’s so wrong with that? Well, nothing on the surface. But, it has put me in a very constricting place of feeling like I can’t be myself around almost anyone. I don’t want to open myself up to the possibility that someone may not like me or may not agree with what I’m doing. I mean, it has happened before, and it was a very icky feeling that I don’t want to revisit. And while I am trying to live more authentically by allowing myself to be a little bit vulnerable to the people in my life, I will have to accept the fact that I just won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay.
Maybe you’re in a similar position. Maybe you don’t want to feel vulnerable so you put a mask up and try to fit in even though you can feel the effort of living a half life draining your spirit from you. If this is you, I challenge you to leave a comment below sharing something that makes you feel vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be some huge deep dark secret or anything extremely personal. Look at this as a teeny tiny challenge to allow yourself to exhale your truth and show the world who you are! We would love to meet you. 🙂