Vulnerability is…

“ She threw away all of her masks and put on her soul” ~ anon

Being open and honest is something a lot of people struggle with. Vulnerability is not for the faint hearted. It’s scary AF but what I’ve realised is that without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in certain situations we are always going to be holding back. Not being who we really are.

The need to be seen is increasing all of the time. People want to be noticed, want their voices heard, their wins to be applauded, and their pain and suffering to at least be acknowledged if not understood. The whole world is screaming ‘but what about me?’. Has it always been like this or is it that we are all so busy in our own lives to even notice what’s going on around us?

Vulnerability probably means something different to everyone. For me it’s opening myself up to hurt and ridicule. Which sounds bloody ridiculous because on some level I consider myself an open book. But I also think that comes from years of therapy and my empathic need to help others. As a child I was very much the opposite, no one knew what was going on in my head. In fact, I was so shy I barely spoke. Go figure!

Now I share a lot. On my social media, through my blog and with friends. And yeah it’s personal stuff and some people don’t understand why I feel the need to do this. Am I over sharing? Is it attention seeking? Or am I just trying to be real? To be honest, I hadn’t thought that much about it until this week when I was listening to my new audio book, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (obsessed!). The whole book is about vulnerability; what it is to be vulnerable, the ways in which it shows up and it’s necessity.

Do we really need to bare all? Well of course we bloody don’t. Everyone has the right to be as private as they like and people don’t need (or want) to hear all about your dirty secrets. But if you want people to really know you, I’m afraid you’re going to have to open up a bit. But being vulnerable is more then just opening up. Being vulnerable is going for your dream job knowing that there’s a chance you might not get it. Telling your best friend that you want to be more then friends without knowing if they feel the same. It’s telling people you no longer drink alcohol because you mostly drank to drown out the demons screaming in your head and those demons were getting louder and required more drowning out as time went on. All of these things are you putting yourself out there, letting yourself be seen but knowing that the potential to get hurt, disappointment, judged or worse…dismissed is there.

So how do you know what to open up about and what not to? I think it comes down to knowing why. What’s the purpose behind you sharing? Is it to help others? To improve your life? Of course you can share what ever you like but that doesn’t mean you are being vulnerable. You need courage to be vulnerable so if you’re just sharing something and it’s not affecting you emotionally I’d say you’re probably just trying to seek attention. And I’m not saying that’s bad because there are times when we need to be grabbing peoples attention. But that’s not vulnerability.

I think vulnerability also comes from caring a lot about what it is you’re doing or how you are showing up. For me this blog is me being vulnerable. I love to write, I think my written word is more powerful than when I talk on video for example. I try to write about things I think people will relate to, things that make people feel less alone in the world. While at the same time just simply writing about my thoughts and experiences. The truth is I’d love to write professionally but the thought terrifies me and I’d have to step even further into the vulnerability arena to find out if I’m good enough…and I’m not ready to do that just yet!

Basically I think vulnerability is taking a leap into uncertainty. It’s baring your soul not knowing how it will be received. It can be the biggest and best game changer ever. Or could leave you so badly bruised you recoil once more. All I know is that despite me having spent so much of my life recoiling I know that I have to keep trying and putting myself back out there because if I don’t, well I may as well just stay in bed for the rest of my life. And I just don’t think there’s enough on Netflix for me to maintain that kind of lifestyle, you know?

Authenticity or attention seeking ?

If I’m honest, I don’t even know anymore. I guess it’s subjective? I could post a picture on here where I think I look nice and some would think I’m trying to grab attention. I suppose I am in a way, but not necessarily because I’m all ‘look at me, like my photo’ but mostly because I want people to read my captions. Again, not for popularity purposes but because I think at least some of the stuff I have to say might be helpful to someone out there. And I think if we’re all honest a slightly more aesthetic photo is more likely to get someone to stop scrolling then one where I look like shite.

They say social media, (Instagram in particular) is a highlight reel of people’s lives and people only post what they want you to see, which I agree with to some extent. But I think it totally depends on what you are using it for. My Instagram has gone through phases. It started out as an app where I posted the occasional photo before transforming into quite a health and fitness page. That phase of my life was inconsistent to say the least. I was either all in or on the couch. And if I was on the couch my mental health struggles were often on fire, fuelled of course by alcohol. Either way at the time I thought I was being authentic. But was I really? I know for a fact everything I posted was real, but it’s more what I ‘chose’ not to post that puts a question mark over my integrity. The bad workouts, the unflattering angles, the sweat patches. The stuff that basically didn’t look so pretty or impressive, that was kinda neglected so maybe I did only show the highlight reel.

These days those who’ve followed me through my trials and tribulations will see that my Instagram is focussed on my lifestyle blog, my mental health and soberiety, my health and wellness business AND me just sharing a bunch of life lessons and lightbulb moments because….well because I believe that I have some things of value to offer people. Whether that be nuggets of wisdom, solutions to problems or even just a friendly face and an ear to listen. And I think this is the first time I’ve really appreciated what it is to be authentic. I think I can safely say that prior to February 11th of this year I wasn’t authentic. I wasn’t going around trying to be fake but my mental health was so bad at times, even I didn’t know who I really was. And I’m pretty sure if you don’t know who you are, you can’t be authentic.

When I stopped drinking on February 11th 2020, I started a new journey. One of self discovery, personal growth and just learning to understand myself better. Only now do I think I’m seeing my true self, and that’s why I think it’s only now I can say I’m being authentic. And I think when you achieve that level of authenticity you start to notice those around you that aren’t quite there yet. I’m seeing it everyday in my business, all over social media and even in people close to me. It’s not their fault, they might not even realise. And being true to the core, voicing YOUR beliefs, following your own path even if it means upsetting those around you is not easy! In fact it can be really fucking scary.

I saw a post on LinkedIn a few weeks back. Someone asked a question and it turned into quite a…I want to say debate but it was actually more like an excuse to take the piss out of people who show emotion. So the question was something along the lines of ‘why do people feel the need to cry on their social media?’. Now, there wasn’t much more said in the initial post but the comments…wow! Some of the words I saw: Attention seeking, no-one needs to see or hear that, have some dignity, why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call someone? Ridiculous, cringey, how embarrassing. These comments went on into the 100s! I was stunned and to be honest extremely fucked off by these responses. Someone’s tears could literally be a cry for help because they have no one else to turn to.

I try not to get into these keyboard battles but I took this one personally. So I rolled up my sleeves and started typing.

My response

I did get a response from the author of the post about it being jest but in today’s current climate, when mental health struggles are rife I didn’t see the funny side of it. What it did get me thinking about was the actually meaning of the phrase ‘attention seeking’. Am I right in thinking we use this with a negative connotation attached? Because that’s the only time I’ve ever heard it used. And when you think about it, all it means is looking to gain somebody’s attention. So really, this could be for all manner of reasons. You could be seeking attention because you’re in danger, or trying to get yourself noticed for your talents, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because you’re desperate for validation or want to have all eyes on you. And personally, I think showing that kind of raw emotion on social media whether it’s intentional or not is closer to authenticity then it is to attention seeking. Maybe I’m wrong?!

I’m noticing that this post does not have a clear direction. I don’t feel like it’s heading towards any big finale. Which I find disappointing. I always like to end with something poignant or dramatic. But perhaps this post doesn’t have a clear ending because there’s no clear answer. Being authentic is more than just being yourself. You have to know what that self is. And what I’ve learned is that through no fault of our own too many of us don’t really know who we are. Society has moulded us without us noticing and sometimes it takes a big life event (one that perhaps say involves wearing masks and staying indoors a lot) to make us stop and ask ourselves the questions. Am I being my authentic, true self? Am I attention seeking or just trying to stand out? Whatever your thoughts and opinions I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves…and probably more than once!