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?

Brené Brown said…

God love this woman! She’s so freaking incredible. Like I would legit use her words in an argument. “You don’t know what you’re talking about bitch. Brené Brown said…so don’t you come over here, getting all up in my grill”.

I’ve just watched her Netflix show ‘Call to Courage’ for the 3rd time. Today I’m vision boarding so inspirational background noise is very much needed for this kind of activity. And yes before you read that again, I have a vision board. I stick cheesy motivational and uplifting quotes, along with pictures of goals and dreams on a board. And when I look at said board it brings me tremendous joy.

So back to Dr Brown and her wicked words of wisdom. Listening to her got me thinking. Why do we seek validation? Why do the opinions of others matter? And before you say you don’t care what other people think, you’re talking out of your ass. Because everyone does to some extent. And there are some opinions we should consider. What we need to not care about are the opinions and thoughts of people that don’t matter to us or as Brené says, are not in our ‘arena’.

I grew up in a Asian-British household. Both parents born and brought up in India before arriving in the UK in the 60s. We are not a religious family but I consider myself a Hindu and there are things about my culture I love. There are however, things I cannot stand. And that is the small minded, busy bodied nature of so many people in our community. And when I say community I don’t mean just people locally, I’m talking curtain twitchers all the way over in India!

Growing up me and my sisters were far from rebellious kids in compared to others our age. We worked hard at school, didn’t go out drinking in the park (mainly because we weren’t allowed out 😂) and were polite and (mostly) well behaved. But in our Asian community had we have been born into a more conservative family I’m pretty sure I’d have been banished in my late teens. Coming home with a white boyfriend at 17…outrageous! Once my parents recovered from their heart attacks my mum said she was more concerned with people talking about me. And so for me that’s when it started, that’s when the ‘what will people think’ seed was planted.

Over the next 20+ years it continued but like I said, we didn’t do things by the (Asian) book. We all went away to university, we all went backpacking, my sister married a white Australian dude after living with him for several years before getting wed. We all moved down under at one point and both me and my younger sister were unmarried at the time (still are) so that would have been a talking point I’m sure. And then of course there was my struggle with mental health and drinking. Basically, I’ve always been aware of judgment and negative opinions. I dont think I’ve let it impact my life that much but maybe on a subconscious level I have.

The need to fit in and belong is human nature. We are hardwired for connection. So when you’re highly sensitive in nature like me, that need to belong is heightened even more. So what do we do? We conform, hide parts of ourselves that people might judge, try and be like the others…just to fit in. Nobody wants to be different because from a young age we are conditioned to believe different is wrong.

It’s so incredibly sad that we are told to be brave and courageous through life. But then in the next breath it’s ‘don’t do anything too wild though, because what will people think?!’ It happens all of the time. ‘Follow your dreams…really, is that gonna work though?’ ‘Just be yourself…you might want to tone down the enthusiasm.’ ‘The world is your oyster…oh, are you sure you want to go there, I’ve heard things!’

Here’s the thing, courage and bravery is badass. Because it means putting yourself out there, showing up, taking a risk when the outcome is uncertain. It’s getting uncomfortable and opening yourself up to criticism and judgment. Letting yourself be seen for who you really are is vulnerability at its finest. And all of this goes against the majority. Because the majority won’t take the risk, they won’t choose passion over practicality, they would rather adapt to fit in than be the one who goes it alone.

There will always be opinions. There’ll always be judgment. And there’ll always be a majority. But what we should never do is listen to those who criticise but would never dream of doing anything risky.

So be courageous in your life. Go follow your dreams and find your passion. Because that kind of bravery will always be a better option then having to wonder ‘what if?’