On Vulnerability (Part 2)

I think vulnerability can be a beautiful thing. It sparks a real and unadulterated connection between people. At best, it inspires a spiritual bond rooted in empathy and understanding. But maybe vulnerability is more than that. Some situations inevitably place us in this untimely circumstance of vulnerability. We’ve all been unexpectedly caught off-guard at some point at the hands of others. We react, often times, with an automatic response to our insecurities. We tirelessly try to hid what we (think we) lack, and then overcompensate to make up for it. Whatever it is. We overthink our words, and replay our interactions with others on repeat. It’s almost as though we are falling into a cycle of mourning. It feels as though we are losing parts of ourselves that we were never really ready to give up or reveal to the world just yet. In an age largely dominated by our online presence, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. Our social media brands entirely depend on our ability to present ourselves as these perfect, always put-together individuals. It’s unrealistic, unattainable, and simply unfair. We are inherently imperfect and flawed. Yet we are willing to do whatever it takes to mask our imperfections. We filter, edit, and caption ourselves in a maddening craze for perfection. We give off an illusion of a life filled with serenity, peace, and happiness. In reality, our online presence is miles away from who we are in real time. Many of us are empty and unfulfilled. We are victims of our own self-inflicted pity and loneliness. The new age demands that we filter our thoughts and opinions, suppress our emotions, watermark our self-image, and do away with mediocrity all together. We are, in essence, overextending ourselves. We desire perfection, and aspire to greatness all the time. We do this all in an attempt to appear smarter, healthier, kinder, more sophisticated, more generous, more beautiful, etc. than we really are. It’s exhausting.  

Perhaps vulnerability is more nuanced than we think. Maybe our understanding of vulnerability is really just an illusion, a hoax. Perhaps our past experiences with vulnerability are really just filtered versions of the truth. This is not to suggest that they are fake or untrue by any means. They are partial truths – limited and calculated by nature. They are pieces of ourselves that we’ve already accepted. We think them over before sharing, and if we’ve decided it okay to share with others, we let it go unabashedly. So maybe this suggests that when I do feel unsettled, it’s because I’m uncomfortable with the parts of myself that I’ve revealed to others – even my loved ones. I haven’t accepted those parts of myself. These moments reveal a lot more about ourselves than we think. At times, I find myself turning over every little thing in my head. Did I say too much? Did I say too little? Did I say the right thing? This very battle in our heads is a symptom of fear, fueled by insecurity. It’s a fear of vulnerability. Deep down, we resist being vulnerable for fear of having to face our deepest and darkest insecurities. It’s a vicious cycle. Personally, I struggle at times to accept that I might not be as smart or as thoughtful or as critical or as important or as kind as I actually think myself to be. I say something that makes me sound stupid, or ignorant, or I’m caught off-guard. Then I’m unprepared with a refined enough response or reaction, so I scramble to recovery – of which there is no avail. I panic, and all I can think of is what others are thinking about me. What are they thinking about me right now in this very moment? The reality is that there’s a really good chance they’re not. Most of the time, no one has the energy to do that. And our loved ones – those closest to us – most definitely are not. They love us unconditionally. Unconditional love is a love that embraces the good, bad, and ugly parts of ourselves. We are loved, yet this struggle is pulling us in all sorts of directions because we are partially wired to be self-centered. We think that the world revolves around us. We think that every word uttered, that every look made in our direction, and that every whisper muttered under someone else’s breath has something (or even everything) to do with us. In essence, we are our Egos. Luckily for us, we have the power to control it. In moments of acute vulnerability, remember to breathe. Breathe in – reassurance, comfort, and ease. Breathe out – your Ego and insecurities. Deflate, get rid of, and release. Your fears do not define you. Your insecurities do not have power over you. So, let it go. We all need to be reminded every once in a while that we are enough. You are enough as you are in the here and now. And you will always be enough. You deserve to focus your energy on more important things. You are worthy of love and non-judgement. Tell your story. Share your narratives and lived experiences by embracing vulnerability. The world wants to hear from you. After all, you are a product of that which you give to the world. So, give generously.  

On Vulnerability (Part 1)

She cried, and I saw it coming. Openly sharing painful lived experiences does that to a person. It breaks you. But it also connects you to others. It has a healing power. It allows you to create a space for yourself – for liberation. To let go of your demons. It’s probably the single most selfless act one could possibly engage in. Vulnerability is an act of courage. That is, to be vulnerable in the face of struggle and pain is to have the absolute conviction that what you choose to reveal about yourself to others is  real. It’s important, and worth sharing. In essence, this  realness  reflects your deepest, and most authentic self. You are living your Truth – boldly and unapologetically. It’s honest, it’s raw, it’s heart wrenching. It has the power to stir emotions. Tears are bound to flow. We grit our teeth. We curl our fists. Our voices rise with anger and quiver with agony. The tension in the room is palpable. And so are the energies we bring with it. Vulnerability does not come with a distinct taste or sound. But we can certainly name it when we see it. Vulnerability is human connection, and vice versa. You cannot have one without the other. To be vulnerable necessitates a bond or an exchange of sorts between two or more people. I believe that most of the time, vulnerability is a choice. It’s a brave choice we make when we feel comfortable enough (yet just barely) with who’s receiving us and our stories.  

I was recently reminded of the power that vulnerability truly has in our daily interactions with one another. In my capacity at work, I engage youth in conversations around issues of equity, and together we reflect on how diversity and inclusion are practiced (or not) in their community.  I notice the shift of energy in the room almost instantly. The air vibrates with excitement and anxiety all at once. Their faces become heavy with emotion. One look is all I need to know where these youth are at. The glisten in their eyes twinkle with a hopeful anticipation. Their accounts are both striking and honest. One 16-year-old recalls the several encounters she’s had with Islamophobia as a newcomer Muslim youth to Canada. She speaks of how she has to constantly negotiate her identity. She expresses feeling as though she has had to erase her culture, and relives what it felt like to have rocks thrown at her hijab-wearing mother. This very act of negotiation serves as an automatic response mechanism – for survival, a way to reassert one’s innate right to simply exist, to make sense of their place in the world. The tone of her voice intensified, her emotions heightened, and so began the unchoreographed flow of emotion dancing around the room. She expressed her shame for having to compromise parts of herself. Guilt filled her lungs. Her eyes filled with tears. And anger sharply pierced the air. The beauty of all this is that she gracefully reclaimed ownership of her own narrative. She did not once think, nor care for that matter, to recompose herself. This was her moment. It was real, and authentic. It was a moment of unadulterated truths inspiring a type of collective surrender.  

Her vulnerability in sharing her pain brought to light the darkened parts of ourselves we were so afraid to touch. In one winding breath, as we inhaled, guards were let down, followed by an exhaled relief soon permeating all around us. We were letting go. She reminded us all that we’re never really alone – even when we think we are. We share in struggle, pain, and sacrifice. We long for healing, love, and understanding. Masks of hiding reveal the bare face of vulnerability and connection, embraced all together by compassion and empathy. And yet we cry. It’s a release from our tormented selves. Eventually you reach your breaking point. Spaces like this offer an escape route. A door opens itself up to a venturing journey into the unknown. It’s exhilaratingly terrifying, but it’s necessary all the same. This time, there is no harrowing saviour coming to our rescue. Nothing to fight off but our own insecurities, fears, and lowly inhibitions. The fantastical tales of the glitz and glam in our minds no longer exist here. We are armed and ready to save ourselves.  

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