As a millennial, my teens were spent on the likes of MySpace and MSN, followed by Facebook and Snapchat throughout high school and university. Now, in my late 20s, Instagram rules a large portion of my world and what influences it. Like everyone, I am bombarded with highlight reels on a daily (hourly…) basis — from family, friends and strangers. Growing up, it felt only natural to put my best foot forward to the rest of the world, because that’s what everyone else was doing. Sad feelings, hard times and confusing thoughts were to be suppressed, and private. Instead, we were made to believe it was only normal to project a sense that we have our shit together.
I never wanted anyone to know when something was wrong in my life. It wasn’t cool. It didn’t suit the narrative of the story I wanted to project to people about who I was, my closest friends included. I wanted everybody to see me as strong and independent. Stoic, laidback, easygoing. I didn’t want to be emotional, girly, weak. I wanted to be the funny one, the chill one, the unfazed one.
So much so, that for the first 15 years of our friendship, my best friend never saw me cry. It took until the age of 25, and losing my dad, for the tears to finally come. I’d cried a million times before, but I’d only ever done so in private. I have always been an incredibly sensitive and emotional person, but I never showed those traits in a public forum. It took my world being completely shattered to finally have my walls break down and my vulnerability come through, and at 27-years-old, I’ve finally learnt the peacefulness and power that comes with it.
Vulnerability Isn’t Weakness
Being vulnerable is the art of being open, both at the risk of pain but with the potential for joy and pleasure. Being vulnerable isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being brave. If you don’t take risks and keep yourself closed off, you run the risk of living your life full of boredom and unfulfillment, living your life in a midst of ‘what ifs’ and ‘could haves’.
You Will Always Need People
People need other people. Everyone. Always. Even the most introverted amongst us need human connection. Humans are born to be social creatures, and being vulnerable allows your bonds with one another to be solid.
Our need to connect with other people should never be hindered by the fear of being hurt, because that would mean we are depriving ourselves from something we really need as human beings. Keeping yourself closed-off to relationships will hinder the potential for romance and true, genuine friendships. Letting your walls down may mean you get hurt, sure. But you stand to gain much, much more.
Help Others Be More Vulnerable
I was always the person that friends and family members would come to if they needed honest opinions or practical advice. But I was never the person someone would come to simply to cry to, or express joy to. I was the one who could offer sound advice for job interviews, but I wasn’t the one who they’d call on, in tears, after being rejected… or the person they would call in a moment of happiness because they got the job. I was practical (stoic, laidback, easygoing…) but not emotional. After all, I wasn’t open with then, so why should they be open with me?
Now, I am that person. After becoming vulnerable, sharing my highs and lows and just showing people that I am, in fact, human, my relationships have changed. People know that they can trust me with their darkest days because they know I’ve been there.
What we often feel are weaknesses within ourselves, are actually what others perceive as strength. Being vulnerable with another person encourages them to be vulnerable back. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Everyone loves finding someone they can relate to, especially through times of pain and hardships — I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”― Shannon L. Alder
It’s one thing to cry, but it’s another to cry to someone else — a loved one, a friend, your partner, a family member or even a trusted colleague. When you are being vulnerable, you’re also acknowledging your feelings, rather than suppressing them (which will force them to come out in other ways, I promise you). No matter how you choose to express yourself, being open about your experiences, emotions, aspirations, dreams and fears will fill you with a sense of peace, a weight unburdened.
“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami
Hey, You’re Still Cool
Unless you cry at the drop of a hat over petty issues, crying doesn’t ruin your street cred. I know that I can still make people laugh. People still like hanging out with me. I’m still perceived as easygoing, but probably less of a sociopath... Now, my friendships are now pure and genuine. My relationship is real and close. I feel closer to everyone I love and value.
If you are willing to be vulnerable, people are more likely to trust you and flock to you as a trusted confidant. These days, people are far more receptive and appreciative of those who ask for help, who admit their wrongs and express their true feelings. Being vulnerable helps you connect with people, and that is one of the best parts of being human.
You Can Handle Whatever Comes Your Way
Even if you take a huge risk and it fails miserably, so what? You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do, than the things you went for and failed. The feelings of regret that come from not seizing the day, from not going for what you truly want, are far more painful to deal with than a failed attempt. A failed attempts means you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and aim for the next. Don’t spend your life wondering about what could be or what should have been, just because you were too scared of getting hurt.
“I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” — Brené Brown
Becoming more vulnerable has made me a better person. I’m open and honest, and my friendships are the best I’ve ever had, because they’re based on realness. If I’m ever going through a tough time, or simply feeling down in the dumps, I’ll always confide in another. I’ll cry if I feel the need, I see no shame in it. Share your sadness, your love, your joys and your fears. Being vulnerable means being open, and when you’re open, good things can enter in.