Penny for your vulnerability?

Today, I want to talk a little bit about vulnerability. I feel like the universe has ordained it, as for the past couple of weeks vulnerability has been a recurring theme in my daily life.

It first presented itself while I deliberated on finally starting this blog. I thought, well, if I put my life out there on the big ol’ Internet, then that’s me placing everything – my deepest emotions, my flaws, my extremely personal struggles – in the public arena for any and all to view. Now I don’t know about you, but vulnerability is uncomfortable, scary even; and if you don’t think it is, well pardon me while I call you out on your bullshit.

I had cultured this fear about being judged for my posts and by extension my life until it became so real I developed anxiety. I was indescribably anxious to receive feedback as to what I had written; the last post in particular, for I felt like I had bared my soul for the world to see. (Yes. Allow me to be melodramatic.) I exposed a part of me no-one had ever seen before, a part of me I had always felt ashamed of and I, in that moment, became vulnerable.

The second time vulnerability reared its head was during an art exhibition that was a part of JFLAG’s inaugural #PRiDE2015 series of events. Simone presented an amazing array of visual pieces; in which she was mostly in the nude. They depicted the journey through a particular time in her life. A time in which she was relatively lost; adrift the ocean of life with seemingly no anchor. But that was not so. She found strength, support, courage and love in her “tribe”. They helped and continue to help her on her life’s journey; through the roughest and most pleasant of times. The level of exposure depicted in the photographs, not physically so much as emotionally and mentally, all but howled at me. While viewing the exhibition I imagined I felt similiar to how she must’ve felt during the event. Naked. Bare. Exposed.

Vulnerability dropped in for another visit during a conversation I was having with a fellow trans man who has grown to be a very dear friend of mine. Whilst he spoke I observed a man who embraces vulnerability like a long-time friend and dares to show persons his true character without guise; yet some persons don’t appreciate him for the man he is. As I reflected upon this I thought, “See, these are the things that make me disappointed in humans.”

It’s something we do all the time. People take a step (or many steps for that matter) outside of their comfort zones to share their emotions, their experiences, their true selves with us and considering them irrelevant, we brush their sacred thoughts and feelings aside; we view them as weak and unworthy of our time. We might as well have cast their concept of self-esteem on the ground and stomped all over it.

Why is it that we always associate vulnerability with weakness? Why, when it takes so much more strength and courage to speak and live your truth than hide behind multi-faceted facades which suffocate your soul; ultimately sentencing you to a prolonged and excruciating death of the worst kind?

Speaking of breaching one’s comfort zone and expressing one’s feelings, that is something I still struggle with. I suppose I am becoming more adept at it; which is, in large part, due to my mentor. He gave me some brilliant advice a few weeks ago (as usual). He said to “Divorce yourself from the outcome”. Meaning, that whatever it is you are thinking of doing, don’t let the potential outcome of your actions drive fear into you and cripple you from doing it. Whether you want to switch careers, start your own business or ask that pretty girl (or cute boy) out – do it. Never let fear of rejection or failure prevent you from obtaining your heart’s desire.

But I digress….

In the absence of vulnerability there cannot exist deep and fulfilling human relationships. These things – deep human connection, vulnerability, trust, respect and strength – are all interrelated. The bonds we form with fellow human beings are arguably the most important elements of our existence. We all (well most of us anyway) in one form or another yearn for the companionship, support, love and care of another (even if the other is a pet?). Point being, we’re all just trying to make that connection with someone else. So if someone thinks that you’re that person for them, even if you disagree, be civil. You may never know how much courage it took for that person to approach you and share how they felt and they’re just striving to make that connection which you may or may not already have established with someone else. If you have, consider yourself fortunate; if you haven’t, our time will come.

Whilst vulnerability can enable you to experience some wonderful interpersonal relationships, it can also bitch slap you across the face. Multiple times. Like WWE SmackDown bitch. For you see, in opening up to others about your insecurities, your zones of discomfort, your flaws or traits/attitudes you wish you didn’t have, it forces you to deal with all those not-so-awesome aspects of yourself. But that isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s quite the mature thing to do. It’s one of those ways in which you can begin to successfully “adult” lol. Okay, fine. Grow into being a more mature adult.

And something special happens when we do that. When we become more tolerant and accepting of ourselves and acknowledge that we’re works in progress, we also become more tolerant and accepting of others. We begin to notice wonderful little (or big?) things about persons to which we were previously blinded. We begin to accept each other for the persons we are, instead of what we wish others (and ourselves) were; and also to acknowledge that people are just doing the best they can today and that’s just where they are.

There’s something I resolved to do some months ago; I decided that I was going to look for something I liked or could appreciate in everyone I met, regardless of who they were. And as I did that continuously, it revealed to me a level of beauty and depth to persons that I was previously incognizant of. I became a lot more appreciative of human diversity. I confirmed that it is in fact, the “weird”-est persons who are the most interesting and that it is the differences between us which render humanity such an amazing species. As someone so aptly said “Variety is the spice of life”. Everyone has something amiable about them; it’s up to you to find it.

The bottom line is, vulnerability is one of those “inevitables” of life we need to accept if we hope to lead fulfilling lives. Sure, getting hurt, rejected or having close relationships end sucks, but the positives of doing so significantly outweigh the negatives. When we challenge ourselves to be vulnerable with others it facilitates the formation of deeper, more meaningful connections and empowers us to acknowledge and deal with aspects of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable and perhaps would not have dealt with otherwise. It enables us to blossom into the amazing human beings we can all be and take one step further towards self-actualization.

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