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November 18, 2015

Vulnerability: What’s Stopping Us.

The Mask Collaboration: Out-takes and BTS, Adam Purcell, Flickr

*Warning: curse words ahead!

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The truth is, I really want to be vulnerable, but I’m also terrified of it.

It’s my goal—what I’ve been working on for a really long time.

I’ve worked my ass off to rid myself of the shit that keeps the walls up, keeps me hiding in the dark.

The irony, the sting, the fucked up reality of it, is that the more I tear down my walls and walk in the sun, the more I get freaked out and desperately want to go back to the dark.

Vulnerability has become a buzzword lately.

Brené Brown, the guru of the subject, has created a social commentary around it—what it means, and why we should want it. In her book, Daring Greatly, she says that the crux of the struggle to be vulnerable is that “I want to experience your vulnerability but I don’t want to be vulnerable.”

Aint’ that the truth.

I want to take it, but I don’t want to give it.

We’ve all had shit happen in our lives. My shit was a perfect storm that created the message that I’m not worthy, not good enough, that my voice doesn’t matter. I won’t succeed, and there’s no point in trying. I became really good at hiding that message so no one could see it. I desperately needed to hide it.

Why?

Because of the S Word.

Yup. Shame.

Shame kept me hiding. Shame kept me busy building a scaffolding around my life that would hide my dirty little secret—that I’m not worthy. That scaffolding was big and magnificent. It was perfect hair and makeup, the right outfit, the right car, the happy marriage, the obedient children. It was pleasant and nice and always said the right things.

That scaffolding was a painstakingly detailed list of rules that kept my secret hidden, and kept me safe. At least that’s what I thought.

It turns out, the scaffolding wasn’t safe at all. It was dangerous. Because not only did it keep my shameful secrets hidden, it also kept my heart hidden—tucked away with the shame and the unworthiness, languishing in the dark.

Until eventually, one day, my heart said something to me,

“Enough!

Enough hiding. Enough pretending. What’s the fucking point? Who really gives a shit? All this energy you’re wasting, trying to look perfect—what has it given you? Depression, anxiety, fear, and a complete lack of passion. Really? Is that what you want for the rest of your life? Is that the legacy you want to leave to the Universe?”

Woah!

Okay. So I started dismantling the scaffolding. Piece by piece. Every fake thing I’d used to prop myself up had to go. The darkness began to dissipate. Sunlight creeped into those hidden places.

Well, that sucked.

The more light that got in, the more it hurt. The more I looked at the hidden shit, the more I felt the pain of it. I was poking around in areas that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades, and fuck—it hurt.

And then other people started seeing it. That sucked even worse. The people I loved, who loved me, were seeing my ugly shit. And I was supposed to stand there and be all naked and real, and let them see it?

Why would I subject myself to the pain, the discomfort of being seen? It’s so counter-intuitive. When I’m feeling my most weak, my most ugly, my most hide-under-the-covers, I’m supposed to let others see that? You must be kidding. That’s the last thing I want.

What I really want is to grab a bottle of cheap red wine and watch Netflix with the lights off. And I’ve done that. Oh, baby, have I done that!

Until I noticed something.

I was lonely.

Even in my closest relationships, I still felt lonely. I only showed the good stuff, the easy stuff, and it started to wear thin.

The people I needed the most couldn’t be there for me because I wouldn’t let them. And all the ugly, painful stuff was buried inside for only me to deal with. And while it certainly felt good in the moment to hide, it just wasn’t a great long-term plan. Because, like Brené Brown says, I wanted authenticity and realness from the people I loved without having to be it myself.

That right there. That’s the price of vulnerability. I have to stand there and let people see my shit.

My screw ups. My insecurities, my fear, my self doubt. All of it. Not an easy path. But you know what? I just started, little by little, to open the door a crack and show up real. And it felt…good. Scary, sure. But good.

The people I showed my shit to still loved me. In fact, they loved me even more. I felt their support, experienced a deeper connection. They, in turn, started showing me their shit. Standing in the sun felt good. The more I risked, and the more I let myself be seen in my worst moments, the more I knew that I was loved, and the more I loved myself.

A little revolution happened inside of me, and it’s still happening, every time I make the choice to be seen.

This vulnerability stuff isn’t for wimps. It takes courage, and lots of it, to live an open and real life. But that’s what I’ve signed up for. No more scaffolding.

Just me.

Real, honest, imperfect me. And yeah, sometimes it sucks. Because it’s hard, and scary, and painful. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Life is short and precious, and I’m determined to live the rest of my days in the sun.

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Relephant read:

My Superpower is Vulnerability. {Podcast}

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Author: Valerie Jones

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Adam Purcell/ Flickr

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Valerie Jones