Brene Brown is a brilliant storyteller. I encourage you to escape the noise of your life for twenty minutes to sit and be and experience this TED talk.
Vulnerability. I hadn’t paid attention to or used this word much until recently. I love this word. It has such depth and power and freedom. It’s a beautiful description of how I want to live my life. It’s about being open. It’s about being real. It’s about allowing my authentic self to be seen, with no guarantees. It’s taking a leap bound by faith and trust. It’s me being 100% me. Being vulnerable means allowing myself to feel all of my emotions. Fear, sadness, joy, anxiety, contentment, want. The more I share who I am with people who are close to me, the more I want to share. I seek out others who want the same.
But, being vulnerable is scary. It leaves me exposed. Rejection, failure, regrets. Opening myself up to others can lead to negative consequences just as much as it can bring me clarity and joy. No matter how much I open up to another person, I can’t make someone else be vulnerable with me. No matter how much I encourage and show compassion and give of myself to another person, if they’re not ready to open up, it ain’t gonna happen. Finding that match, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship is healthiest and most fulfilling when both people are vulnerable and share their authentic selves with each other. This describes my closest and most meaningful friendships. To share our weaknesses as well as our strengths. To be vulnerable enough to see a range of emotions in each other. To trust each other with parts of our lives that we haven’t verbalized before. I am blessed to have shared in these experiences with several close female friends. These strong bonds have shown me the importance of emotional health and trust when venturing into romantic relationships, too. I can’t make a guy open up to me. I can’t be open and vulnerable with a guy I’m interested in and expect him to mirror that vulnerability. Just because I share my heart, doesn’t mean that he will. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. If I put my love out there and it’s not reciprocated, it hurts. But, the more I live and love and suffer loss and disappointment, the stronger sense of self I gain and the deeper and richer connection with my God I attain. Brene Brown claims that I am worthy of love and belonging. No one has to tell me that. I own that. I live into that truth. I trust that I am worthy.
I find that vulnerability comes easier in certain places in my life. Like walking into a new place for the first time. Of course I feel a bit of nervousness in hoping I don’t stand out as the obvious ‘newby,’ but for me, those feelings turn into positive excitement. I have this undeniable confidence when I enter into new situations in which I know I’m being directed to by God. When I first moved to the city where I currently live, I church shopped and visited several different congregations over the course of ten months. I didn’t just worship on Sunday mornings. If I attended service and felt led to continue exploring that place, then I jumped right into the life of the congregation. I got involved in the music ministry and reached out to Sunday School leaders. I looked for fellowship and study opportunities with others my age. To me, this felt natural and normal, but after telling my story to numerous friends, I’ve been told how courageous and bold I was. All by myself, reaching out to these congregations of strangers, and engaging with a sense of belonging right from the start. I broke down those barriers of vulnerability and joined right into the life of those churches. To me, it was liberating and exciting and completely natural to put myself into these types of experiences. I think it’s easiest sometimes to be ‘the new person.’ No expectations, just a sense of exploration and curiosity. I really enjoy it. I’m entering into these types of experiences again as I discern and explore and visit other congregations God is leading me to.
I am most certainly still a work in progress in the area of vulnerability. There are some areas of my life where vulnerability scares me. Places where my walk is more cautious and hesitant than vulnerable. Romantic relationships is the main one. It takes me a while to trust and open up to a guy, especially someone who initially shows more interest in me than I do in him. I feel this need to be the one in control. To control the pace of getting to know each other. To control how much I share and when. If I’m not the one doing the chasing, then I lose that sense of control. I’m cautious and shy and feel I’m portraying a different, much more reserved version of myself. Because of this, I’m convinced that some potential romantic relationships in my past never were because I was not vulnerable enough to open up early enough in the relationship. I think I unintentionally sabotaged those relationships because I was too scared to trust. Maybe my vulnerability now is simply naming that and identifying what I need to change. I am a work in progress…
Through my wrestling with the right words for this post, I’ve discovered that vulnerability and trust walk hand-in-hand. I only allow myself to be vulnerable when I have a deep sense of trust. Being vulnerable enough to take risks, yet trusting that I am never alone. Opening up to others to show my authentic self and trusting that no matter what, God is with me every step of the way. It’s being confident in who I am and not letting insecurities get the better of me. It’s freedom from what others think of me. It’s allowing myself to be broken so that God can make me whole. It’s knowing that no matter what decisions I make, no matter what I share, no matter what experiences I encounter, my life will be richer, more authentic, and more joy-filled because I was vulnerable.