A few days ago I started reading Rising Strong by the phenomenal Brené Brown. In the first chapter she talks about The physics of vulnerability. For someone like me who has always been struggling with vulnerability from childhood through adulthood finding this book was like hitting a jackpot. I am having a lot of Aha moments as I turn its pages. It is a great book and highly recommend it.
Reading it has given me the courage to open up, share my story and most importantly embrace vulnerability. I also reached out to a few dear friends to contribute and I am beyond grateful that two of them agreed. Reading their personal experiences makes me happy and less alone in this field.
Dear Dianne and Beau. Thank you so much for sharing your stories. Thank you for simply being you. I love you. x
One of the things we were taught in law school was: “Always project an image of success at all times.” Sharks can sense blood in the water so in order not to be eaten, one must not bleed.
I internalized this lesson even long after I left law school for other adventures. Since then, I conditioned myself to always be in control. To be careful, composed, and calculated in everything to did. To not show weakness or imperfection. To not lose my temper or break down in front of others. To avoid situations where I could potentially be embarrassed or emotional.
Which led to little things like rushing to the bathroom when it was time for wedding games because I didn’t want to join and appear silly. Or nitpicking pictures to post on my social media accounts because I only wanted to show my best angles. Or banning surprise parties for my birthday because I didn’t want to potentially cry in public. And to bigger things like avoiding any romantic entanglement to reduce the risk of ending up jealous or heartbroken or otherwise not in control of my emotions.
It’s been 12 years since I first learned the lesson I shared. It’s been a little over two years since I decided I was tired of applying it to my life. In fact, one of my personal goals for 2019 is #OpenHeart, a journey to relinquishing control and embracing vulnerability. At this point, I no longer need to be perceived as successful all the time. I can be weak and imperfect. I can lose my temper or break down. I can be embarrassed and emotional.
And that’s okay. I won’t be less me, less valuable, less beautiful when I bleed. Instead, I will be human. And that’s enough. I’m enough.
I just finished reading an article on Time magazine about Instagram’s efforts to curb bullying in the platform. I suddenly realize that social media has also made us feel so vulnerable, so open to negative vibes.
Growing up and realizing your gay identity in a middle-class environment, in an all-male Catholic school seems like a recipe for emotional harm. Your blossoming attraction is labeled a mortal sin, and guaranteed eternal damnation. Your soft demeanor is a magnet for bullies (and occasional taunts by your own dad).
But I had to fight the feeling of being a victim. I had to own my identity. Then I developed what I could, my ‘intellect’, and used it to as armor. I became driven to achieve and succeed. I even became an pseudo-intellectual snob. Only because I didn’t want to feel vulnerable again.
I look back and realize that I have probably gone as far as I could, in terms of achievement and professional success. To a certain extent, reaching this ‘peak’ has insulated me from the bullying. Yet, certain insecurities keep coming back, especially in this age of social media.
On every screen I look at, there are people better than me, more attractive than me, more successful than m. If, before I would just hear or read about them when I watch TV or read the newspaper, today I am accosted every single time I turn on my mobile phone or any other blue screen.
The bullying from others have stopped. But the bullying from within me never does. So I am still toughening it up, still fighting, still driving myself. Just so I don’t feel vulnerable again.
Yet every so often, a failure here, a misstep there, brings me back to being weak, naked and hurt. But I realize now, that is not such a bad thing. I now allow myself to feel this way as it makes me….human