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
I was raised by a single mum who did an excellent job and gave her all at raising three girls. She is an amazing woman. A loving mum. She sacrificed so much so we could have everything she was able to provide. I admire her strength. I love her heart. I am grateful and beyond blessed to have her as my mother.
I was a daddy’s girl. One day he left and never came back. I was 10. I was confused and disappointed. I developed fear of disappointment.
I never really got to bond with my older sister when we were growing up. She was away in boarding school. I spent most of my time with my younger sister. We are inseparable and pretty much each other’s shoulder to lean on until now. I was the not-so-big sister and the mother most of the time when my mum was away at work which was almost all the time.
From a very young age I was already vulnerable. Growing up with not much attention naturally put me out there seeking for it. Making me susceptible. The feeling of insecurity ran much deeper in me. Not always having what my friends and peers had always made me feel like I did not fit in. I was not enough. My mother not being available enough to give me emotional guidance and teach me healthy boundaries led me to developing my own defensive patterns to dealing with situations that made me feel vulnerable. Hide out, shut down, act out, numb feelings.
Its not until late in my adulthood was I able to let go of so much. Forgive myself for all those times I was hard on myself or my parents. Learn healthy boundaries. Accept that IT IS OKAY TO BE VULNERABLE. Be aware of my emotions and sentiments and let them roam free.
Growing up as a vulnerable child has taught me that people who truly love you will always stick around through thick and thin. Choosing your tribe wisely and hanging around people who bring out the best in you, naturally creates a safe space for you to express yourself. To be yourself. They make you feel less vulnerable. They allow you to shine in your true colors. They make you feel enough.
The fact that one of your parents left doesn’t mean that every woman or man who walks into your life will leave. Those who are meant to stay will stay. Those who are meant to leave will eventually leave. Nothing, not even love can make them stay but everyone who walks in and out of our lives teach us a lesson.
Knowing what it is that you are looking for in a relationship, in a partner, from the word Go and being open about it especially at the beginning puts you in a better position to know what exactly you are investing into. It’s all about mutual interests. Never wait until it’s too late, if a relationship is not working it, it’s not working out ! People don’t change overnight. Change starts from within so don’t walk into a relationship with the hope to change them.
It’s okay to say, “I love you” first. Its okay to be open about your feelings. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to show weakness. I grew up craving attention, so naturally I projected what I deeply wanted, freely giving my love and attention at times to the wrong people. I trusted friends who ended letting me down. Each time my heart was broken or felt let down, I learnt a lesson. There is never a proper way to end relationships. Hearts are bound to break anyway but never be afraid to pick up the remaining pieces and start all over again because the heart can be mended. It takes take but eventually it heals. Live your life with an open heart because it is truly the magnet for miracles.
It’s okay to feel everything. It means we are alive. I call it emotional fluidity. Instead of running away from intense emotions, acting out or shutting down, an area that I am still working on because bad habits die hard, try to lean into that state of vulnerability, invite those intense emotions, sit and analyze, maybe ask yourself questions like, why I’m I feeling this way ? How did I get here? What lesson are these emotions trying to teach me ? By being aware of our emotions and what triggers them, helps us to make better choices in future. In Brené Brown words, “Helps us rise stronger.”
My own childhood experiences have been major guidelines to my motherhood journey and how I relate to my son. The best thing we can ever do for our children is to hold space for them as they grow up. Love and make them feel safe but also teach them how to be emotionally resilient, how to roll with the punches. Most importantly teach them that THEY ARE ENOUGH !! In a world that is constantly going to challenge them of their capability, appearances and believes, they must always believe in themselves and remember that THEY ARE ENOUGH !!