What a scary word. A scary feeling. According to the definition, vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Not exactly something we specifically strive to achieve.
Despite its intimidating description, vulnerability is necessary. Without it, we live on the surface, as if we are explorers fearful of diving into the depths of the oceans, the areas where the light doesn’t pass.
As with anybody critical of today’s trends and gen-Z mentality, social media plays a role in how we view vulnerability. We now have eyes on us 24/7. There is no break for us to escape the public view and just be. We proudly broadcast our outstanding achievements, but we don’t have people to see something that might not get many likes on Facebook or Instagram.
There is label for this feeling: shame. Fully knowing that we each trudge through a fair share of tribulations, we still feel self-conscious about how others see us, that a hard battle against the demons of life could shatter the image we aspire to become. Those moments don’t make for a great live stream. They don’t make it on a Snapchat story. We shove them into a box and stow it away so nobody can reach it, to the point that even ourselves forget that it’s there, collecting dust, taking up precious space.
Young people, since I am in that category, tend to glamorize the idea of putting up a facade. We mock it and yet continue to perpetuate the notion. We can openly admit that we like keeping our guard up but do nothing about it. If our souls were windows, we get them foggy with steam from the shower, trying to cleanse off the mistakes we’ve made, the regrets we have, the secrets we hide, but no matter how hard we scrub, those aspects of ourselves are not traceable on the skin.
I myself am working toward being more open with myself and others because yes, even being vulnerable with yourself is uncomfortable, awkward. When I felt insecure about myself, built a wall, decorated it, and hid behind it. I kept myself neutral to the public. No matter what was buzzing through my head, I plastered on a smile, I did my schoolwork, I maintained my daily routine as usual.
Even though everything seemed stable, I felt like I was missing out. That I was empty, failing to make an impression on others, that the secret of appreciating life was a party I wasn’t invited to. Not until I actually decided to look at myself, really look at myself, did I see what I might be missing.
So I took care of myself. I chose to feel my emotions and not suppress them until they erupted. I started doing the things I really enjoy, even if they weren’t what the stereotypical teenager chose to do. I started sharing my story, and for once, I didn’t glaze over the periods where I find of blur of darkness. I bring that darkness into the light. I use it as my opportunity to find a voice.
What my younger self was fearing all along didn’t happen. I didn’t somehow lose some figurative superhero cape because I was less than the picturesque person I desperately desired. I felt more real and alive than I ever had before. I began to feel every emotion, the good and bad, much more deeply. I connected with people I never expected to have more than a two sentence conversation with. Rather than wandering aimlessly, wishing I had some cause to stand up for, I found a passion. I found my way of helping others.
When you know what the hard times feel like, the great times feel even better. They turn less into a passing frame of time and more like a picture frame bordering a masterpiece. Vulnerability makes us human and provides us with the entire experience of living in this world. We find pain and suffering; we find empathy and gratitude.
If there’s any message to take away today, it’s to allow yourself to be human. Feel embarrassed. Try something and fail. Fall down a few times. But also express your emotions with others. Provide a helping hand to those in need. Be gentle with yourself and everyone you come across. We’re all journeying through this weird place called Earth together, and that is nothing to be ashamed about. Our paths will intersect at different points, we’ll face different obstacles, we’ll find joy in different things, but we are one species.
The human race is not a race, a competition to see how “successful” we can become, how many beautiful photos we can capture and share with the internet in hopes of receiving surface-level validation. Validation that is real comes from within. Knowing that you are doing your best, that you are honoring your integrity and relishing every moment you have. Life is too short to pretend like we’re flawless, like we somehow rise above the ranks of others. It’s time to be real. Honest. Genuine. Vulnerable.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie