Maybe it’s time we start calling vulnerability what it really is: humanity. No one’s perfect, so why hide our flaws?
Not too long ago I was at a professional conference where I happen to be good friends with a number of attendees. Coincidentally because of these friendships, these people make up a portion of my readers and have graciously followed my journey into the sphere of regular publishing. It was interesting hearing from these individuals about their thoughts on my new writing and this process of sharing myself with the world.
The greatest compliment I was paid by many of these individuals is when they approached me and let me know they read my work and it resonated within them. When someone you care about starts a conversation interjecting the phrase “I read blank piece and it impacted me in blank way” it means more than they realize. Yet, almost every time someone approached me to begin a conversation on one of my writings, I generally heard the word vulnerable come into play. In some form or other, this idea emerged and lingered as an undercurrent. I used to wonder where this perceived mentality came from but now I better understand why; it is in part due to my content matter and willingness to put my personal life on display. In other parts it is because I pour myself into my pieces, focusing on connecting them to my heart on a visceral level. I am told I am vulnerable because for me, there is no point in sharing if you do not provide access to the most intimate places of your soul. I am told I am vulnerable because when I write, I open my mind and pour it onto the page.
My writing is one of the most personal things about me, giving a greater insight into my life. This trend carries over into my person as well. I am not one who self-discloses expecting others to self-disclose in return. I am comfortable sharing because I know my story well and I know the points that can help or enlighten others. I never see myself as vulnerable, I am just never afraid of what others think about my experience. When people acknowledge my vulnerability, it confuses me. Maybe I lack some of the boundaries of self-disclosure society decrees important. Maybe I see these boundaries differently. Truth is, I see no reason for them in the first place.
On the negative side, I am a recovering addict with an opiate addiction. I have struggled through issues with alcohol. I am a male who has experienced stalking and sexual assault. I have a few failed relationships under my belt for ugly reasons.
On the other, I study and focus on the aspects of creativity. I love the field of mentoring and educate on this topic. I encourage traveling and adventure. I challenge the status quo of whatever organization I am a part of. I believe in passionate love with another and the romanticized idea of soul mates.
These are not secrets, not if you track my literary history or read my past writings. These emerge about me and can be found by a targeted Google search. Heaven forbid anyone ever decided I should run for political office because I have no chance on that playing field. I have provided my opponents all my flaws and strength on a silver Internet platter.
I was once asked then why I am not more careful. If I was worried that the things I post would impact me professionally and if I should be more cautious in what I said. Another time I had a beautiful person tell me she was concerned for my safety, that she was worried about the image others may have of me. I have been cautioned and warned about being this level of “open.”
This might be where the idea of vulnerability comes in. I am not afraid. I share my thoughts, I post my articles and I write passionately, no matter how large my audience size, because I am not afraid of the skeletons in my closet nor do I bury my strengths. I am a significantly self-aware individual. I have and continue to study my humanity in hopes of better knowing my self. My flaws and my strengths operate complimentary. I have no need or desire to hide these.
Whenever people challenge me on this idea of vulnerability I always respond in the same manner. Yes, what I share in my writing, throughout my speaking, when I am in front of audiences, in casual dinner conversations even: these things could have been used against me.
The information I make public could have been used to hurt me. The key word sentence is could. I have stood tall. I define and control my story. Even in my weaknesses, I have made these items my personal armor. You cannot use a secret to hurt me when I am the one telling the secret. If I own my issues, no one can use them against.
Try judging me for being an addict, try shame me for my sexual assault, try pigeon-holing me as a creative artist type. Even stereotype me positively based on my life. You can try all these things except they will only work as much as I allow them.
I have defined my story and I control my narrative. I am no longer afraid of what might emerge because I have owned the good and the bad; I tell these stories because I have also learned and moved past these pieces. I am a human and I do not hide my humanity.
It is my hope that by my sharing, others will feel liberated. When I open up, others can recognize they also have the power to be open themselves. We are, after all, not characters in a play, we are not some type cast role. We are people.
Our humanity is the one trait that defines us all and in our humanity, we are all profoundly flawed. Everyone has made mistakes, everyone has hurt another and in the same token been hurt. Our actions have repercussions, but as long as we have learned from them and keep pushing forward, why should we be paralyzed by our past? We have to forgive ourselves, make amends where we can, and not make mistakes again. This doesn’t mean we should hide our stories, being afraid of what others might see.
There is a power when we can reclaim our vulnerability- or as I would rather call it, our ability to be a human with multifaceted natures.
I am vulnerable because to me, this is me being my authentic self. It is not that I am sharing for cause but instead simply owning my self truth. No one can define me except for me. This is the power behind becoming comfortable with all sides of my nature.
I am open because I am free. In my humanity, I find peace and deeper connections. In turn, I have nothing to hide because I am a person, navigating this path with only an awareness of the road behind me. That is who we all are; we can never fully know our future, but we should not hide the trail we have navigated on the way to get us to the present.
I am a human. I mess up. I touch lives. And in this perceived vulnerability, I have found the place where I can be the real me. It is quite liberating, I invite you to join me. Own your story, claim your mistakes, learn and grow. But don’t hide the flawed sides of your person, embrace and share them with those around you. I promise, being a human is a beautiful thing.