The Beauty and Struggle of Being Vulnerable

I’m so tired of all the fake.

 

I’m so tired of all the masks.

 

You know what I’m talking about. In this day and age that we live in—it’s so easy to get caught up in the game. To get caught up in the race. The competition of life. To want to have our makeup looking flawless, our hair always done or to be proud that we can pull off looking like a “hot mess”. To be wearing the best and most fashionable clothes. To be making more money than our neighbor. To have a better-looking marriage or relationship than the next one. To have a profile picture that will make others envious. To have traveled to more places than “you.” To have more friends and followers on Facebook than we even know what to do with. To be eating more healthy and to be a better cook—wife, mother, woman, and all the above, because we have an Instagram-worthy, over-filtered picture to prove it.

 

To have more “Likes” and “Hearts” on our posts on Facebook than you. That will sure boost your ego, or the lack of them leave you feeling down in the dumps.

 

And the list goes on.

 

Man, do we appear to have it all together! Just look at our Facebook or our Instagram and you’ll think, “They’ve got it made! Made in the shade!”

 

I’ve been there. I do it. I try not to, but, oh yes, I still do it. I’ve found myself in the competition and the endless, fruitless, vain, and disappointing trap of comparison. I’ve wanted my life to look all good. “I’m okay! I’m okay! My pictures are here to prove it!” But that is not always the truth.

 

Go to church and you’ll see us sitting in our pews. Smiling loudly and singing enthusiastically for all to hear, when that’s really the last place we want to be that day because we’re hurting. We’re hurting and we feel like all around us is perfection. That can be discouraging. We feel as if we could never bare our souls and our wounds in the place where we need to be most vulnerable. The front pew is always empty every Sunday. Why aren’t we going forward? Why am I not going forward? Why aren’t we confessing our struggles? Why aren’t we being vulnerable? I see more vulnerability outside the church than I do within. That is a shame. There is a movement, a conversation in our society about being vulnerable. It’s all around us. If you haven’t seen it yet, look around harder. Books are even being written about the topic.

 

There is a hunger in our hearts. A longing to see others rise up. To rise up from their pew, from behind their computer, from behind their photo-shopped photographs and to take off their masks. To not only rise up, but to speak up, and to be real.

 

This world is broken.
We are broken.
We are wounded.
We are hurting.
We have scars that we hide.
And we need help.

 

Where does this help come from? I believe it comes or should come from different places. First, and always, we need God.

 

But we also need each other.

 

This is where vulnerability comes in.

 

One of the definitions for the word “vulnerable” found on the website http://www.dictionary.com is, “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.”

 

Woah. That will stop you in your tracks. And it might make you want to run for the hills. The risk that is involved with being vulnerable is what makes it so beautiful. It is knowing that, by baring your soul, you can get wounded in the process, but you still have the bravery and willingness to do so. And you don’t do it for yourself, you do it for others. That is one of the bravest things I could imagine anyone to do. Vulnerability is a soldier going to battle with no armor on.

 

Darts might be thrown you way—judgment, looks, whispers behind your back or words spoken to your face, but you must stay the course. Stand your ground. For you never know the power your vulnerability has—the change that it can create in the person next to you and in this world.

 

In Brene Brown’s book, “Rising Strong,” she discusses vulnerability and says that, “…hiding out, pretending, and armoring up against vulnerability are killing us: killing our spirits, our hopes, our potential, our creativity, our ability to lead, our love, our faith, and our joy.” She is exactly right. When we are vulnerable, it can create a chain reaction. We begin to understand one another better—we begin to really see them, and we are able to be seen. And, by stepping out in battle without any armor on, we can learn to love others more fully. We can empathize.

 

I’ve found that, through personal experience, it’s in the aftermath of sharing our stories and struggles to others that we can be hit with conflicted feelings. We want to sometimes reach out and grab the pieces of our masks that we’ve taken off and we want to desperately grab each piece and bring it back to us and cling those pieces close to our sides. We feel the need to put the pieces back together and put our mask back on again.

 

I envision the scene from the musical film “Phantom of the Opera” with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. It’s a powerful scene. Emmy’s character, Christine, desperately wants to see what the Phantom is hiding and what lies behind his mask. She catches him off guard and can’t help herself and removes the mask from his face. We, the audience, then see what he has hidden. A face full of scars. Memories and pain associated with those scars. He’s never wanted anyone to see that side of him. He becomes enraged at her and rips his mask back from her hands and instantly puts it back on his face.  It is heartbreaking. Your heart feels pain for the Phantom and you find yourself desperately wanting to help him, just as Christine does. When you learn the story behind how he got those scars, your heart aches even more.

 

When we do take off our masks, we can then have several thoughts:

 

“I overshared.”

 

“Oh my goodness, what are they all thinking about me?” And you can dwell there for a very long time and imagine all the thoughts people might be having about you.

 

“I regret letting others see me.”

 

“I want to hide back in my safe cocoon. I want to become a hermit and hide myself from the world.”

 

You will have those days. The anxiety that comes with opening up is real. It’s natural and it’s okay. It’s okay to feel all those things. It’s normal to feel a delayed reaction of shame about all that you exposed about yourself, whether that be to a group of people, or to one individual. It’s a process. It’s a learning experience; you’re going to find out some people will, unfortunately, shun you or judge you, but, more importantly, you will find your tribe. Your tribe that will encourage you and support you and bring light to your life. Cling, cling, cling to those people. Find them. Find those who can love and accept you for your story and for what you have to say.

 

By never showing any vulnerability, we are hurting not only our own hearts, but the hearts of those around us.

 

We hurt our own hearts by living a lie. By parading ourselves around like our life is perfect—like we are perfect—when we know what the truth is when we go home and when we look in the mirror. We begin to love the lie that we are living and the walls of silence that we build around us to guard us. But the hurt is in that we know the truth. We know we are being deceitful. And that eats at us. We feel a twinge of guilt when someone beside us falls down, and, we may be there to pick them up, but, in the process, we don’t get down in the dirt with them. We don’t dare say, “hey, I’ve been there,” or, “hey, I AM there,” or reveal any part of us. We keep our walls of protection up. We keep silent.

 

We hurt the hearts of those around us by never showing any vulnerability. By never revealing any weaknesses or imperfections to others, our actions, or rather, our inaction, can lead those who are watching us down a path of despair. They may already feel in despair, or “broken beyond all repair” and then when they see your world of perfection that you’ve created, they then see their own and they hang their head in shame.

 

Your vulnerability can help someone not feel so alone. That feeling that you are alone or having the thought that you are all alone can cause you to isolate yourself further away from the world. That is not healthy for the heart, mind, soul, or spirit. We need each other.

 

Even though I have found myself being more vulnerable with those around me as of late, I’m still scared. I’m scared to be vulnerable with others—it’s not easy and I’m not sure it ever will be. Why? Because it IS scary. As I said before, I think one of the biggest fears about being vulnerable is saying to ourselves, “What are they going to think of me?” It’s hard because there is risk involved.

 

I’m scared to write. I’m scared to write what I’m writing about right now. I’ve been scared to tell others my story. To open up and admit to someone, “hey, I’m struggling.” Scared, scared, scared. Yes, that word—that feeling is there—but you know what? You do it anyway. You open your heart out. You be real. You be bold. You start showing others what makes you you and why you’re you. You show them you.

 

And when you start showing you, who you really are to those around you, I believe that you will see a whole new world start opening up right in front of you. That world—the world where you’re being vulnerable—is not going to always look pretty. In fact, it will, some days, look and feel messy—you will feel messy. But, I also believe that it will be a world that you will delight in and that will fill you with wonder and awe. For it will bring you freedom. It will open your eyes. It will open doors and bring people into your life. It will open your heart. It will bring freedom to others. It will bring peace. Your courage to be vulnerable has the power to loosen someone else’s chains. It can help bring them healing.

 

It can bring them Life.

 

But, we’ve got to take off our masks.

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