I am reading Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. She talks a lot about vulnerability and shame, and how they relate to true joy and grateful living. Being vulnerable is different for everyone, and feeling shame takes on a lot of faces. Today, vulnerability.
Vulnerability is this weird word that everyone thinks means being an easy target or acting weak. We numb vulnerability, as Brene says, so we don’t have to feel pain and discomfort. But she also mentions the all-important fact that you can’t selectively numb emotions. If you numb pain, you numb joy. And you’re left with this sort of middle-of-the-road life. Cut out vulnerability and you cut out the opportunity for pure, unadulterated joy.
So I have done a lot of soul-searching to determine what it means for me to be vulnerable (because it’s different for everyone). I’ve discovered perfectionism is my anti-vulnerability drug of choice, and I express it by trying to be what people want me to be. It’s cleaning my house at the last minute before someone comes over. It’s agreeing with opinions that might not be my own to stay on the straight and narrow with someone. But most of all, it’s going straight for anger and lashing out instead of telling someone they hurt me.
In order to avoid vulnerability, I am sometimes inauthentic. So now, I am making an effort everyday to remain authentic and honest with myself and, in doing so, I’m learning that no one is just naturally authentic. It’s not a thing you can be. It is a daily practice. (It is sometimes a minute-to-minute practice.) I am constantly making the decision to be authentic. When someone asks me a question, before I answer I repeat to myself, “Be honest. What do you really think?” When someone is coming over I ask myself, “What does your house really look and how will this person feel knowing that your shoes rarely make it back to the closet? Maybe, relieved?”
I have to let myself be seen and be imperfect. I have to forgive myself, knowing that I am always doing the best that I can and when I know better, I do better. And I am forgiving of others who hurt me, and for me this means being honest about the hurt (instead of hurting back) and then setting up a boundary to protect myself from being hurt in the same ways.
And you know the worst part of practicing vulnerability for a perfectionist? It’s impossible to practice it perfectly. I make mistakes all the time and I have to forgive myself immediately and let them go so they can’t stick around and tarnish the rest of my day. If I don’t get to shout at someone else who hurts me, I don’t get to shout at myself when I make a mistake.
Becoming vulnerable has opened the door for other people in my life to be vulnerable, and shined a light on those who aren’t/can’t be. It’s amazing how much closer I am to those who are open, honest, authentic, and imperfect. And it’s amazing how those who aren’t vulnerable can trigger my anti-vulnerability quirks in an instant if I’m not careful and conscious.