Please forgive my lengthy and inexcusable departure from writing. I honestly have no “good” reason for it. Claiming to be busy seems like a cop out. The more honest answer is that I haven’t written much in the last few months because I’ve been watching too much Netflix when I’m not working, traveling, or collaborating with colleagues. I could have written many posts, I’ve had a lot of fodder. But I often get too overwhelmed by the process and become fearful of the responses. Thus nothing occurs but me wallowing in my shame and watching a movie or T.V. show.
Enter Dr. Brene Brown’s masterpiece, Daring Greatly, and my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Erica Tan. Both of these women struck a nerve for me recently. A nerve that needed striking. And they did so with great timing. With that, I give you my word for 2014: Vulnerability.
Vulnerability. The ability to be vulnerable.
In other words, as Brene Brown so eloquently elaborates in Daring Greatly, being vulnerable means to be willing and able to be wounded.
I have recently been challenged to be more emotionally vulnerable. To be more emotionally present and available to my friends, family, and people with whom I do life. What I’ve learned is that I’m emotionally sensitive person. That means I’m one of those people who feels emotions very intensely–mine and other people’s. And to be honest with you, intense emotions often scare me.
I have not been, historically speaking, someone who easily and quickly shows my true emotions. I have typically been pretty good at masking what I’m really feeling, especially if what I’m feeling is rather negative. I’m exceptionally good at coming across as sarcastic or snarky if something upsets me; and I’m really adept at making a joke or laughing at myself when I’ve been foolish or to hide that I’m really embarrassed or hurt.
What this challenge to be emotionally vulnerable affords me is the opportunity to shed my masks and do my best to just be, and allow my true feelings to surface–even if, and especially when, they are uncomfortable. One fear is that my true feelings will come across too strongly. Because, I feel them rather strongly. Another fear is that those people around me will decide that they don’t want to be around me due to my new found display and communication of my emotional experiences precisely because they are strong and uncomfortable.
To be honest with you, this challenge seems a little silly to me. I already feel like I do a fairly decent job of allowing myself the time and space to demonstrate my emotions with those whom I consider to be “safe” people–people who won’t judge me and who love me unconditionally. Part of me finds this exercise in expanded emotional vulnerability to be unnecessary, unflattering, and quite frankly, immature. To me it seems fairly immature and unbecoming for me to show this level of emotional response and reactivity to people I do not deem safe.
Is it ok–is it appropriate–for us to have various personas for different venues? For instance, when I’m up on stage speaking, or in front of a class teaching, is it acceptable for me to be a little more grandiose, charismatic, demonstrative, humorous, and engaging than what I typically am back stage? Because, to be honest with you again, I’m already pretty grandiose, charismatic, demonstrative, humorous and engaging, so it’s not THAT much different!
I will say, though, that in those more intimate moments with my family and my family of friends–people I love dearly–I can be more calm, more serious, more sentimental…and more emotionally reactive. I will show my anger, sadness, disappointment, fear, concern, anxiety, and whatever else I’m feeling. I am more readily able to be vulnerable because I know they can handle it. They have earned the right to hold my heart in their hands.
So maybe what my friend and Brene are getting at with their challenge is for me to be more willing to share my heart and trust more people with my heart. To let them see the depth of my emotional experience even if it means that only by doing so will they then become safe people–not the other way around.
Vulnerability begets vulnerability. The catch is someone has to go first.
I guess I’m up.
Here’s to being more emotionally vulnerable in 2014!
In Christ’s love and mine…