(This is a republished post. You can view the original posting HERE.)
What does it mean to be vulnerable?
The dictionary definition was actually surprising to me. The 'capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt
' didn't, but one of the definitions did:
'Willing to show emotion or to allow one's weaknesses to be seen or known: Men and boys are rarely seen as vulnerable.
What a weird thing to have in an actual dictionary. Specifically stating that men and boys aren't seen as vulnerable...the point of this blog wasn't to cover the unreasonable expectations of society in relation to generalized genders, but that did make me pause.
From my perspective, I see vulnerability as the first definition (and maybe the first part of the second one, comments about men and boys aside). To me, it has always meant to show your emotions, answer questions honestly and allowing your inner pain or turmoil to be seen by others. To allow others the opportunity to take your fears and exploit them.
This can be seen as simply as answering a daily question: How are you today? Who ever answers that honestly? "I'm fine." Is the normal answer, right? Does anyone ever really expect honesty when asking that question? The regular person, casual acquaintance, etc. is just asking to be polite - considering this is normal conversation. But what about those who you are close to? In my experience, they are asking because they want to know.
I've never been accused of having a 'poker face.' I always saw it as one of my vulnerabilities. If I am upset, sad or unhappy in any way, it shows on my face - and, unfortunately, displays in my voice. What this means to me is that when someone asks me that 'normal question' I always have a decision to make. Well, at least I have to ask myself several questions:
How well do I know this person? Can I be honest about how I'm feeling? Should I just play this off because I don't want to have a difficult conversation? How will they take it?
Can I open myself up to be vulnerable with this person?
It's always difficult for me to answer these questions, because the fear of rejection and hurt is great. It's happened, lots of times. Where I've trusted someone with my vulnerabilities and they have used them and exploited them. But it's not commonplace, not really. It's rare, yet for some reason I am still asking myself all those questions every single time.
Loneliness is something that has been great with me recently. It was expected, giving everything going on in my life, but it's also not an uncommon emotion. Lots of people feel it, yet I would estimate that most people don't want others to know. And the sad thing about that is, what would happen if you told someone that you are lonely? Would they tease you? If they do, that person is an asshole and you definitely don't need them in your life.
But most would commiserate, empathize or try to make you feel better. Yes, it is a normal emotion and lots experience it. Yet for some reason, it's extremely hard to talk about.
I think that as a society, we put so much pressure on others. We expect people to be happy even though I would argue that the majority of us aren't. No one could be all the time, anyway. It's hard to be vulnerable, though, simply because of those societal norms.
In the dead of night, when the loneliness creeps in and settles on my chest like dead weight, I often wonder what would happen if I told someone. If I reached out and said the dreaded words "I'm lonely." How would they react? Solution for you in the form of saying "get out there and meet people!" or "why don't you join a discord server or something with other people you can interact with?"
And maybe those are good solutions, but in my case, I don't want the solution. I'm that girl who is sitting by the bank of the ocean, staring into my personal type of peace who just wants that person to sit next to me. Maybe no words are necessary, maybe I just want that person to hold my hand and imbibe the feeling of companionship through the palms of their hands.
There are those who do want or need the solutions. The expectation of those who love you is that you will reach out when you need help. But that's also being vulnerable, isn't it? It's a terrifying thought for those of us who are scared of extending that branch to others.
My advice to others is to try that kind of vulnerability on for size. Maybe try with some people to wear it on your sleeve and give them the opportunity to, not exploit it, but just be there for you. You know who that is in your life, don't you? The person or people who are always there no matter what's going on in your life.
It's not meant to be easy at first. But maybe after you get used to extending that branch of vulnerability, and when you finally trust that person to not take your heart and crush it, you may finally find that peace that you seek.
And it doesn't have to be while sitting alone on the beach.