why it's scary being vulnerable.
What a week! We officially launched Worthy two weeks ago and can honestly say that you, our readers, have blown us out of the water. We prayed long and hard about this decision, both to launch and to create this community of fierce storytellers, and are so thankful you are here!
So, what’s the deal with being vulnerable, eh?
We had this idea to launch a #fridayfeelings campaign each week over on our Instagram, where we would use the Q&A feature to ask you some raw and honest questions. Again, blown out of the water with your responses, we wanted to address some of the answers that came up and talk a bit about the source of those ideas. Of course, we’re no experts, but we’re making it our goal to crack open the myth that being vulnerable is a bad thing.
So, here are some of the answers:
I want to appear like I’ve got it all together - like the other girls think I have it all together
I think sometimes it’s hard to trust what people will do with important information
It requires courage by definition of speaking one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart
Distrust. People need to learn how to actively listen and be empathetic
When you’re vulnerable you give people the opportunity to reach in and change you - losing your control.
We expect the person listening to show vulnerability too and that doesn’t happen/We demand reciprocated vulnerability; frustration ensues when that doesn’t happen
Fear of not feeling safe
Because it feels scary and you feel exposed and aren’t quite sure how people will deal with it
Wow. That’s some vulnerable stuff right there. Of course we can see who posted those answers, but that will always remain between us and them.
So let’s crack some of these answers open.
I want to appear like I’ve got it all together.
Well of course we do! Society tell us we have to have it all together. If your hair isn’t combed when you leave the house and your face isn’t layered with makeup or you don’t have your life organized and set and planned, then what the heck are you even doing?
So know this - there isn’t a single person on the face of this planet that has their life together.
That might be a weird thing to say, but I firmly believe it. What does “having your life together” mean anyways? Success? Money? Happiness?
So know that you are countercultural (I’m gonna use that phrase a bunch in this post). You are MEANT to counter society. That’s what the Gospel is all about. That we don’t have our crap together and it’s beautiful because of grace and love and truth.
When we don’t have our “stuff together”, I think that’s an even more beautiful image of what life with God looks like. Because it’s not a one-size-fits-all combo deal.
It’s hard to trust people/You aren’t sure how people will react
Oh HECK yah it’s hard to trust people. It’s hard to trust a lot of people, because stories are valuable. When we know something has value, we look at it differently…which is actually a really cool way to look at it. Your story is valuable and it tells a lot about you, and people know that.
Think about a car - when I drive my parents SUV, I know it’s value. I know what it would cost if I got into a crash, or what it would take to repair the windshield or scrapes on the side of the car. Now picture me in my 2003 Corolla. My car is worth maybe $1500. I treat my car much differently than I treat my parents car. The value is different.
I’d love to challenge you on this one - consider the news that you receive and the news that you share and how it impacts people. What value do your words and your story have? There are some many topics these days that disrupt people, and I think that’s where we start to have a hard time trusting people. Our stories are messy and uncomfortable and interesting and sacred. We must remember that our testimonies are sacred. If we start to think about our friends and neighbours and the stories they tell as stories and divine moments of God’s love, then our mindset changes from “this is simply information about a human passing in one ear and out the other” to, “this is something that is valuable to this person, therefore I honour it”.
When we aren’t sure how others will take what we say, we tend to just not say it at all. Or worse, we change what we say to please others. I want to inject love into this equation, because when we approach things with an attitude and foundation of love, we know the driving force behind why we’re sharing and telling someone else something. So, we can listen out of love, and we can share out of love.
We need to learn to actively listen.
A few years ago I (Katie) sat in a university chapel session and heard a speaker share on listening. Out of the five years of chapels that I attended, this one stuck with me the most, because the speaker reminded me so clearly about listening before we speak. It may not be an innate thing (I know it’s not for me), but if we approach our conversations with an intentional desire to listen and ask questions first, then I believe we also slow down and process information better.
If I’m not listening to you, what you’re saying to me is simply sounds coming in my ears. If I’m distracted, I probably won’t even remember what you said. Which is sad, but true. Active listening requires us to slow down, which is also so extremely counter cultural. Society teaches us that we should be moving quicker, faster, keeping up with trends and living a life at high-speed. In reality, that doesn’t allow us to be present in the moments that really matter either. We’re basically just living a blur.
We expect reciprocation.
We want others to be vulnerable back. If I tell you something that’s meaningful to me, I expect that you’d do the same. In reality, not everyone functions this way. In that sense, it’s healthy to set some expectations of what we want when we share.
An example of this is when I lived in Ottawa with four other girls who I now call my closest friends. We decided collectively that we would share our testimonies and that it would be in a trusted and safe space. We identified ahead of time that it was a safe space, and only after living together for at least a few months. For myself, I had never before shared my testimony with anyone, but I also didn’t go first. When I saw that the other girls around me were willing to be vulnerable, I also felt safe to do the same.
I think this comes down to creating safe spaces, and it’s true that not everyone has a safe space to share their innermost thoughts. So that’s why it’s important that we try and create spaces like that (hence Worthy!), where people can come without judgement and feel okay to lay it all down.
Well, fear is a liar. Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you’re going to vomit or drop dead because you’re so ridiculously terrified? Scared to share information, nervous to go up and tell someone something, or if you drop a secret you’ll be done forever?
Yeah, me too. Like if I tell that person that one thing, then I’m done. If they know what I did, I’m done. My reputation, my life, my heart, my mind…all of it, just ruined. Take a moment, and think of your darkest, most wrapped up secret or part of your story that you don’t tell others often. Now picture what would happen if you told someone who you trusted that piece of information. Pick one person, one moment in time, and imagine yourself telling them that chunk of info. What happens? Why do you think it plays out the way it is?
In that moment, I’m fearful and I guess I want to know why fear overcomes us so dang often. I’m still working on figuring that one out, but I think it has something to do with what we experience when we’re younger and the wounds that we carry. We’re fearful because we’ll get hurt, and getting hurt sucks so. stinkin’. much. The pain accompanied with people and experiences that re-open our wounds hurt more than we can even put into words or actions, so we create a psychological buffer zone to protect our hearts and minds. We put up barriers so things can’t get in. At the same time, there are things that, if we let into our buffer zone, would change us and shift us towards healing. It’s just hard to know what those things (people, experiences, places, time) are exactly.
At the end of the day, vulnerability is like opening your home to strangers and feeding them a five-course dinner of your best cooking and family recipes. You give and give, and in some back corner of your brain you hope that someone might pay you respect for taking the time to make the dinner, although you might not state that out loud. But often people come and eat and leave. They’ll probably tell others about the kind of meal you made them, what it involved, the ingredients in each dish and the way it made them feel good or bad. And others might talk about that meal too, and share the meal with their friends, or try to re-enact the meal in their own way.
But then it’s your meal, and your hands that prepared it and you that experienced the labour of love that it took to cook it. And that meal is about you and the food in front of you, and seeing the people who are coming to eat the meal as guests of honour.
Vulnerability is that exact meal. Sometimes it sucs to make, sometimes it’s a great success and the recipe turns out great. Sometimes you burn the meal, and other times it’s undercooked. But it’s a process, and it’s what you present and the labour of love and growth that you went through to make and deliver the meal. That’s what gets me - it’s between you and the food (God).
I don’t really know how else to put it other than vulnerability is a choice to make. It isn’t always the most appropriate choice, but it can be, and when it’s in the right context it can give us a whole lot of freedom.