I can’t remember when it became cool to not show your feelings. Perhaps it has something to do with the modern rules of dating that are constantly being forced down our throats—the three-day rule, the no-labeling rule, the never be too eager rule lest they get terrified and run away. ‘Playing it cool’ was the new go-to strategy for finding lasting love. Surely, putting it into words shows exactly how counterintuitive this kind of thinking is.
The very idea of ‘playing it cool’ unravels some of the essential qualities of humanity. We experience ups and downs. That’s a fact. Humans are emotional creatures and hiding our reactions beneath a carefully crafted veneer is an exhausting way to live. Some people say that being vulnerable is not a thing to be achieved, that it carries far too many negative connotations. It leaves us open to attack, they say, and therefore something that needs to be guarded against. We need to protect our inner beings at all costs.
By simple definition, yes, this is what vulnerability means. It means that we lower our guard to let things penetrate our armor. And at times these might come in the form of attacks – attacks on our hearts from bitter lovers, biting betrayals from people we once thought were friends. In opening ourselves up to these other people, and being vulnerable with them – that is, showing them exactly who we are and not editing the words that run through our souls and minds every day – they have hurt us. Their actions have hurt us, and we blame ourselves because it was us who let them in.
So we change our actions to prevent this from happening at all costs. We don’t talk to new people because they might not want to talk back. We don’t approach that person in the bar because we’re afraid of rejection. We don’t tell people how we really fear because we’re afraid they might leave us. We just let things continue, even if we’re not completely happy with them, because it’s far easier to continue in this way than be honest about anything. Because it’s easier to stay silent than to speak up. Because society’s obsession with happiness has been beaten into our brains enough for us to think that if we’re not happy and composed at all times there’s something wrong with us.
Screw being nothing but happy. Strive to be defenseless, to be revealing and passionate. If you’re sad then be sad and don’t be sorry for it. If you like someone you need to tell him or her, because playing it cool will only leave you at square one. Of course there’s a chance that these feelings that you’re freely giving to another person won’t be reciprocated, but they are your feelings. damn it, and they deserved to be given the time of day rather than crushed down into darkness and left to shrivel up into nothing.
This is what it means to be vulnerable—it does not mean weak or defenseless, it means embracing the whole spectrum of human emotion from the manic highs to the days when simply remembering to breathe is an achievement in itself. It means making your own mistakes and owning them, for they are the mistakes that you made when you put yourself out there and now you know that you’ll never make them again. Having guards against the world protects your heart far more than if you wear it on your sleeve. If you are designed to keep attacks out, your defenses are far more effective at keeping the good stuff out, so that your heart does not have the chance to grow with experience. So no matter how cool your armor is, it may only be protecting an empty shell.