The state of vulnerability is one I both love and hate; one that simultaneously fills me with apprehension and freedom. It’s like going for a run; the hardest part is getting out the door, and even though the process of the jog can be less than ideal, the endorphins experienced after the torture exercise concludes are off the chart. In order to experience the rush, you first have to go through a bit of discomfort.
I have talked myself out of many moments of vulnerability in the same way that I have talked myself out of my runs:
You’re having such a good hair day…do you really want to ruin it with sweat and hair ties?
Skip the run!
Your friends think you’ve got it all together right now…do you really want to ruin it with admitting your anxiety over that one situation you can’t control? Keep it to yourself!
Sometimes we know when we are supposed to do something; when we are supposed to speak up, reach out, encourage, or be honest. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy, but the difficulty is part of what makes it so rare, so valuable. You know that feeling when something keeps popping up in your heart/head, and you want to get it out in the open, ￼but you’re just too nervous to take action? Yeah, about that action…this is me telling you to take it.
What if Jimmy Fallon was so afraid of putting his humor out there for the world to judge, that he never cracked a joke? Think of how much laughter this beautiful country would be deprived of! What if Harper Lee was too intimated to publish To Kill a Mockingbird due to apprehension of public reception? Whether you’re Jimmy Fallon, Harper Lee, a student, or a parent, you have gifts, words, stories, thoughts, and ideas that matter. You have dreams with value—-dreams that need to leave your head, your heart, your lips, or your pen and introduce themselves to the rest of the world.
If you ever feel like a bottle of Mountain Dew, shaken and ready to burst with unsaid words, feelings, or dreams (but fear the explosion), consider this someone granting you permission to unscrew the cap. Pen that poem you’re afraid of writing. Sign up for that 5K you don’t know if you can finish. Tell that stranger on the bus that she looks great in the color turquoise. Ask that shy girl from your bio class out on a date. Tell that cute boy you like him. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, risking the potential “failures” by viewing them as lessons that will shape you rather than moments that will break you.
There’s always going to be a risk. Maybe people will tell you your poem is unoriginal. Maybe you’ll be too tired to finish that 5K. Maybe that stranger on the bus will raise an awkward eyebrow at your compliment and scoot a few inches away from you. Maybe the shy girl in your bio class will turn down your date offer. Maybe that cute boy will tell you he doesn’t feel the same way about you.
There’s always going to be a reward. Maybe your poem will touch someone’s heart on a difficult day. Maybe you’ll check a 5K off of your bucket list. Maybe your compliment will make that stranger’s day. Maybe the shy girl in your bio class will become your wife (I’m a licensed daydreamer, I am 100% authorized to make bold Disney-flavored claims such as this). Maybe that cute boy will get butterflies during your confession and ask you out on a date.
Even if the rewards don’t match our ideals, they come in another form. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others, even if we experience a little bit of disappointment or embarrassment, we still encounter some massive gains.
Though we may not realize it, whenever we put ourselves into a state of vulnerability, little by little, we are shaping ourselves into more courageous and honest people with better communication skills and more peace of mind. We slowly care less about the way others perceive us and are given the freedom to speak our minds with confidence and humility. We learn how to be graceful winners and losers.
We become wise risk-takers. At weddings, we don’t sit down pretending to be busy eating cake because we’re too self-conscious to showcase our awkward dance moves. We tear up the dance floor all night long in all of our T-Swift glory.
We are able to live fully in every moment with vivacious enthusiasm, honesty, and passion rather than being constrained to a series hypothetical fears and what ifs. Either we face the what ifs now, risking the unpleasant answers, or we live with them for the rest of our lives, risking the unanswered.
Perceived failure or momentary disappointment will never be more haunting than the persisting itch of a dream or a story or a compliment that never left your heart, your pen, or your lips.
So go allow yourself to be vulnerable. Share a little piece of your soul with someone. Give yourself permission to show your true colors to others, and whether they give you a hug, cry happy tears, or point and laugh at you (hopefully the last one won’t happen, unless you’re like Jimmy Fallon, and you make a living through vulnerably offering your humor to the world), remember that with every honest, raw, genuine fragment of yourself you offer to others, you grow one inch closer to a person whom you will be very proud of becoming. I promise.