I drew a stick figure.
A word that I know I’ve used before, but somehow when asked to actually explain its meaning, I find myself at a loss of words. And ultimately asking this question:
What does being vulnerable actually mean?
Is it sharing your darkest secrets, talking through your weaknesses, letting people into your life that you normally wouldn’t, or is it all the above? I don’t have a solid answer to this question, but what I do know, being vulnerable means something different to every individual, so I can’t sit here and tell you what being vulnerable actually means and I can’t really full explain what it means for me because I’m still figuring it out, but I am going to give you a bit of insight to my perspective.
Vulnerability as defined by google is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”. The very connotation of the definition is negative, it almost suggests that the only consequences of vulnerability are being attacked or harmed which I find to be extremely misleading. I do not see vulnerability as a weakness, I do not see people who are as weak, but I don’t think that makes it any easier to do so. If anything, it is extremely brave to put yourself out there for other people’s judgement. In class we started discussing vulnerability, and exploring ways we keep ourselves from being this way. Before class I had never really thought about if I was “vulnerable”, but after learning a little more about is I realized that being vulnerable is something that makes me uncomfortable. It reminded me about something I went through recently.
About a month ago I decided to tell my mom about having an anxiety attack, I won’t go into the gory details, but it was a very low point for me. I regretted telling her seconds later, because of her immediate reaction to hire a therapist. I was not super enthused about the idea mostly because it was on a weekend, but I went with it anyway because I’m not the type of person to judge a person or situation before even confronting it. So, Saturday rolls around and It’s 6:00 pm and I’m sitting on my bed listening to “bad day” very unironically because I was having a great day, when the therapist walks in, lets call her Glenda. She walks in and sits on the couch in front of me, and before I can even take a deep breath to mentally prepare myself for the following hour of torture, she began spitting questions at me.
Her questions were nothing, out of the ordinary or complex, but they did require me to share what I feel is extremely personal information with a complete stranger. I couldn’t wrap my head around that this woman thought she could just walk into my room, into my life and immediately request my trust. It really ticked me off especially because she could see how uncomfortable I was and then after some back and forth of me dodging her invasive questions, Glenda asked me to draw a person on a piece of paper. I was slightly relieved, because this meant I did not have to forcefully spit out ingenuine responses, so I grabbed the pencil and paper and drew a stick figure ( I am no artist) . I handed her the paper, and I could tell by her expression she was anything but impressed.
“The only thing this picture tells me, is that you don’t want to share anything”.
And she was totally right. I didn’t. I barely speak to people in my family about anything, much less personal things, how was I supposed to trust some stranger with a degree?
I never saw Glenda again after that session, I had to beg my mom on hands and knees to cancel it. I kept on trying to tell myself that I didn’t like it because, I was put out, by her walking in and expecting me to trust her right off the bat, but I realized my issue with it was deeper. I didn’t want to talk to her because, I didn’t want judgement. I didn’t want some random person to judge how I live my life, to tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right. I don’t need that. More than that it kind of scared me to think of going through that again, the feeling of discomfort in that moment that I felt sitting there, in what is my safe place, with foreigner blasting questions at me. Even though it was unsavory, It made me realize the reluctance I have to share how I feel with not only others, but to accept it myself.
I have strict parents, I always have, and I have always felt that me and my sister were raised more in the sense to fear/ respect our parents as godlike figures, in contrast to a friendship. I’m not complaining, it’s just the way it is. I was never reprimanded for crying, or told that showing emotion was a weakness, but because I felt I could never trust anyone at home, I just assumed that the healthy thing to do was keep my problems to myself. Now I find myself, talking myself out of being vulnerable with the phrase: no one will really understand. Sometime it does feel like no one could possibly understand my unique complex emotions if not even I myself can fully understand them. I know we all go through things, and some of the things we go through might relate, but no two people will ever have the same problems, and it’s scary to share something and not be understood. I crave understanding, and compassion.
Being vulnerable is scary, but what really helps me is thinking small first. The realness of talking about how I feel about certain things is too real, and I find writing to be so much more empowering for me. There is something so special about starting to write something totally random and then finishing up on a completely different topic, sometimes even finding yourself writing things you never even knew you felt. Writing has become my way of venting and reflecting, like how someone would vent to a person.
I still struggle with it, I even put off this blog for weeks, because I couldn’t quite think of the right words to say how I feel about it and I’m still not sure that I did. It’s all a learning process, learning from Glenda, from class, from my parents, from writing. All I know is the first step is self reflection.