Living Out Loud
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Living Out Loud

Why We Must Permit Ourselves to be Vulnerable

Let’s drop the armour and allow ourselves to vent, heal and grow.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

“Everyone is allowed to be vulnerable. I think women and men and dogs and cats and ants and aliens can all express themselves and be vulnerable.”

— Melanie Martinez

Childhood — the foundation that determines our adulthood.

The pain, loss, and trauma shape our adulthood.

Are we an introvert or extrovert or an ambivert, are we social, or do we prefer solitude? Are we comfortable being ourselves, or do we need always to put an armour up? This and many more aspects of our personality are shaped during our years of childhood.

Growing up, I never saw my mother cry. She went through her struggle, and I always thought that her struggles toughened her up. She would always share her triumphs and losses with an iron heart and thought this was her way of moulding us to be strong individuals to deal with the harshness of reality.

But one day, when she cried, I didn’t know how to react.

It was as if someone had whisked the ground beneath my feet, and I felt my whole world shatter. I thought that I couldn’t survive and knew that my heart would eventually stop beating.

While this is how I was feeling internally, externally, I was that iron heart woman she made me. I refused to cry when she finally, for once, let her armour down. No matter how much I wanted to weep, I gulped down my emotions because, at that moment, I wanted to be her strong pillar like she was for me when life knocked me down.

Seeing my mom going through a moment of vulnerability hit me hard. I realised that parents have their hardships too, so why hide them? Is it because of their nature to protect and make us strong? Or is it that they don’t want to burden us with their troubles, not realising that their children will know what’s bothering them one day or another?

Vulnerability Begets Vulnerability

I am not a parent; god willing, if I do someday, only then I will know what it truly feels like. But that day, I realised that we all are vulnerable, we all make mistakes, and no matter how much we say to ourselves, we can deal with this on our own — eventually, the dam breaks and tears get a space to fall and sink into our clothes.

I learnt a critical lesson that day. Only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of others can we handle it when others drop their armour. But this is only possible if we allow ourselves to feel weak in the first place.

For so many years, while growing up, I thought I must stay strong because that’s how my parents were, but I was so wrong. When I realised that parents are just doing their best and have their down moments, too, they can feel the need to vent and cry and not feel as though they are putting a burden on their children.

So often, we feel that when we drop our armour, we are adding our troubles to someone else’s shoulder. But we don’t realise that when we don’t reveal how we feel, and one fine day we do, the person seeing this vulnerability doesn’t know how to deal with it.

We Must Create a Safe Space to be Vulnerable

Life teaches us countless lessons, and there is a first time for everything. When we are dealing with someone else’s vulnerability for the first time, our mind and body don’t know how to react, but eventually, we learn, and with time, we become better.

But this learning could only be possible because we created a safe space for someone else to vent how they feel. This only happens when –

  • The other person trusts us.
  • The other person feels that we won’t be judgemental.
  • The other person feels that we will listen rather than emote how we think.
  • The other person can confide in you.
  • The other person knows that their personal life won’t be shared.
  • The other person can count on you to help in the best possible way that you can.

And how do we learn to be all of this? It’s only when someone else did all the above when we were at our lowest.

Some of us got lucky. We met those people who knew how to deal with our pain. They taught us to do the same. But over time, this safe space is threatened through filtered lives and only one emotion expressed on social media — happiness.

We need to understand that behind that happiness, there is a world of emotions no one wants to talk about as they feel they will be judged, trolled, bullied, be seen as weak etc. We need to permit ourselves to be vulnerable, yes, but we also need to create a safe space for the same.

If we don’t allow ourselves to be honest about our emotions, imagine how others will, and we all will be dying within fighting a battle that can be won only if we allow ourselves to express how we feel. But the harsh truth is that we don’t permit ourselves because we don’t want to be seen as weak.

Maybe we don’t need permission. Perhaps we need to make it mandatory. We need to tell ourselves that nothing is more important than mental peace. Nothing is more important than an honest conversation with our loved ones. Nothing is more important than expressing our dark and light thoughts without judgements.

Because if we want to make our surroundings better, we need to start with ourselves. And that is only possible when we promise ourselves to feel whatever we want and, in turn, permit someone else to do the same.

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