"In order for connection to happen...we have to allow ourselves to be seen." - Brené Brown
Vulnerability. It's a word I never spoke until my therapist made me. It's a word I never believed...until I had no more strength. Like a number of black women, I've spent a bulk of my life running and being "superwoman"-taking care of everybody and anybody...but me. I bottled up everything, because "vulnerability" made me look weak. I never wanted to appear weak. I've always wanted to be confident, strong, fierce, and most importantly....together. Vulnerability didn't fit in those things.
Healing. I didn't realize I had to heal, until I recognized the cycle of patterns I found myself repeating- dead end relationships, emotional unavailability, avoiding attachment(s), and my lack of boundaries. The combination of these things led me to therapy to face my inner demons, tackle by anxious attachment style, and sit on the couch as yet another woman working through issues with mommy and daddy.
Connection. If you actually watched the video above, you'll hear Ms. Brown state "In order for connection to happen...we have to allow ourselves to be seen." But, what happens when the people who 'see' us don't like what they see? What if they deem our darkest selves...our insecurities....our baggage... 'ugly'? These were questions I bounced off my therapist. And she looked at me and simply said, "Then those people aren't meant to be." Connection. I spent much of childhood wanting this....wanting to be seen, but somehow...always feeling rejected- from the father who left, from the mother who was not present, from men I thought could fill those gaps, and a host of people who somehow managed to make me feel...like I wasn't good enough. I always wanted connection to fill these voids, but running when it actually came. I blamed it on "daddy issues" that I never knew what "love" was...or how to "be" in a healthy relationship....or how to "let" someone actually love me. Simply put, I feared the same thing that I also always desired-intimacy.
I was talking to a good friend last night who I had not talked to in years. From the almost four hours we remained on the phone, you would think we saw each other just yesterday. We caught up from years ago to the present, spilling over what we missed, rambling about what life looks like now, and discussing what obstacles we'd overcome since. After realizing how much we'd grown over the past couple of years, I was faced with my biggest obstacle ever-vulnerability.
You see...ever since my therapist made me watch Brené's Ted Talk above, I made a pact with myself that I was going to be more intentional about being transparent...and "wearing" my story (with safe people, of course). I promised I'd be more open in efforts to attract healthy people and relationships...that'd be open to me. Now, it's only be a few months of me working on this. But in just these few months, and even last night...a few things have been solidified for me.
1) Healing is not done in isolation. It's a trap to fall in, to believe that you can heal all by yourself. I tried it...went away...came back...Trust me, THAT SHIT DOES NOT WORK. I've been such a "Out of sight, out of mind" person. With everything. Internal issues. Relationships. Conflict. You name it. I'd just cast it to the side, "escape", let it just float away (or so I think), come back, and then it's "Okay. We're good now. Situation squashed. I forgive you." Read this, weep, and say it with me- "That is not healthy". In fact, much of my success so far in working through my stuff is only possible BECAUSE of other people....BECAUSE of my therapist...BECAUSE she forced me to elicit a support system....BECAUSE I am make the effort to be better at communicating....BECAUSE I am now opening up more to my friends and family....BECAUSE I take time to love on the younger, most inner me...who's always just wanted a little lovin'.
2) There is intimacy....in friendships. When I would think of the word intimacy, I would always jump straight to thinking about a man, a boyfriend, or a husband....never friendship...or even family. But intimacy, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means familiarity...closeness. And that closeness...comes with friends. In fact, some of my most private and intimate moments...have been with people who were not family...but who were companions....or what I now believe were soul mates. I've seen some of my friends at their darkest moments....wanting to give into their own mental traps...in despair and in tears on the bathroom floor crying...in need and not knowing what the next chapter will bring. A particular friendship I will never forget was as intimate and close as intimate and close could get....because we were our true selves. We cried together, had sleepovers like kids and watched movies together, talked about the world together, discussed our dreams, admitted our fears, and when life got tough....I knew I could count of them to wipe my tears (especially in a Waffle House. Lol we loved going to Waffle House). I think one of our most memorable moments was Valentine's Day one year. Both of us were single. So, that only meant one thing......We had to dress up, go out, and pretend to be married. Moments like this...I will never forget. And sure...every friendship won't last. Everyone has their "stuff"...their baggage....their journey they have to travel. And just like life, no friendship is guaranteed to last forever. But moments like the aforementioned remind me...there is more to life than "being with" another person. Especially as a woman feeling the pressure sometimes to date, settle down, get married, and have a family...this point is important. Connection is not just fulfilled through family....or marriage. Intimacy is with your friends, too. So find your people. Love the fuck out of your people. And...make memories.
3) Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. Vulnerability takes strength. It goes without saying that many people think this. We can be hypocrites, if you really think about it. We want people to be raw, honest, and "keep it 100" with us. But, when it's time to flip the script? We're scared, anxious, fail to communicate, run,;etc. Suddenly, when it's our time to uphold our end of the bargain...it makes a look "weak". I'm here to affirm that this narrative is false. Ms. Brown describes vulnerability as the core of all emotions. "To feel is to be vulnerable." And y'all....that takes strength. It takes courage to live in your truth and to stand FIRM, UNAPOLOGETIC, and BEAUTIFUL in that. Being vulnerable connects us to the people meant to stay in our lives and alerts us of the people who shouldn't. It opens us to the good things we desire and need as human beings-connection, love, joy, empathy. As Brown states....“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”
As I close, I challenge you today....to be vulnerable. Let someone in. Connect. Find your tribe..and learn how you can love each other better. Heal. Don't rush, what I guarantee, will take a lifetime. And fill in this statement that Ms. Brown asked of her own research participants- "Vulnerability is ____________________."
Vulnerability is learning how to love. ♡