I think vulnerability is hard for a lot of people. We don’t like to let our guards down and become defenseless in most situations. And I get that. Who wants to throw herself out there and chance the embarrassment? The flight response is a natural one. In my classroom, I try to take the time to create little moments of comfortable vulnerability with my students, but this always requires careful thought. Even students who naturally have an easy time at school often feel insecure about their work, especially writing. Since they do a lot of writing in my class, I feel it is so important to help them become at ease because I think they need to be vulnerable and honest with themselves before they can truly grow.
Beyond the walls of my classroom, vulnerability still plays a crucial rule in my life. My kids are young enough to be (pretty much) constantly vulnerable, and that, my friend, might be another whole story. But on a serious note, their vulnerability is charming; they literally live and breath to get attention and love. The importance of these exposed feelings is obvious; they are creating the foundations of relationships that will build them into the people they will become and the jobs they will eventually venture into.
Vulnerability is also huge within friendships. Is there anyone less relatable than the girl who lies about the fact that she ugly cried into a bowl of overly salted popcorn while watching Armageddon? There’s no point in hiding the fact that you did this or that you bought yourself a box of animal crackers the next day on the way home from work. Vulnerability equals genuine relatability. And good relatability (could we call this relationships?) makes the world go round.
And in the mom world, we gotta be ok with it, too. One of my five-year-olds pooped in the backyard the other day (yes it was in broad daylight, and no we don’t have a dog). At first I was embarrassed, but then I remembered what a thief embarrassment can be. Who cares? $hit literally (and figuratively) happens. If I’m not willing to throw the honest me out there, I’m not willing to plant the roots for the best connections and nourishment: real, good relationships. And in the much more serious moments of Mom life (marriage struggles, financial issues, mental and physical health issues), vulnerability is so much better than a false, picture perfect life. Be the mom who lets her kids poop in the yard (maybe). Be the mom who lets another mom help her out (always). Be the mom who admits that she doesn’t have it all together(definitely).
Yet it is this last relationship where I think vulnerability is the (dare I say) MOST significant. That relationship is the relationship of marriage. These days, I am sure there are essential personality traits needed to make a marriage real and forever. It’s not about timing or similar interests; it’s about qualities like vulnerability that are bottled up inside each individual and their willingness to adapt. There is no luck. Cupid is not out there shooting arrows. There is no special kiss waiting for you on the lips of Prince Charming.
A while back, (could’ve been a month; could’ve been a few years…my brain is foggy this morning) a post titled “Marriage isn’t for You” went viral. The author explained how he had a serious conversation with his dad before getting married. His father responded by saying that we can’t think about ourselves in marriage; we do it (and everything) for the significant other. There is no room for selfishness.
There is a lot, in that post, that resonates with me. I agree that selflessness is essential. You have to put other people (your partner and then kids if you have them) before yourself. You cannot have your own strict agenda because it will surely be wrecked. You will never find happiness if you pursue what it is in life that makes only you happy. Selflessness requires you to act purely and let other’s needs take the wheel while your needs sit in the back seat.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that vulnerability might be even more important. You could be endlessly willing to put other people before yourself, but it gets really good when you can allow yourself to see that someone else will always be there for you. Significant growth can’t happen if your guard is always up. Allow yourself to show what’s hiding even if it is ugly, broken, and messy.
While I’m clearly biased, I know that I hit the jackpot in the husband department. (Mushy stuff…right?) I found a sweet, smart, and funny man who shows me every day that having high expectations for a husband and dad is ok. But you don’t just walk into a good marriage. Old walls fall down so newer, stronger, common walls can be built. Our walls are constructed around security and vulnerability. I could be altruistic all the days of my life, but I also had to learn to let him do the same for me.
So if you’re out this week and feel the walls of embarrassment starting to tower over you, try to fight that. Let yourself be vulnerable and open up to those around you. It might feel awkward at first, but soon the warmth of honest emotion will fill in the cold gaps.