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When you're comfortable being vulnerable, you're no longer vulnerable

I made a decision a few years ago to stop trying to externally present any version of myself to the world that wasn't authentic and real. It's one of the hardest things to do, because it's so deeply ingrained in our culture to mask what we're really feeling for the purposes of projecting a particular image of ourselves which we want to be seen by others.

Just stop for a second and think about how often you do this.

I've been on an internal crusade on this theme for years now, and I still find myself doing it from time to time. Even this weekend I had a disagreement with my wife, and rather than telling her that what I really needed was to be held, instead I pretended I was fine and that our conversation didn't bother me. The image I wanted to project was that I was stronger than I actually felt in that moment.

There are many emotions we feel and reactions that play out which, when you really get to the bottom of what's driving them, are catalysed by the desire to be loved, the desire to be accepted, the insecurity of not being enough, an aversion to loss, and so on. These desires and insecurities are shared by all of us as humans, and yet we play the game of fiction every day through our projected versions of self. It's an exhausting process, and at the end of the day, it leaves all of us feeling deeply isolated. Unfortunately social media is amplifying this problem for the vast majority of users, where you get the highlights reel of others lives around you, and filtered pictures of their wrinkle free face and six pack abs.

That's why it's so energising and liberating when we have, or are witness to, real conversations with people where they reveal who they really are and what they're really feeling, experiencing and thinking. When we finally break past the facades most of us are carrying, and connect with what's really happening with another human, it gives us permission to feel and experience those emotions ourselves, and gives us the sense of connection and community that we so desperately need as humans.

This sort of transparency and openness is often referred to as vulnerability. With words like vulnerability, I find that language can be limited in its ability to consistently convey meaning and experience. When I think of vulnerability, I think about a dog laying on its back exposing its stomach to a more dominant dog, showing clearly that it poses no threat and is prepared to submit and expose its most vulnerable region to the dominant dog. I see this as physical vulnerability, and it's very real.

However, I feel like we might need a new word to describe vulnerability when it comes to us exposing our thoughts and emotions as humans. My personal experience has been that every time you reveal your true self emotionally, you actually get stronger, and this is in stark contrast to the physical vulnerability mentioned above. It's not to say that it's not possible for people to take advantage of this emotional openness, but as you continue to align your words and actions with how you really feel or what you're really experiencing, it becomes less possible for others to take advantage of you. Your realness becomes an immense source of strength, and those around you can feel it.

In my experience, the result of this process is that when you're comfortable being vulnerable, you're no longer vulnerable.

Think about it, if you're not trying to project some fictitious image of yourself to the people around you, and manage the narrative very carefully so as not to compromise the story, then there's nothing to hide. If you're showing up to all of your interactions authentically, being an open book emotionally, and not trying to pretend you're better, smarter, faster, kinder, more disciplined (choose your descriptor) than you actually are, then the idea that you could make yourself "vulnerable" by saying what you really think or sharing how you're really doing is a moot point. You're not pretending to be perfect, or any other than what you are - a fellow human on the path, trying to figure things out in this shared and interconnected experience we call life.

If any of this strikes a chord with you, then my invitation for you this week is to just start by noticing where there is friction between how you're really feeling inside, and what you're saying/doing/posting to the outside world. Living in the fiction has become so pervasive that we don't even realise we're doing it, and right now you have the opportunity to start developing awareness about this theme in your life.

Don't wait, it only gets harder with time to change these patterns of behaviour.


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