I’m a big crier. For those who know me really well, this statement will come as no surprise because I am self-admittedly a very emotional person.
For many others it will come as a big surprise. ‘But you always seem so happy,’ would be a typical response. And I can’t say I blame most people for thinking that because I can put on a pretty good show. As someone who’s worked in public relations for more than 16 years I am well-versed in keeping my shadows and my sadness hidden. But nevertheless, I have them like everyone else and I am a big crier as a result.
In fact, I can sit at home in the morning, have a good cry for 30 minutes, then get up, wipe my eyes, get dressed and head into work where no one will be any the wiser. They will believe everything is fine in my world. And they will be right, mostly. But I guess like a lot of people, sometimes I’m not okay at all. I get my heart broken too, miss the people I care about who are no longer around, am sometimes disappointed, am occasionally unwell and sometimes I just feel down because life’s too much and I just want to get off the roller coaster and rest for a while.
Now before you begin thinking I’m some basket-case who needs professional psychiatric assistance, let me assure you that I am not crazy. Nor am I usually deliberately choosing to present a ‘together’ face to the world when I’m actually falling apart inside. But what I’m trying to say is two main things.
Firstly, when you see someone who seems like they’ve got it together, there’s a pretty good chance there’s something in their life that probably isn’t as they would like it. And I can guarantee you that they have down days just like you. But they may not show it because they have to ‘get on with it’ and they don’t feel safe to be vulnerable around you for some reason. Maybe it’s not socially appropriate or they’re worried you’ll judge them or dismiss how they feel. I think a lot of people are scared of being vulnerable in front of others for exactly those reasons.
Let’s face it, being vulnerable isn’t exactly encouraged in most parts of our society and, when people do show that side of themselves, it can make other people feel bloody uncomfortable because many of us just don’t want to ‘go there’. And when someone is vulnerable around us then it reflects back all that vulnerability in ourselves that we often want to hide from because there is risk involved in being vulnerable. So frequently our response is to help them ‘pull themselves together’, compartmentalise how they feel, push through it or simply get over it.
Is it any wonder that so many people feel disconnected, depressed, anxious and alone when this avoidance of vulnerability is propagated?
This brings me to my second point; when you are vulnerable you are living from your heart. Vulnerability in its very essence is opening yourself up to feel pain, joy, love and everything in between. It is not about hiding who you are or hiding from yourself.
When I sit and cry for 30 minutes then tell someone that, on that particular day, I feel a complete mess inside, I am being vulnerable. And I can appreciate that some people find that incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve had people tell me I’m too emotional, I over-think things, I need to compartmentalise and so on. And that’s okay because I understand why people say that to me.
But for me, it is my willingness to be vulnerable that means I’m truly living from my heart. It is my willingness to go there and feel what I feel (however painful) that means I’m being honest with myself about where I’m at and what’s important to me. And over-riding all of that is the knowledge that it is only by being truly vulnerable that I can truly walk my path with integrity because I am not denying any part of me.
I can’t lie and say living this way is always comfortable. Sometimes being vulnerable will leave you feeling raw inside. Sometimes you will feel like you are on a road blocked with sharp-edged boulders that you have to climb over.
It’s challenging but I have to go there because I don’t know how to be any other way and, ultimately, I believe that if you’re not willing to be vulnerable then you’re actually missing out on the fullness of the human experience.
When I was in year 4, a girl in year 7 came up to me and asked, “Are you wearing a bra?”
How is an eight year old supposed to know what a bra is?
I asked my Mum, “What’s a bra?” She just looked down my top, squealed with joy in her voice and said, “It’s time to go shopping, you DO have little boobies”.
Really? Like, really? At the age of eight?
There was no turning back from there. I was an early “bloomer” (as some people put it). Not long afterwards a year 7 boy said I looked like Shannon Doherty from Beverly Hills 90210.
On my expedition later that week to buy a bra with my Mum, a girl in my brother’s year level asked me, “How’s your new boyfriend Tom?”
My mother instantly slapped me across the face and I burst into tears.
I am from a first generation migrant family and I wasn’t supposed to know boys existed until marriage. It was also the 1980s and hitting children wasn’t frowned upon.
So my first experience of being “liked” didn’t turn out so well. As you can imagine, I developed an unhealthy body and sexual image of myself at a young age. Was it because I had boobs? Did I really start to look like Shannon?
I didn’t want to be pretty. I didn’t want to get into trouble.
It didn’t get better as I got older. My boobs grew bigger, my face became prettier and more boys and men noticed me as I reached my teens and young adulthood.
I struggled in a few unhealthy relationships growing up. I didn’t know if it was due to my looks or maybe I wasn’t compatible with the men I dated.
I wasn’t redirected to focus on the more important aspects in life, rather than the external attributes I possessed. I found it hard to embrace the way I looked. I grew up getting compliments. I still do.
But I’m 30 now. I have two beautiful daughters and my husband would say they look like me. And although my face is ageing slowly, I’m embracing every minute I have this face. More importantly, I focus my daughters’ attention on how well they can read, count, play, and show love, affection and manners. The looks are a given but they don’t determine the level of success you possess as a human being.
Women are the biggest critics and the most supportive beings towards one another. Mothers have the biggest impacts on their daughters. I’m blessed to have mine and blessed to be one now.
Aurora S is a woman, lover, friend and mother with a passion for lifelong learning. She has a serious job but doesn’t take life too seriously.
My friend Adam kindly invited me to one of his workshops the other day and afterwards I told him it was good for me because I felt like I was the dumbest person in the room…and that’s not a feeling I’d had for a little while.
Now, before you start muttering under your breath what an arrogant so-and-so I am, bear with me.
You see, I’m a teacher and a consultant and that means when I’m talking to people in classes or in one-on-one sessions I usually have more knowledge about the subject at hand than the person I’m talking to. After all, that’s why they’re paying me because I know stuff they don’t know…yet.
And I’ve also got into a rut of doing the same types of things. That is, I’ve been doing things I know a bit about.
But unfortunately that means I’m not being pushed. I mean, so often in life we spend our time building on a bit of knowledge we already have. Usually we’ll know a little bit about something to start off with, and then we’ll go and learn more.
But to sit in a workshop like I did, where I had no knowledge of the subject, was a challenge. It was really hard and my brain resisted the process every step of the way.
As the hours passed it wanted to drift off to other more well-known and comfortable topics.
“How is this relevant?” my brain asked.
“This isn’t your thing.”
“You are never going to get this,” it derided.
Like a runaway horse I had to keep reining my brain back to the present and persevere.
Adam was talking about the brain and how it repeats patterns that stop us reaching our potential and my brain was resisting (how surprising!). It was quite happy with its own patterns thank you very much!
Was I enjoying myself?
Um, no. Most of the time I felt like I was back in my year 12 maths class – trust me that was never fun.
It was uncomfortable. It was stressful.
Other people in the room were nodding as Adam made key points while I sat there feeling like a complete moron and thinking, “Help!!! I only understood half of what he just said.”
But I kept going.
At the end of the workshop I realised I had actually managed to absorb a couple of points. I did ‘get it’ – well a bit of ‘it’ anyway.
And that was enough, for now.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 41 years, it’s that sometimes my brain will resist the very thing that will help me the most. It’s quite happy with its habits and its patterns. But that’s not helping me to grow or expand my world. That’s not helping me to get where I want to go on this great adventure that is my life.
So in a couple of weeks I’m going to do another one of Adam’s workshops. I’m going to pull and stretch my brain into shapes it’s never been in before.
I’m also going to bravely (or some might say, foolishly) try some other things where I’m going to be the dumbest person in the room.
Because I know it will do me good to be uncomfortable and I’ll learn some new stuff too.
And my brain will just have to get comfortable with that.
I had coffee with a university colleague Bindi* the other day and she asked me how my business was going.
I squirmed in my seat and hesitated for a moment before answering. We hadn’t caught up for a few months and I knew it was time to tell her I was psychic and that part of my business revolved around that.
But I was a little bit afraid.
You see, now that my professional life and my psychic life are colliding I sometimes get a little afraid of judgement. In my weaker moments I worry that my colleagues, who’ve always seen me as very professional, might think I’ve turned into a flake.
I’m not a flake of course. I am who I am.
I don’t go around ramming my psychic gifts down people’s throats. But sometimes I need to tell people about it and that means being vulnerable – not always a comfortable feeling.
I wasn’t sure what Bindi’s response would be. But I stumbled over my explanation and waited a little anxiously for her response.
Of course, as so often happens when we try to read other people’s minds and worry about what they’ll think, Bindi was totally fine about.
She was intrigued and supportive and totally lovely.
So, what did I learn from that experience?
I learned once again that being vulnerable and open with people about who I really am, doesn’t always result in harsh judgement from others.
I shouldn’t assume that people will think I’m weird just because I tell them I’m different.
I am different. We all are. And that’s what makes us all so very special.
And our greatest ‘specialness’ of all is the human ability to be vulnerable; not to seek the approval of others, but just to be authentic, be true to ourselves and be who we really are…individuals.