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.