Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability. —- Brene Brown
Vulnerability requires an amount of personal courage. When someone asks you, “How are you doing?”, how do you respond? Do you hide? Do you tell him or her that your husband is on the brink of losing his job or your exasperated with your children or you having a midlife crisis on your place in the world? The usual response, I’ve found, is that people smile and respond with, “I am doing fine. Things are good.” I wonder how much of that is really true and what is really happening behind the smile and that automatic response.
In the last two years, Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly and her other respective works, inspired my own journey regarding vulnerability. Part of my reasons for writing 40 letters to commemorate my milestone birthday was to let people know how they made an impact on my life. At the core of this process is vulnerability. While writing these letters, I plunged into parts of my past and unearthed some raw emotions. I chose to put what I felt, all of it, the potpourri of the good and the bad, in written form to 40 people who impacted my life. As I sent them, I let a part of myself go. Did I expect some of my authenticity to boomerang back? I would be lying if I did not say, yes. What happened in the weeks following my writing of these letters, surprised me. I wanted to send these letters without expectation, but I am not evolved enough to say that people’s reaction do not matter. At least for me, when you write a letter, you set yourself up for a response. Some of my letters were met with silence, others simply wrote, I received your letter. There were a handful who wrote back, thanked me personally, or sent a meaningful text.
Living with the silence of those who did not respond made me feel even more vulnerable. In the last two years, the lessons of vulnerability pushes me to tears. Lately, I’ve questioned whether I am vulnerable with the wrong people. How do you handle rejection when your intent is to be a thoughtful and vulnerable person? When an individual rejects your vulnerability, how do you respond? Do you risk telling them your true feelings or do you decide to invest less time in trying to cultivate a relationship with that person? I’ve learned hard lessons on how people can be so transient, so self-involved, and wavering in their loyalties, that vulnerability is becoming problematic for me. I want to be vulnerable, but I need to lessen my expectations when people choose not respond in the way that I expect. It makes me more tentative, but I know that it’s when I can feel unattached to my expectations that I’ve really felt the true meaning of vulnerability. Like everything else, I know it is a process.
Vulnerability is not intended to be immediate.
You have described to a tee how I have been feeling lately…feelings that are bubbling constantly and simultaneously agitating and bringing me down and yet I had no words to describe them until I read this.
First I have to say I admire you for having opened yourself up to reach out to those individuals. It is so easy for me to say, from the outside, to not take things personally, that there are probably reasons other than rejection that you have not heard from some of those people. Maybe they don’t know how to respond or what to say. Maybe they are thinking of your words and letting them sink in, and have an intention to respond later when they find the words. I have a very close friend that I feel conflicted about sometimes, because she will tell me that I can talk to her about anything, and yet when I do go to her with something weighty, she does not respond…it hurts, and I end up feeling intense regret for having opened myself up only to be rejected. But a while ago she had confessed that she always felt inferior in her ability to write and express herself, so deep down I think that is what keeps her from responding to me.
But I know how you feel. I feel that way often when I blog. I have a very small handful of friends (I mean non-blog friends) who will give me feedback once in a while, but others don’t acknowledge my blog. I feel very vulnerable each and every time, because without the feedback I am left to fill in the blanks myself…which is usually not a good thing. To be honest I am entering that stage right now where I feel as though I have opened up too much, but comments from readers/friends like yourself and this post make me realize I’m not alone.
Thanks so much for writing this, Rudri. I understand how you are feeling now but I hope you don’t have regrets. A friend of mine used to say that we never have to worry about having erred on the side of being too kind.
I know how you feel, Rudri. I always want instant gratification, and it doesn’t come. I suppose it’s a lesson in cultivating inner strength, in not needing any outside validation. And I guess that kind of confidence takes a lot of time, even though I wish it came a little sooner. (But if it were easy—as they say—all of us would do it! And we wouldn’t get the true joy we gain from growing at a slower pace.)
Oh, I would have written you back! I’m so sorry that happened to you. 🙁 And sure, we know not to “expect” a response but if you take the time to write a heartfelt letter (something nobody does these days), a response would be a welcome thing.
I suffer the same vulnerability–I always question myself, my writing, my efforts in all areas. I’m like a sponge, when I need to be bone. xoxo
Vulnerability is such a raw and lonely place though we each suffer through it at times, and yes, we can be vulnerable to the wrong people. It is part of the growth process. I hope you get more return letters to make you feel validated. You are a beautiful soul, my friend.
I think it’s observations and experiences like these that actually help me clarify where to spend my time, energy and maybe vulnerability. I used to think I needed to invest in everyone who happened to be in my life. As I’ve aged and life’s beaten me up a bit, I’ve learned or decided that time is too precious to waste on false friends. Harsh, maybe. But if a gal has five close, dear friends, I consider her blessed. I know you have that. Enjoy that blessing. Pour your heart and life there. And don’t worry about the ones who don’t love you back. Love what is in them but don’t expect much more.
You have blessed friendships because you are an extraordinary friend. The kind of friend everyone longs for. It’s true. So tuck that reality in your back pocket and release those who are sucking life out of you. Xoxo
Aww Rudri, it’s hard for me to accept that we open ourselves to someone and that they don’t realize the gift that it is. We are met by silence. I am sorry this happened to you and I hope you allow yourself to be vulnerable in the future. xoxo
” I want to be vulnerable, but I need to lessen my expectations when people choose not respond in the way that I expect.” This is exactly what I need to work on. Opening yourself up is a scary thing, but I need to do it with less expectations. I need to learn that people are entitled to whatever reaction they have and that it does not necessarily reflect poorly on me. Thanks for the reminder.