Living Honest and Choosing Vulnerability
Or, the complexity of accepting vulnerability in the everyday.
I made a choice.
I decided I would live honest.
I had spent too much of my time, held by ideas and systems and other peoples decisions and beliefs.
I decided I would share honestly online, as well as offline.
I decided I would share my heart, and engage in conversations that mattered.
I decided it was more important to be honest, to share my truth, my experience, my words — then to continue in silence, as I had done before.
Maybe it was because up until this last year, I had spent too much of my life being held by ideas and systems and other peoples decisions and beliefs. I spent so much of my life in restrictive spaces that told me how to live, how to dress, how to talk, how to be palatable, and how to fit in to the community. This made me give a big middle-finger to the system, a delightful “fuck you” to those who would rather I stayed quiet.
I remember when a mentor told me that I had to be careful what I posted online, because it was how I interacted online that people would judge me. I was told I would lose opportunities if I spoke out about some of the things I cared about. I remember being afraid to speak honestly about how I felt towards my religion, my community, spirituality, and my work — because my honesty, my truth, and my lived experiences, as well as what I had learned and studied, had no place in those spaces.
I was afraid, because I had learned that honesty equalled ostracism.
This is not community. Being controlled in this way is not healthy.
And even now, these voices, these fears — they still resonate.
But this fear, it does not save me from danger, it hides me from wonder.
This is why I chose to be honest. This is why I chose to be vulnerable.
I chose vulnerability. I chose the uncertainty that comes with vulnerability. The fear that comes with sharing your heart. And, of course, with choosing vulnerability, I unwittingly welcomed the “vulnerability hangover” to occasionally be a real, true part of my life.
I spent two weeks in a vulnerability hangover because I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know enough about it, I didn’t know how to help myself out of it.
I didn’t recognise it.
As a creative sharing creative work and as someone barrelling through her own healing journey and sharing parts of that, too, I’d forgotten to recognise the vulnerability hangover.
“Vulnerability hangover” was coined by Brene Brown in her TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability”. She uses the term to explain the fear and regret and uncertainty that you experience after being — you guessed it — vulnerable. It’s the fear, the regret, the anxiety we feel after we start to be real, honest, and not hide our truest Selves.
It can come after a big conversation, it can show up after a life-altering event, it can show itself after any significant change.
It could come up when you quit your well-paying job to follow your heart, or when you finally commit to a relationship, or when you have a conversation with a friend about your anxiety, or when you share a piece of creative work online. It could come up when you write, and write honest, about who you are and where you’ve been.
When we choose to connect with the deep parts of ourselves we find that its these deep parts, these honest places, that define who we really are. It’s these definitions of who we really are, which are the most terrifying. It’s when we are sharing ourselves, being ourselves through the terror, that we are our most brave.
It’s when we make the life changes — when we commit to what we love, have the honest conversations, share those deep parts of ourselves, choose to create and share our art — that the fear, the doubt, the uncertainty can hit the hardest. But it’s when we choose to do it anyway, that we are our most true self, our most courageous self. It is then that we open the doors to wonder, and choose to no longer hide from perceived danger.
Still, vulnerability is not celebrated, in much of the Western world. It’s certainly not celebrated in many religious spaces, unless you call vulnerability something that is a glossy, hidden, fake version.
We need to change that. We need to choose honest. We need to choose ourselves. We need to choose wonder.
Our hearts depend on it.
So we need to understand that in these early times, we’ll get hit. We’ll feel the vulnerability hangover — the crushing fear of sharing our Self.
But we will still be here. We can choose honest anyway.
When you are taught something is true for so long, it is incredibly hard to shake it. When you are taught that something is bad, it’s incredibly hard to allow it. Vulnerability was that “something bad”.
You might think you’ve shaken it; that it’s gone and buried. Thank god, you’ll say, as you move on with your life. You’ll move on, too, and it will be beautiful… only to find this truth-that-is-not-true waiting around an unturned corner, ready to remind you it exists.
Have you experienced this?
An unlearning, an experience you have moved past, a truth you have come to realise is not so true after all — a societal expectation, a piece of family ‘wisdom’, something your parents or your friend drilled into you without you even getting a chance to analyse it?
If we’ve existed in a culture that doesn’t celebrate vulnerability, it can be terribly hard to unlearn that aversion. You might think you have unlearned it, only to find it peeping up around a corner for you, too.
The gripping fear in the face of being honest, vulnerable, both online and offline, arrived around an unturned corner for me. The taught truth-that-is-not-true — that being honest is not safe, that being honest is not good, that being honest means being ostracised — has rekindled this fear, this aversion to vulnerability.
But I am still here. I can choose honest anyway.
In the spaces I spent most of my formative years in, it was so easy to know how to be.
It was easy to ‘be’, because being meant hiding and not engaging with this vulnerability. To ‘be’ was to hide, to gloss over the ‘less palatable’ places.
But, I am learning. I am learning to be in all my fullness and with no more hiding.
I am engaging in honesty, practicing it, cultivating it, and I’ll keep doing it, even when it hurts, even when the vulnerability hangovers come crashing in, even when it’s terrifying.
Still, I’ll choose honest, anyway.