Vulnerability In Balance

In the last few posts (Beautiful Vulnerability, The Usefulness of Vulnerability), I've been talking quite a lot about vulnerability - not only because in my own journey I've come to see it as a strength and not a weakness, but also because I'd like to keep my blog as open and honest as possible. I would have given anything when I was younger to have a resource like this, a person like me who was willing to share their suffering so that I knew I wasn't isolated in mine. A person who shared real-world strategies that might be helpful to me. A person who stood up against stigma and empowered me to advocate for myself.

I've shared about my childhood here, and while there are still things I've left out, I've tried hard to be honest and open about my experiences. I've tried to be as fair as possible, even to the people responsible for guiding my experiences with abuse and other forms of trauma - both for the better and for the worse.

I'm not sharing my story in order to hurt anyone who is, or has been, part of it - I'm sharing it because when I talk about what it was like to be beaten and battered, I hope it gives encouragement to someone else. You don't have to surrender to statistics. It might be harder, but you can overcome.

I'm not sharing to shame, either - I'm sharing to empower. I want so much for this site to be a place of encouragement and empowerment. I don't know your experience (although you're welcome to share with me at any time, in whichever way is most comfortable for you), but do I know there's a reason we teach our kids there's strength in numbers: because there is. Sometimes pain doesn't hurt as bad if there's companionship - and the darkness is never as dark with two candles lit as it is with just one.

I suppose there's truth in "misery loves company" too, but I don't think it's because hurt people want to hurt people. It's just because humans are made to be communal creatures - we crave similarity, solidarity, a sense of belonging and community. Even in pain, we want to know we aren't alone.

So I share. But I share in a balance that works for me - and because that balance hasn't been easy to come by, I'd like to share some of the factors that play into what creates the right balance for me.

Weakness VS Strength
Vulnerability is about more than neediness, and it's more than being weak enough to need too - because need is there, whether we admit to it or not. We need companionship, respect, love, acceptance, community, and keeping those needs quietly hidden away doesn't remove them from existence. What's more, hiding from those needs, especially when they're not being met, can lead to several devastating consequences.

Refusal to be vulnerable is often due to fear of intimacy and a desire to avoid looking weak, but ignoring the signs and being too "strong" to share a "weakness" with like-minded others can only eventually lead to isolation. And while we may be perfectly happy - for a time - to pretend we enjoy or actually prefer to be alone, this is rarely truly the case.

But personally, I don't think anyone hiding from vulnerability is doing it from strength; I believe true strength is in having the power of self to know, understand, and admit to our wants and needs - and not only in the silence of our private thoughts, either. True strength is found in knowing who we are, as well as in our willingness to share our weakness with others in an effort to spread encouragement.

Openness VS Oversharing
Oversharing. It's a term we use all the time - most usually when we don't like someone else's level of comfort with openness. We use "oversharing" as a way to describe the activities of food sharers on Instagram, baby-obsessed new parents on Facebook, the ignorant and sometimes offensive one-liners of would-be comedians on Twitter.

"We don't need to see every picture of the baby," we grumble. "I don't care what you ate for lunch!" we grouch. "I don't know why that guy/girl thinks they need to put every thought in their head out on the internet," we gripe.

The thing is, that "overshare" we might be so annoyed/irritated/threatened by ... might be just enough openness for the other party. Maybe they like sharing their food photos because it keeps them accountable as they adjust to dietary restrictions they may not be entirely happy with. Maybe they share all those descriptions of their new baby's every poop and cough and sneeze and giggle because they're insecure as new parents and looking for feedback from their community. Maybe they put their thoughts out into the world through the miracle of the internet because they want to be heard, or they feel like they have something valuable to share, or because, like me, they hope their openness will empower others as they journey through lives that aren't always easy.

Courage VS Anxiety
(fear of risk, shame, rejection, etc.)
There's a certain courage required in order to nurture the ability to be openly vulnerable. Even in sharing on a platform like this one - blogging for the open, uncontrolled public - there is risk. I could be too open about my politics, alienating readers of opposing viewpoints in such a way that could overshadow the common ground we share as humans doing the best we can to live the lives we want. I could be too open about religion, alienating people who are angry at God, people who don't believe in God, people who have a low image of Christians in general ... you get the point. There is risk in vulnerability, especially vulnerability of such a public type as this.

There is risk of rejection. I risk being trolled, being attacked in comments, in messages, in emails. In person. I risk my own safety in some ways, by building a platform open to anyone and everyone. I risk finding - or creating - enemies with my openness. And I face the shame of sharing my own story, not only publicly admitting but also publicly embracing the status of my childhood experiences, my mental health, my chronic physical health issues, and how those issues have impacted my life.

This, incidentally, is also why this blog has had such a transformation over the years. I started it as a way to grow my platform and promote my writing ... but it became a place of safety in which I chose to grow myself and promote the tips and strategies that help me cope with my illnesses. Yes, I do of course still want to promote my writing - but there's also a lot more to me than books, and I hope that by sharing my non-fiction story, I can help someone else find the courage to speak out about theirs.

This almost didn't happen though ... I dealt with a ton of anxiety over the transition of this blog. Would I lose readers? Would I lose friends? Would I be strong enough to keep sharing my story, even as I'm still enduring it? The sense of vulnerability is sometimes terrifying - and yet I love it all the same. And I have loved not only the way this blog allowed me to share my story despite my fear of opening up, but also the way my ability to share openly has grown and blossomed due to the amazing, supportive encouragement of my readers here.

Avoidance VS Acceptance
But despite everything I've said so far, the true root of vulnerability lies in letting go of avoidance and learning to accept who we really are - beyond the image we want others to see, beyond even the person we want to become.

Emotions can be scary. Needs can be scary. And admitting that we have difficult emotions due to unmet needs can be downright terrifying. Our brains are created to recognize and figure out problems - to form solutions and solve puzzles. So once we admit to our feelings, our brains start trying to figure it out. Why do we feel that way? And if the emotion we're feeling is a negative one, then what can we do about changing it?

Step one: acceptance. Recognize and accept how you're feeling. Recognize and accept why you're feeling that way. Seek the part of the situation or circumstance that's your fault, that's on you - and get honest with yourself about what you want to do about it. Can you fix it? Change it? Heal it? Or if not, how will you endure it? How will you put it behind you? How will it impact who you are in the meantime, and how will it impact who you're going to be in the future?

Hard questions, I know. But asking yourself those questions - and having the courage to answer them honestly, the openness to answer them publicly, and the strength to accept what those answers mean as you traverse your journey through this life - is the first step to achieving a level of comfort with vulnerability that's absolutely essential in order to harness ...

The Power of Intimacy
Achieving true intimacy through success in vulnerability is what makes us feel understood, what gives us community. It's why we feel safe among friends and loved ones. It's the source of our sense of belief that if we share our authentic selves, we will be loved and accepted - as we are. And while many of us crave this intimacy almost desperately, it is our fear of appearing weak in vulnerability that holds us back, not only as individuals but also as a society.

And it is only in choosing to combat our fear of open vulnerability that we find the intimacy of companionship. And it's through the richness of that intimacy that we empower ourselves - and those around us - to become, and stay, undaunted.

If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.