On Being More Vulnerable…

There I sat, staring into my laptop screen, watching a virtual stranger discuss her negative epiphanies about a topic that just the previous day was all roses and sunshine. Rolling my eyes I thought, why can’t I stop tuning in to her daily videos when I am consistently irritated by her wishy-washy behavior? One day she stands firm in her convictions, firm enough to devote a 30 minute video to them, and the next day she’s backtracking or amending her previous stance after ‘giving it some thought’ or ‘talking to a friend’. We all change our minds or have a change of heart on occasion, but we are not all making videos declaring certainties to our viewing audience only to take them all back the following day. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she has some wise tidbits here and there, which is why I started watching her in the first place. But, for the most part, I have watched her videos with a frown of disapproval and an attitude of superiority. What is good about this? If she irritates me so much, then why do I continue to watch? Hell, I even subscribe to her channel! But, why? Finally, why do I seem so angry about it??

Then it came to me. It’s not that she’s wishy-washy so much as it is that she is open with her emotions and that she is okay with putting it out there even if she might feel differently later. It’s her vulnerability. I am repulsed and drawn to it simultaneously. Hmmm. “What’s the meaning of this?!” my internal voice demands, as though a parent were scolding a child. I mentally stutter and stammer. Moment of confusion. Moment of denial. Moment of truth. This random woman of YouTube is a mirror for me, reflecting my own insecurities. My repulsion at her vulnerability comes from my own fear. The exposure, the fluidity, the uncertainty that constitutes vulnerability is, quite frankly, a frightening thing. I’ve personally always struggled with acknowledging my vulnerability, let alone allowing others to witness it. More recently, I have come into awareness of the personal imbalance caused by systematically denying or stifling vulnerability. When we don’t let that side of ourselves out, when we repeatedly put on a strong front or a brave face then we are essentially wearing a mask. If you were to physically wear a mask all the time it would become difficult to breathe and nearly impossible to function at your full potential. As a result, you might become envious of those around you that don’t wear a mask, and if you are afraid to remove your mask you might become judgmental of the unmasked.

My response to YouTube woman’s open display of vulnerability was judgment and superiority stemming from fear of allowing my vulnerability to surface. But, if I was so put off by her unguarded display, why was I also drawn to it? Because I’ve treated the vulnerable side of myself like the red-headed stepchild (so to speak) it was in dire need of acknowledgment. It recognized itself in this woman’s videos, and it perceived strength where my logical side perceived weakness. Yes, there is strength in vulnerability. This may not be breaking news to you; it’s not news to me either. However, for me it’s no longer simply an inspirational adage. Now, I’m beginning to understand the depth of this concept. Vulnerability is strength because it allows us to have a richer, more diverse life experience. We grow in this way, and we expand our minds and hearts in this way. It’s a powerful feeling that inspires further exploration.

I no longer judge YouTube woman’s behavior so harshly. Oddly enough, in her most recent video she discusses the other YouTubers that she watches and she explores the reasons why she is drawn to them. Her conclusion? Each one has his or her own strong sense of self, and it is enjoyable to watch people who are authentically themselves. I couldn’t agree more. We all crave authenticity in others and in ourselves, to which vulnerability is key, and that’s why I will continue to watch her videos. The annoyance or irritation evoked in me previously was a signal that perhaps some inner work was needed. Seems there always is. It was a surprisingly humbling experience. You never know what might prompt change in you on any given day.

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