By Priyanka Hardikar
Photo Credit: @parkstreet_
I struggle with the need to be perfect, on camera, and in real life. When there is any shortcoming or flaw in myself, I notice it; I zero in on it. It’s like I can’t see anything else.
A part of me fears showing up and being seen.
I fear being misunderstood. I fear being too much of myself, or too little. I fear not belonging. I fear…vulnerability.
It took me a long time to understand the depth of meaning in the word vulnerability. Vulnerability is a true act of courage. It is when we put ourselves out there through emotional exposure. When we choose to be vulnerable, we stop hiding behind masks and we lose our shields of protection – the outermost layer of ourselves that most people see. We show our authentic selves to the world, not knowing how it will be received. Vulnerability is a risk, but it is also the heart of pure connection and intimacy. The most beautiful experiences in life – like falling in love – cannot exist without vulnerability.
Brené Brown writes at the end of her book, Daring Greatly: “It’s why we’re here: to show up, let ourselves be seen and to dare greatly. And to try to love and support each other as we do that. I don’t think there are gifts better than that.”
What makes vulnerability so difficult is it exposes parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable, sometimes, even unbearable. Instead of pretending to be okay all the time, vulnerability is admitting that something is wrong and allowing yourself to cry in the arms of someone you love, trusting they will hold you in a safe space.
I used to make it a rule to never cry in front of people. I would only cry in the privacy of the shower or my car. If bad emotions came up while I was in the company of someone I loved, I would leave the room to deal with my emotions on my own.
And then something changed. One day, when I felt the heavy pull into darkness, someone I loved took me in his arms, held me close to him and told me he wasn’t afraid of my darkness – he understood it. He reminded me: “You are not a photo. You are a moving video, constantly changing and evolving. People don’t see you as the person you were in one moment, in one photograph. They see you as the whole version – as the sum of who you are in all of your moments. And the people who love you: they see you as the person you are in all of your best moments, your best hair days.”
Slowly, I decide that it is okay to be who I am. I let go of who I think I am supposed to be and I begin embracing who I already am. I choose authenticity over pretending to be someone I am not. Brené Brown says, “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” While that can be difficult – a constant struggle and a daily practice, it is worth it. We are worth it.
“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.” – George Orwell
“Surely there’s someone out there who will take me for who I am. One human being who accepts the two people in you. You can’t show only one part of yourself to someone. That’s Hollywood. That’s Gilda. And it’s beautiful, but it can’t last.” – Modern Love: Take me as I am, whoever I am
“Authenticity demands whole-hearted loving and living, even when it’s hard, even when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we are afraid to let ourselves feel it.” – Brené Brown
Brené Brown’s mantra for authenticity: “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, just stand your sacred ground.”
Further Reading & Resources
- Read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown or listen to her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability
- Read the New York Times Modern Love Column Take me as I am, Whoever I am or watch Anne Hathaway’s beautiful portrayal in Modern Love, Season 1, Episode 3, Take me as I am, Whoever I am (Amazon Prime)
- Practice this short but satisfying meditation for self-love, a reminder that you are worth it – always
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