Exposed: Why I'm Willing to Lay my Soul Bare
I went to see my family this weekend, and it was the typically uproarious affair you’d expect when you throw two pre-teen girls, a teenage boy and their crazy little dog together with a big sister they don’t see very often. I marvelled at how much they’d grown in the month since I’d seen them last and at how mature they seemed as they told me about their extra-curricular activities and all their funny little stories. I wanted to freeze that moment and keep them 10, 12 and 14 forever. I wanted them to never grow up because I love the sweetness of their still-mostly innocent childhood. But we all know that growing up (and all the hardships that come with it) is inevitable and I couldn’t spare them that any more than I could stop this world from spinning.
Oh, but childhood isn’t all fun and games. My little sister, the one who mirrors my bookishness and sensitive spirit, gave me a shocking reminder of how difficult being a kid can be. She told me how the kids at her new school make fun of her, call her ugly and exclude her every chance they get. I looked at my sweet, sensitive little sister and told her how beautiful she was and that it didn’t matter what people thought of her and that people who lash out at others have problems of their own. Despite my kind words, her big brown eyes were wet with tears, and I almost shed a few of my own, because in her, I saw myself.
I saw the 12 year old me—skinny and awkward and poorly dressed, sitting alone at recess because no one liked me. I saw the 16 year old me—struggling for acceptance amongst catty girls and sex-minded boys who saw my flat chest and book smarts as mortal flaws. I saw me now—the part of me who is sometimes still too caught up in what others might think or say of me. I saw that, inside of who I am, is a little girl whose confidence was battered and bruised by the meanness of schoolchildren. Of course, no one actually bullies me now. No one points out my small bust or teases me for being smart. But I am still haunted by the thought of people passing unsavoury judgments on me because I’ve internalized this idea that I am not enough. And it makes me feel vulnerable. Exposed.
And perhaps admitting that makes me sound weak and insecure. But it’s the truth. And my truth is not a bad thing. I think we’ve been told that our strengths are the best thing we have to offer to the world. That isn’t necessarily the case. There is value in our weaknesses, our vulnerability. Not only does it remind us of our humanity, but it connects us to people who share our struggles in a way that strengths can’t. To be vulnerable, to lay our weaknesses out, will do more to help someone who feels they are alone. I constantly find myself surrounded by people who seem to be fearless and uninhibited and it does nothing to help me feel better about my own fears and inhibitions. But to encounter people who admit that they understand what it’s like to worry about inadequacy and acceptance and loneliness helps me to remember that I am only human and I am not alone.
And that is why I wrote this. I could hide my insecurity and vulnerability behind a wall of bravado and fake fearlessness, but I realize that doesn’t do anyone any good. If I tear those walls of pretension down and let my insecurities stand naked, I am doing more to help myself and others. I learned that when I looked into my sister’s eyes and saw that I gave her what no one gave me when I was her age: a sense of being understood. Sometimes a little girl needs more than a pat on the back and a command to be strong; she needs to know that she isn’t the only one who feels the ways she does, and that it gets better. If by uncovering my own insecurities and being vulnerable I could put that feeling into the hearts of more little girls—be they 10 year old girls or 20 year old women with sad little girls within—it’s worth it.
So what if people judge me? It doesn’t matter. It does not matter what people think. All that matters is that I am free to be myself and that I can help other people by doing that. I’ve decided that I won’t be inhibited by what people might say when I choose to be vulnerable. To remain silent is a robbery. I rob myself of the catharsis that comes with honesty, and I rob others of the chance to feel a little less alone. I have been robbed of enough by people in my past who used me as an emotional punching bag because of their own insecurity. Too many of us have been robbed in this way. Too many are still being robbed. I want to give back and who I am is all I have to give.
Remember that next time you feel yourself shying away from your own weaknesses. The battle you have with your fears and insecurities, every victory you claim, is an opportunity to help someone else who is waging the same war within themselves. Remember the value of your vulnerability and how much that could mean to another person who feels alone in their struggle. Remember that your weaknesses and your endeavours to overcome them is a part of what makes you human, and to share that with someone who needs it is so intimate and comforting, it might just be one of the most amazing acts of humanity. There is no shame in being exposed like that.