What emotion do you believe is underrated?
I believe vulnerability is underrated. I believe people avoid being vulnerable because they are afraid of getting hurt.
I always thought my anxiety was something I should hide. I had been struggling with it since I was 12, and it took me 10 years to talk about it openly, even to my close family and best friends.
I wasn’t brave enough to be vulnerable.
I was afraid of the reactions. Of how people would see me – weak instead of brave, fragile instead of strong, crazy instead of smart. Because that’s how I saw myself – weak, fragile, crazy.
I was afraid of the questions people would pose. I was afraid of one question in particular – why? Because I’d get angry at myself for not knowing the answer.
I didn’t talk about it because I was afraid people would see it as a call for attention, or a symptom of hypochondria.
When all the doctors couldn’t find a physical cause to my pain, I figured it was inside my head. And if it the root was in my head, then it was my fault.
Suddenly, something that just a few months ago I couldn’t even share with my closest friends, was now up on my Facebook feed for everyone to see.
How could I do that, you might ask. What changed my mind?
First of all, and most importantly, my own opinion about it changed. I’ve previously talked about the shift in the way I interpreted my anxiety – It’s not a curse, it’s a blessing. It’s a catapult to reach higher ground. As Marcus Aurelius puts it – “what stands in the way becomes the way”. An obstacle becomes an opportunity.
I didn’t have to hide it anymore because it wasn’t something that should be hidden.
But I didn’t come to this conclusion alone. Fortunately, I found a therapist that told me it wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t making it up. I was sick, and I could – and should – ask for help and be treated. It was no different from the flu. But for some reason, when the wound is in the brain, we treat it differently. Or rather, we don’t treat it.
Then, as I started sharing with some people what I was going through, I was caught by surprise with their responses – their reactions were the opposite of what I expected. They didn’t see me as weak, they saw me as strong because of what I had accomplished throughout my life in spite of the struggle I was hiding under my put-together surface. They didn’t see me as crazy – they saw me as human, as “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”.
I was surprised by the reactions I got, and then I was surprised by the number of people who opened up to me about their own struggles too.
Turns out I wasn’t that special after all, and many more people than I could imagine were, or had been, through the exact same thing.
We make the mistake of assuming that our perception of others corresponds to their true self. It doesn’t.
First of all, because, like me, many people are hiding (what they believe to be) their weaknesses. The persona they show on the outside is a very filtered and edited version of their true complexity.
Secondly, because we, ourselves, create an unreal perception of others. We project on them the qualities we wish we had and we are in denial of the flaws we don’t want them to have.
That’s why vulnerability is important. Because truth is important.
Truth towards ourselves and others.
Vulnerability opens up space for connection. For sharing and understanding. Only when we’re transparent and authentic can we truly connect and belong. Only then can we truly love, and be loved in our entirety – not just the nice parts.
But the thing is, once you have the courage to open yourself up to others and expose (what you believe to be) your biggest weaknesses, vulnerability becomes an invisible shield around you. You can’t get hurt anymore, because you’ve already revealed all there is to be revealed – and it was your own revelation, you are the one in control. You decided how, and when, and what you wanted to expose. You decided you are okay with people knowing. You decided you are ready to receive feedback. You defined yourself, no one else is defining who (they think) you are.
This is what’s magic about vulnerability – once you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you don’t feel vulnerable anymore.
And when you air your wounds, that’s when they heal.