Essay: Vulnerability

4l3c6329-copyMichelle Mantor with Jeda as published in December 2016 Issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer.
We live in a world that values strength, power, and toughness. Whether it’s a movie with a powerful main character or a parent teaching their young boy to “be tough” with his emotions or the images of muscled bodies in magazine ads, there’s no denying that our culture rewards the idea of strength.
Which, in turn, is why it’s so hard for us to be vulnerable. Opening ourselves up to needing something or someone is a scary prospect.

If we think about the many lessons we are taught in life, quite a few of them are centered around the theme of self-reliance. Think back to the values that your parents and other teachers have worked hard to ingrain in you – be your own person and don’t be influenced negatively by others, find a way to make enough money so that you don’t have to rely on others for your basic needs, stand up for what you believe even if it’s not the most popular stance, and so on. These are all positions of strength and they are important lessons because they help us make good decisions, encourage us to be self-reliant and basically help us survive in this world.
However, as in most things in life, a delicate balance is needed in order for the best possible outcome. In the case of vulnerability, the scales often tip too far to the side of needing to project strength, which isn’t surprising given that the stakes for being weak are quite high in humanity. The unfortunate result of this imbalance is that vulnerability, because it’s viewed as negative, is an emotion or state of being that many people avoid, thus stripping them of some of the most basic connections a human can experience.
Vulnerability is that place where we allow ourselves to feel unsure. It’s the place of no guarantees and possibly even pain or rejection. Being vulnerable is asking someone on a date while knowing they might say no. Being vulnerable is telling someone you love them first, not knowing if they will reciprocate. Being vulnerable is trying out for a team or a position knowing you might not get it. Being vulnerable is being a human or pet parent that loves your child or pet so immensely, all the while knowing God could call them away from you at any time.
We are so afraid to feel this level of insecurity that we find a myriad of strategies to avoid the feelings. We overindulge in food, we drink alcohol, take pills, shop incessantly and cram our schedules full so that we don’t have time to come face to face with the scary monster called vulnerability.
But what do we give up for the attempt at not being vulnerable? We give up the deepest feelings of attachment because we are too afraid of what we will feel like if the attachment breaks. We falsely believe that it’s better not to be “All In” and preserve our heart than to let go of fear and connect as our authentic self to those important beings in our life.
To that point, we can take a lesson from our pets about how to love with all of your heart, not just part of your heart. Pets don’t put restrictions or “what if’s” into their thought process. They just do what instinctually feels right with no thought of consequences, failures or rejections.
Accepting the very deep place of vulnerability into our lives and giving up our need to control all outcomes, might be one of the hardest battles we face in becoming a well-rounded, loving, inclusive, self-confident, grateful participant in humanity. If you fear vulnerability, this holiday season is the perfect time to start allowing yourself to feel the “space” of your mind and your heart. Let go of the frantic pace, the facade, the fear that you may be imperfect. Instead, celebrate that you ARE imperfect, like everyone is, but you are UNIQUELY imperfect, thus offering the world something special.
Take time for a walk in nature or meditation in place of shopping or overindulging. Discover what things make you feel vulnerable and embrace them. Go ahead and say Will You Marry Me? if that is what’s in your heart for that someone special. Go ahead and ask for that promotion if you really want more responsibility. Go ahead and adopt another pet if you’ve lost one and you’re afraid of loving and losing another companion. Stop trying to be perfect, strong and totally self-sufficient. That’s just a scam. Perfection may be easy to admire but it’s hard to love.
So yes, it’s scary to break down those walls, but it’s pure joy to be loved for your real self. Go ahead..give it a try and you just might find that you will be more connected, more at peace and more grateful for your authentic life!

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