I struggle with identifying with the bubbly, vivacious, thoughtful, stable woman all the people around me see. Though I may seem it (I'm not entirely sure how), I am not an extrovert. I'm definitely not always cheerful. More often than not, I'm self-seeking because I'm deeply insecure. And let me tell you, my emotions can make me quite the mess (I cried at least 5 different times just yesterday).
On the outside, you'd never be able to tell I struggle with reconciling other's perceptions of my identity with my perceived sense of self, among a cacophony of other issues I couldn't fit into all the cabinets and closets in my apartment. As long as my façade communicates I'm okay, I'm really okay. As long as I look as though I have my life together on the outside, my life is perfect. Right?
We all struggle with something - if not many things - regardless of privilege, relationship status, salary, opportunities, or friend groups (or lack thereof). Beneath the surface of our perfectly filtered and captioned Instagram photos and American lives lie deep rooted insecurities, heartbreaks, disappointments, disconnection, doubts, even self-loathing. We all know this to be true, so why don't we talk about it?
Because the list is too long? Because we're afraid people wouldn't love us if they found out what we truly struggle with? Because we'll be automatically unworthy of connection if people caught a glimpse of the broken appliances behind the perfectly manicured appearances we keep?
Yes, I'm afraid of all these things.
Yes, vulnerability is terrifyingly scary.
Yes, they're all important to talk about and sort through.
No, I won't share an exhaustive list of my insecurities and issues on the Internet, but trust me, I've got struggles and issues a-plenty [insert Little Mermaid song here].
But I will tell you this: it is essential that we share our stories, our struggles, and our real selves with other people. How else can we create the deep, meaningful relationships we all so desperately long for?
One of the highlights of my college career was a life group I got to participate in with a few close friends the spring semester of my senior year. During one of our meetings, one of my fellow members bravely brought up her struggle with body image. At the time I was going to therapy for my own body image issues, disordered eating, and anxiety, which I had kept carefully under wraps so nobody would know the immense internal struggle I was enduring. But something exhilaratingly magical happened for me (and I'm sure all the women in this group) when my friend voiced the shame wrapped around her disorders: every single one of us either had experienced or was going through the same exact struggle. I think we all shared a sigh of relief as we all partook in the knowledge that we were not alone. And we all, through that one act of brave vulnerability, grew closer as a supportive community, as we learned that it was better to share than to keep our struggles packed inside, numb to the touch of kindred spirits and the power of the two simple words, Me too.
You see, people can't support us if they don't know what we're going through. Because SURPRISE!!!!!!! people can't actually read our minds, as much as we wish they could. Shocker, right? #hellasarcasm #whyelsewouldiuse7exclamationpointsinasentence
I know it's hard, trust me. It's terrifying to honestly express the self-doubt, the sense of unworthiness, the desire to withdraw and shut down when I'm at my most vulnerable, knowing that people have the choice to either honor your trust or break it (and how many times have taught us not to share these truths when others have used them against us with - or even without - the intent to hurt?). We take a huge risk when we entrust our unsightly realities with others, even if they are close to us. But more often than not, the resulting connection is worth the risk of baring all in the bloodbath life can be.
My point is not that we go around floodlighting people with all our baggage - that's not fair to anyone involved, especially if you don't know or trust the other person particularly well. Rather, my point is it's essential that we be real about where we are at least with the people closest to us, and that we remember we are all limping through life, broken and in a place of deep need. The antidote? Authentic vulnerability.
Disclaimer and shameless plug: A LOT of what I have learned about shame and vulnerability over the past few years is all thanks to the wonderful shame researcher, Brené Brown. I know, shame is scary and gross sounding, but we all deal with it, and shame resilience is a freakin awesome tool to keep in your tool belt at all times, because tool belts are also freakin awesome. Check her, her books, and her Ted Talks out. Seriously. You won't regret it.