Want to know what scares me to the core? The thing that will get me running in the opposite direction? The one thing that causes me to self-sabotage, in relationships mostly, when things become uncomfortably too close? Vulnerability. It is the one thing that causes a knot to swell in my throat, followed by that pulsing ache in the pit of my stomach, bringing my shoulders into myself. It is an all-over feeling of dread that invades every space of my body–an instinctive allergic reaction to putting my imperfect-self on display for others to view … and judge.
This is how I have felt most of my life. Do you ever feel like this? I have often wondered if it was just me, because of the way I grew up and how I was raised–that could have something, or a lot, to do with it. There is so much to unpack here, that it has taken much of my adult life to figure out how to unravel how I became so incredibly closed off. I am still a work in progress but today I find myself the most vulnerable I have ever been … at least, by my standards. I am, after all, writing about my insecurities and sharing them with you, on the other side of this screen, someone whom I have not met, but somehow we connect through our experiences–my unknown friend.
But it is with friends that I learned to be vulnerable, on my own terms and in my own time. I specifically remember when Selena, Yvonne, Irma and I began hanging out regularly; we would make it a point to have a monthly brunch, each time at a different place in Chicago for us to try. We wasted no time in placing our orders and got straight to catching up on our lives. I am chuckling as I write this, because now that I think of it, in retrospect, we unintentionally created a ritual that we seemed to follow every month: place the order, take turns going around the table giving a 10-minute uninterrupted update on our lives, and then concluding with an all out discussion, commiserating with each other, sharing tips and words of support, and analyzing our different or similar situations. We could spend hours talking and laughing, regardless of how full or empty the place was. But it was this monthly ritual that I looked forward to, often thinking about what I wanted to share in the days leading up to our outings. It was this act of sharing with others and having them listen to my words attentively, and without judgment, that gave me the courage to share deeper thoughts and feelings each time we met.
This monthly ritual has had a healing effect on that instinctive allergic reaction to vulnerability that I have so often experienced. That feeling of dread is something that I think I’ll always have to fight against; it is ingrained to my very core. But I find myself choosing to become more vulnerable with certain family members, with other friend circles, and in my romantic relationship. For me, it has given me a sense of freedom from always trying to present a perfectly-curated version of me to others. They now get me and understand me a little bit better. And it is a relief to me to feel loved, cherished, and valued in spite of my flaws. We are all worthy of that type of love.