Beauty Is...Vulnerability - The Refined Woman
Piece originally written for and published by The Refined Woman.
I remember the first time that vulnerability felt like a dirty word.
I had just experienced a hard and messy fallout in a friendship (something we rarely, if ever see coming), and I was summarizing the details to my younger brother. He asked how I was feeling, and I responded with an indignant, “fine.” He reminded me that “fine” isn’t really honest, and asked me to be vulnerable with him.
There, in that moment, I un-friended that word. Vulnerability, what Webster’s defines as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally,” was the last thing I wanted to be. How, in my already wounded state, could I position myself to potentially receive even more exposure? How does a hurting person willingly do that? I knew he extended the invitation with love, but the risk of falling apart felt too high.
For months, I walked around with a theoretical hello-my-name-is “fine” sticker on my chest. Pain can do that... turn an open hand into a closed fist, causing us to believe that vulnerability is the surest route to another heart break. My decision to not allow anyone in, or be honest with how I felt, threatened to push people away. Friends, beautiful and loving friends, came knocking at my door, and kind messages frequented my voicemail box.
The more I insisted I was “fine” and kept my community at an arm’s distance, the worse I felt. Perhaps openness was not the route to more pain -- isolation was. Slowly but surely, I opened up my hand and my heart. I sought counseling, met with my pastors, confided in family members, and spent time with friends. I got honest, really honest, and in doing so, returned to myself.
As author and researcher Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, “Numb the dark, numb the light.” I could not experience the depth of hope without exposing the depth of my pain!
Unveiling my raw and emotional state actually allowed joy to come back to me! Vulnerability was no longer a dirty word, but a way of life -- a freed life. In telling the truth, I felt my courage grow, and despite the discomfort, it became easier over time. What I’ve learned is this: healing is often a road, and vulnerability the vehicle.
If we’re honest, some of the most impactful, beautiful women we know are the vulnerable ones. Women rarely shine as bright and pure as they do when they are unguarded.
Deep honesty bridges the gap between enemies and strangers and reminds us we belong to each other. When a woman decides her vulnerability is not a weakness, she experiences a deep freedom that flows out of her onto everyone she touches.
With perfection as the standard, the whole world wonders if there is another way -- a better way. Vulnerability answers that longing, and when a woman wears it, she becomes a magnet for the hurting.
Is this easy? No, and that is part of the value. Walking into the discomfort of vulnerability refines us and makes us more empathetic to the stories and pain of others. We can know where they are, how they feel, and not rush them out of that place. Instead, vulnerability gives us the tools to love people well.
Our unguarded self is our most beautiful self, because it is real.
In a time when everything is curated and filtered, vulnerability reaches through the surface to reveal a true look into our lives. More often than not, our honesty signals a resounding “me too” in response, when all we thought we would get is silence.
This truth is a reminder that we cannot compare our behind-the-scenes to someone’s highlight reel. When we decide that vulnerability is a means of connection we become more trustworthy, and therefore more influential! I have encountered several people who have experienced the same pain I thought I was an island in, a few years ago! Together, we share, grow, and embrace our stories...mess and all, creating a beautiful community. What community could bloom from your willingness to be open? Risky it may be, but it is a beautiful way to live.
We all have a story. And perhaps you feel like the best thing to do is hide the ugly parts, because of how they might reflect on you or your worth. But if healing really is a road, and vulnerability the vehicle, maybe it’s time to jump in, and see where it takes you. Don’t go alone. Don’t doubt your beauty. Instead, invite the unpredictable process of vulnerability to make you the truest you, you have ever been.
How do YOU feel about vulnerability? Describe a time when vulnerability was the vehicle for your healing. Share in the comments below, I'd love to hear!