“I understand now that the vulnerability I’ve always felt is the greatest strength a person can have. You can’t experience life without feeling life. What I’ve learned is that being vulnerable to somebody you love is not a weakness, it’s a strength.” ~ Elisabeth Shue
Ever since I can remember, I have tried to appear tough.
Not necessarily the “I’m gonna knock your teeth out” kind of tough, but just tough enough for a girl to hold her own and be independent. A girl that could handle anything that’s thrown her way.
Having grown up in a small town in Poland where the job market was tough, my father moved to America when I was 6 years old to help support us financially. My mom was working every day and that left little ol’ me to enjoy the solitude. I was always praised for my independence.
I have no doubt in my mind that this, among other events in my life during my youth, has attributed to my “mental toughness.”
I’ve always wanted to appear unbreakable.
No matter what you’d say to me, it wouldn’t faze me.
I could handle anything thrown my way and I’d do it without blinking an eye. I remember when my grandma died. I must have been 5 years old because my dad was still with us, and I hid in my room to cry and mourn. When my mom caught me crying she asked why and I LIED and told her I had something in my eye. I wouldn’t admit to crying because I felt sad about my grandmother’s death. It was my mother’s mother and I did not shed a tear in front of my parents because I wanted to appear tough.
“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” ~ Unknown
Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? Even at such a young age, I was already hiding my true feelings.
My childhood forced me to grow up quickly and I have emotionally matured much sooner than my peers. I have always been very conscious of how people behave and react. I learned on other people’s mistakes as well as my own.
One of the things I learned through this observation, however, was heartache. It’s unavoidable that hearts will be breaking when you’re a teenager. Everything seems dramatic and like it’s “the end of the world.”
I moved to Chicago a few months before turning 14 and the new environment made me more hesitant and shy, however, my excellent observation skills served me well. I adjusted fairly quickly and continued on my adolescent adventure called life.
Having a keen eye has its disadvantages, however. The heartache my friends were feeling during adolescence seemed just awful. A second-hand experience of that plus watching dramas on TV plus whatever else goes through a young girl’s mind left me cautious. I didn’t want to be the “stupid one” that fell for a guy and become victimized to heartbreak.
As smart as I thought I was, I decided to stay smart. I felt that expressing and feeling love for another person is irresponsible and distracts us from things that require our focus such as school and homework. Also, I wasn’t exactly experienced in expressing love since being an only child with parents who were rarely home left little practice in this matter.
So I stopped feeling.
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out the joy.” ~ Jim Rohn
Now, before you scream at me let me just say that this did not happen consciously. This was not a one-off decision that I made on a whim. This happened subconsciously through all of the experiences around me and the danger of potentially getting hurt by another person.
I didn’t mean to build a block that would eventually cause more harm than good.
Just know that, okay?
Fast-forward to my first relationship and my toughness factor was very apparent as the relationship I was mentally abusive on both parties. The resistance grew stronger with each passing month as the mental abuse and stress just made it clearer to me that there is no possible reason why having feelings for a man could benefit me in any way.
The next relationship didn’t happen until about two years after the first one finally ended. Again, I knew I was being very emotionally resistant even though the guy couldn’t have been more supportive and loving. I knew I was pushing him away and wanting space and independence for no particular reason. Whenever I felt like I was getting close to him and potentially getting vulnerable I would freak out and push him away by making myself think that he was not the guy for me. It was frustrating on both parties.
Having been single for almost two years now, I am finally realizing the importance vulnerability plays on a successful relationship. It has taken me many years to finally realize that being “tough” may keep us from feeling hurt but it will also keep us from feeling love as well.
That is one of the saddest things of all.
I am finally realizing that, while life without emotional pain may be easier to handle, it is also not nearly as exciting, happy, nor fun.
“What happens when people open their hearts?”… “They get better.” ~ Haruki Murakami
I will admit, it is not easy. But I am hopeful and optimistic that my progress will result in long-term joy. Having read a lot of books on the topic of self-love and vulnerability, I feel like I am finally on the right path. I’ve found myself being more trusting of people and I’ve been forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone with my emotions.
I think the most important thing is to begin learning who we are. What is it that makes us tick? What is it that makes us happy and what is keeping us from feeling joy?
That’s when we can really figure out what we can do be more open to experience and happiness.
I hope this post has inspired you to look within yourself and evaluate your current state of being. If you are like me and have always valued non-emotional qualities over vulnerability, I invite you to rethink this and consider learning more about it. Once you start feeling, you will let in joy. Feeling emotions, whether good or bad, is what makes us feel alive. It makes us feel like we are human.
It’s what makes life worth living, don’t you think?
What are your thoughts on vulnerability? Do you think vulnerability is a weakness or a strength? You can share your insights by commenting bellow 🙂