“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Brene Brown
It has a bad rap. We see being vulnerable as being weak. Letting our guard down means we can be susceptible to the slings and arrows from others. We can be “taken down.” We are tacitly encouraged through life to keep vigilant watch over the armour we wear in public; never let ’em see ya sweat, or cry, fall or fumble. Never let them see you be afraid, silly, or frivolous; never let them see you be human. We all have the desire to avoid being seen in our vulnerable states, and we do our best to keep up appearances by angling a flattering light on our qualities and strengths just so. Because what if, horror of horrors, while in a vulnerable state we have just met someone whom we probably will not see again? We won’t have the chance to show them our more solid, intelligent, confident, brilliant sides. We say to ourselves, oh off they go, thinking I’m this wing nut, or this sad, or frivolous, or untalented person. They will have an untrue image of who we think, who we know, we are, which now only muddies the vulnerability waters with the, What Will Others Think neurosis, followed close behind by its bothersome cousin the People Pleaser. The whole business is exhausting!
A large part of my creative recovery is trying to be conscious of my vulnerable states, and to allow them room. The songwriting I’ve been doing is the most vulnerable for me so far because it was a whole new thing for me to “put out there,” and because lyric writing feels very intimate and personal. And I already know I feel vulnerable about painting because in my head I’ve seemed to have created a critic who is waiting to pounce on the first brushstroke with, what the hell is that? I am still avoiding starting a painting. The easel sits at the ready with canvases stacked beside it. What will I say with paint? It’s been so long since I’ve painted anything, what if the work I produce is shallow, boring and trite? Am I shallow, boring and trite?!
Just writing that makes me cringe and say, Oh Pa-LEEEse, spare the dramatics, and get over yourself.
Yet I know down to my deepest self that to expose our soft underbellies, worts, beauty marks, and all, is to break through self imposed static and limitations and allow real growth to happen. I know this. Practicing it is the tricky part. Getting comfortable with vulnerability and allowing others to see it is masterclass league. Baby steps y’all.