It seems that I have overestimated myself. I wrote in my first post that I believed “as soon as I started this project the words would come freely and easily.” (Yeah, I just quoted myself.. awkward). The truth is that spilling my thoughts on this page is a lot harder than I had originally believed it to be. I give a lot of credit to the wonderful health bloggers and writers that share their personal experiences so eloquently.
Even though I may not be writing on here as frequently as I had hoped, I have had some great conversations lately where I have found myself being more open about my illness experience. It didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to be open either, rather it was a natural occurrence that made me feel really good after. I felt more authentic.
The best part about sharing your own story is having the opportunity to learn about others. It always amazes me to hear about the major events, obstacles and joys that have shaped another person’s life. Not to mention the way they tell their story, which can be very revealing in and of itself. You can’t help but feel a deeper sense of connection and community during these times.
My Aunt sent me a really great audio interview with Dr. Brene Brown about the courage to be vulnerable. Once I began listening to it I realized I had watched Dr. Brown’s 2010 TEDxTalk titled The Power of Vulnerability. Her research and discussions on vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame are extremely interesting and from my perspective – and I think from most people’s – very relatable (although I disagree with her characterization of sociology).
In the interview, Dr. Brown describes how our culture strongly associates vulnerability with weakness and weakness as the opposite of lovable. I may be obvious by now from my writing that I, too, am a product of cultural influence and have come to view my illness as weakness. That is a hard pill to swallow but it is honest and I don’t believe I am alone in feeling that way either.
Dr. Brown argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather “our greatest measure of courage”. Growing up we develop armour to protect us and keep us safe from vulnerability until we are able to realize that this armour no longer serves us. That we cannot achieve wholeheartedness and comfort in our own skin this way.
“To be wholehearted and fully in we can’t walk around with 100 pounds of armour on and weapons in our hands.”
– Dr. Brene Brown
Removing the armour and dropping our weapons is no easy task, she warns, and admits that she struggles with this herself. We are used to getting up every morning and putting our armour on before heading out into the world. How can we be open to others when we are so defensive?
This powerful metaphor for learning to practice vulnerability struck me because I have discussed the idea of “wearing armour” (though I referred to it a bit differently) in my own work and writing. In my case, I have tried to keep myself “safe” by concealing my differences.
I have come to realize that this no longer serves me. By doing so I cannot be my authentic self and I also cannot engage authentically with others.
However, as Dr. Brown has said, the desire to be vulnerable and wholehearted is one thing, but actively practicing vulnerability, when safe to do so, is much more challenging. So, here I am. Shedding my armour. Or at the very least, working on it.