A Different Kind of Vulnerability

I would like to say I am good at opening up to people. I would like to say I know how to be vulnerable. I would like to say it doesn’t frighten me. All of these would be utterly false, so I will try not to justify statements to say otherwise. Honestly, it can be hard for me to be vulnerable. I had not thought about it in these terms until recently.

December is a big time of year, with the holiday season, finals...and for Youtube, there is Vlogmas. Vlogmas is a combination of the words vlog and Christmas, set in December. The idea is that a Youtuber creates 24-ish video blogs, usually Christmas or holiday related but not always, until Christmas Day. Far more of my favorite Youtubers are participating this year than in years past, including one I only recently discovered, Tessa Violet. Tessa made this video to start her Vlogmas, and I was hooked from the title alone. ​

In this video, Tessa talks about her own struggles to be vulnerable. Mostly, it gravitates toward redefining vulnerability beyond being able to open up to others, since she admits she is good at this. Tessa says “Maybe sharing with people is not how I feel vulnerable,” and it was like an eureka moment for me. For Tessa, she discusses how her therapist helped her situate that her unwillingness to be vulnerable is connected to not risking situations where people can let her down. I can relate to that in a lot of ways.

For me, it is more of a selective vulnerability. I am willing to share certain things on the Internet and on certain parts of my social media. I am willing to share my thoughts and feelings with certain people in my life, though it is more allocated than simply saying everything to everyone I know. I make it more complicated than that, for whatever reason. ​ I am fairly comfortable opening up to people I love and trust, but it's like they have to ask the right questions to get me to do that. If they don't ask, I'm not going to just give them some of my vulnerable tales of despair, heartbreak, etc. that drive a lot of my behaviors now. It's like I make an obstacle course for those I love to figure out in order to get into the depths of the labyrinth that is me, my heart and my soul. I've acknowledged this on and off for several years, but I'm not sure how to stop doing it.

I participated in the Senior Leadership series here at Kenyon last semester. For the first part of the series, I and the others in it assessed ourselves, our morals, our goals, and our values. Then we were asked to choose people in different parts of our lives to respond to my answers and assess me. It is a way for us to be shown that the things we see as our weaknesses or faults may not be seen that way by others, or be seen as lesser than some of our other traits. One of my friends mentioned that I strive to make people comfortable around me, which makes it easy for them to open up to me, but means that I often don't voice my own concerns in order to make things "easier." The more I think about it, the more I think that is part of my issue with being vulnerable.

It’s not that I am unwilling to share with others, but I am afraid of what others will do with what I share. I am almost too willing to share when others are not. In my experience, this doesn’t bring a happy ending, but a fizzled or failed friendship and a very hurt me. Now, I figure if I just don't say why or how someone has hurt me throughout our friendship, it will all be fine and nothing will go wrong. I fear being actively vulnerable so it makes our relationship passively vulnerable since it'll be built on all good things, with no real depth or balance.

Vulnerability can be really tricky and complicated for people, based on their different levels of trust and life experiences. In my labyrinth, there are little insecurities and stories from the past that are hidden away in attempts to be forgotten. Vulnerability can also be scary. If it is truly vulnerable, you are putting yourself out there in a way that is uncomfortable. You cannot know how your assertions will be received, but you can be content in knowing that you tried.

To live a life without fear and within my own control, I (like Tessa) hope I can seek new opportunities by seeking more vulnerable moments. Was this article an act of vulnerability I am used to or that is new and uncomfortable? I am not sure.


Image Credit: Tessa Violet via YouTube, Drew Meeker, Jenna Wendler