“In order for an authentic connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen – really seen.” -Brené Brown
Being vulnerable requires bravery-
Willingness to remove the mask and step out in the light – bare, naked, exposed.
Is it possible to do something without worrying about the outcome?
Allowing whatever will happen to simply happen.
Come as you are.
I cringe, hearing my own voice and reading something I’ve written.
Years ago, I took a six-week film acting course in Houston. We would act out various scenes from beloved classic films like A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”)
Our instructor would film our workshops and burn them onto DVDs for us.
I was too much of a coward ever to view mine back.
I remember once in class, our instructor replaying a scene I had just reenacted, and he stated, “The camera really loves you!” and everyone in class agreed.
It still didn’t compel me to watch my film, nor pursue film acting seriously. I was always afraid that I wasn’t good enough.
The Bully takes nearly every opportunity to beat me up.
When did the Bully begin to show up on my life?
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment or event.
Only when I left the States four years ago and embarked on life alone, away from my family and the social circle I was so used to, did I begin to assess myself. And by assessing myself, I mean coming to terms with why I made particular choices and the subsequent feelings of inadequacy.
I did everything one is supposed to in life, or so I thought. I was a superstar straight-A student. I was always the star athlete. I never got in trouble, whether at home, school, or with the law. I got my first job at 17 and started saving my own money.
I got a scholarship and attended a local college. I studied Business Administration because it would ensure a secure job after graduation. I graduated Cum Laude. I secured a position in my field of study. I had friends and likes and shares on Facebook and other social media. I had health and fitness, a strict gym regimen. I did “everything right.”
But, despite the constant striving and doing, and achieving and being, and working, and doing, repeat repeat repeat, I still cannot shake this feeling of emptiness inside. That who I am is not really who I am. As though my default setting is feeling insecure, sad, and miserable.
To those who interact with me, or think they know me, I may come across as a positive, happy person who has it all together. I smile wide and try to bring an air of joviality into most social situations.
I find solace in acting quirky and humorous in social situations and being able to lighten the mood, especially if things get tense.
How can such a seemingly happy person then feel the complete opposite on the inside? It’s almost as though I live a secret double life. The young, energetic young professional who is so creative and lively at work becomes a worried, shy, and insecure girl behind closed doors, always worrying if I’ll ever be good enough.
It then occurred to me that these feelings a more deep-seated – not merely based on my beliefs that I did something wrong in life or made poor choices, especially when all signs show that I really didn’t make any terrible life mistakes.
We learn a lot, if not everything, about our self-worth from our caregivers – namely, our parents. It’s a parent’s job to instill feelings of unconditional love and worthiness within their children.
Considering my own self-image is critically poor, I have decided to explore the roots of this negative outlook.
I mentioned earlier how I find myself very pleasant and outgoing to the outside world. Many people (non-family) tell me I have a lovely smile and beautiful teeth. As I write this, I am overcome by a repressed memory from my early childhood.
I must have been around 5/6 years old, and my mom was going through some photographs she had recently picked up from printing (this was the 90’s, way before digital cameras). As she went through the images, she sighed in disappointment at my face in the picture. “Why do you smile like that?” I remember her asking. As a small, innocent child who had recently lost my first baby teeth, I immediately felt shame and embarrassment. From then on, I began smiling without showing my teeth. Subsequently, I developed an almost self-loathing of myself and my appearance.
Now, looking back at family albums and seeing childhood photos of myself where I give a sheepish grin rather than a happy-go-lucky smile, I feel anger and sadness. How could a parent plant such a self-destructive seed in their own child’s head, heart, and psyche?
Of course, this memory is only a snippet of a long series of down-talking, confusion, and lack-of-empathy I received as a child and continue to receive from my parents.
My aim isn’t to bash them in any way. They both provided my brother and me with a comfortable life. We always had food to eat, clothes to wear, vacations, etc. However, as I grow older (and begin to grow comfortable with the idea of me becoming a mother one day ), I can’t help but realize how my parents’ (especially my mother’s) lack of empathy and understanding have shaped me into an insecure person.
My entire childhood, I was yearning for unconditional love and validation from my parents. The perfect angelic behavior at school, coupled with my need to make excellent grades and be the best student, were all attempts to gain positive recognition from them.
For me, I suppose the first step in opening up and being vulnerable is to accept that I didn’t receive nor receive the type of unconditional love that I need or want from my parents. Experience has shown time and time again how I get let down by the expectations that “this time they will be nicer,” “this time they will understand me,” “this time, they won’t judge me.”
Out of curiosity, am I ready to begin the work of undoing the negative self-talk stemming from my childhood? Am I prepared to relearn how to think and speak about myself? It is high time that I embrace vulnerability and open up to my authentic self.