Speaking ghosts: the V-word

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about words. More than I usually do. I’ve been thinking about the way they shape our attitudes and views about the world around us. And I got to the conclusion that in every individual’s dictionary are at least a few taboo words. Words that haunt us, that feel unspeakable, words that call out pieces of personal history that we don’t feel ready to claim as our own yet. One of those words, for me, is vulnerability, but I am sure that, reading these lines, your own unspeakable words popped-up in your thoughts.

I have always had a complicated relationship with my vulnerabilities. On one hand, I was totally, deeply aware of their existence. I have always known which are my biggest vulnerabilities, and  I have never denied the fact that they exist. On the other hand, though, I’ve never been open enough to admit them in front of others. Actually, a lot of my social self was built on diminishing those vulnerabilities.

This happened because, in my head, at least, being vulnerable was nothing to be talked about. It was deeply connected with being weak, and that was nothing I would, back then, have admitted being. And, as getting rid of what makes me vulnerable is not an option, the only thing left doing was diminishing my vulnerabilities as much as possible. This is how I’ve managed to build myself up in such a way that, when it comes to discovering my vulnerable to someone, it weighs less than it normally would, as I have never defined myself through it.

But this isn’t an inspirational story. I can’t say that I’ve put in a lot of work to reach this point, as I’ve directed my energy to the domains that seemed interesting to me and which were almost natural. It is, however, the story of a well-disguised fear, my fear of rejection.

It took me years to be able to admit that, in the shadow of this v-word I’ve been constantly avoiding, was comfortably laying a fear. My fear of being rejected, of being dismissed once people found out how much of a vulnerable being I am in fact.

Because I’ve always thought that a group will, eventually, get rid of its liabilities first, and those tend to be the most vulnerable members of the group. This is why I have always done whatever I felt was needed in order to keep myself updated. I got involved in causes and fields which were genuinely mattering to me, I kept reading, writing and planning things. It was my way of resting assured that, if it would ever happen to become a liability for a group, that group would be strong enough and smart enough to see that I’m more than my vulnerable side.

Even when it looked like I wasn’t doing anything, I was, in fact, preparing to do something. Because I was never the one to stay and wait for things to happen. Actually, doing things that mattered for me was the way to hide my vulnerabilities. How could possibly a girl like you, doing so many things, be vulnerable like that? I never answer, but the truth is that those vulnerabilities made me become this girl, to begin with. The girl that seems to never struggle, that never gives up, that never gets tired.

And everything worked out just fine until life showed me that the ways of becoming were way more complicated than I thought they would. The time came when I was left hanging, without the energy needed to keep being the old me. And this brought me to some really surprising things to notice.

One of the first things I’ve observed was that, even with my vulnerable side exposed, there were still people by my side. People who kept on believing in me, supporting me, caring for me. People who tried to befriend me with my vulnerable parts, as it was the only way to avoid reaching that point again.

I’ve also noticed that I do not, in fact, hate my vulnerabilities. Of course, they are uncomfortable, and I would still rather hide them, but I’ve discovered that talking about them helps to forge connections. It helps you to stay humble, to stay human, and to meet other people, with different vulnerabilities, halfway. Talking about sensitive topics makes life better, but only when I felt too tired to hide I could actually understand it.

And, last but not least, I found out that the more I discover about being vulnerable, even if it is from personal or from shared experience, the better I become. That there you can be vulnerable, yet strong, that you can share openly about what makes you vulnerable without being automatically labeled as weak. That there are strength, beauty, and warmth in showing up as yourself, with your strong points and your vulnerable sides. That only when you’ll stop playing hide and seek with the others, your tribe will finally reach out to you.

That no one should be so scared of being labeled the wrong way by the others so it will hide who it really is. Hide and seek was a thing when we were kids, but it is not a lifestyle. And there’s nobody who could make me see it like that.