I've been reading Brené Brown's, Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, and I'm loving it. I like Brown's writing, because while it's self-helpy, it's not vomit-inducing self-helpy. This book, in particular, is teaching me a lot about anxiety (my own, and the world's).
Brown speaks on vulnerability frequently in her work, and says of it:
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.
I had this epiphany the other day while reading her book that at the crux of anxiety is the fear of being vulnerable. Why am I anxious? Because I'm trying so hard to not show my vulnerability. When anxious in public, I'm constantly trying to hide my anxiety. I'm trying to hide the fact that I don't always feel "strong" or "centered" or a "leader."
I've always thought that I fully accepted myself, but I'm beginning to see that this is a lifelong process--and is nonlinear. I have difficulty accepting my anxiety disorder. I have difficulty accepting that I'm not "like everyone else." This lack of acceptance tells me that, no, I haven't "fully" accepted myself. I don't fully love all parts of me. I get really frustrated and angry with the imperfect parts of me (don't we all?). Though I have relatively high self-esteem, it's, in some ways, and on some days, fake. Like a muscle, I flex it when I'm feeling heightened insecurity or jealousy. I'd like to stop flexing. I'd like to accept all parts of me.
One thing I know for sure is this: people with anxiety are exceptionally courageous in their vulnerability. The state of vulnerability often feels "unsafe" to me (and probably to many of us), which makes it difficult to fully interact, and cocoon ourselves inside it. But we have to walk towards it--not from it.
And really, why are we so consumed with the desire to be seen as "strong" and not "weak"? What are we afraid of? Weakness is subjective. Strength is subjective. Caring what society thinks adds to the vicious cycle of anxiety/fear/trauma that so many of us deal with. Can't we all just agree already that all humans are vulnerable? And that all humans have this right to show that vulnerability without being judged? It reminds me of that Sleater-Kinney lyric, "We're all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of."
Vulnerability is vulnerability is vulnerability. I'm proud of all of us who show up with complete authenticity in this life. It may not be the easiest way to live, but something bigger than us calls us to be true to our vulnerability. Like the moon, our feelings about our own vulnerability may wax and wane, but that vulnerability is always there. We just have to choose to accept it.