Words have been whirling around in my head, but I can’t quite capture the heart of what I want to write. So I simply write and hope for clarity. I’ve asked myself why I’m writing this blog. It came to me while listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast with Brene Brown as to why I need to write this blog. I’m not writing these blog posts entirely for myself, although that is a big part of why I’m doing this, but rather, I write for my children. At first I made the mistake of assuming I only needed to model vulnerability for my daughter. To model for her how to have the courage to follow that inner dream that sometimes hides within us for years because we dare not share it with others or expose ourselves. To give ourselves permission to be vulnerable despite what others may say. And then it dawned on me as I listened to Brene Brown talk about her shame research, that not only do I need to model vulnerability to my daughter but even more so to my son. I know what it’s like to grow up being female, hearing the messages our culture speaks about women and replaying those same messages in my own mind about other women. I’ve only had glimpses here and there from the men in my life of what it’s like to grow up being male. But I realized that if I want my son to have the courage to be the man he was created to be, regardless of what society, family, friends may say about him, then I must first model that for him. I have to be the mother who stops hiding and has the courage to be me despite how scary it may be.
As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection–to be the person whom we long to be–we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.
— from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown
I have my own story of learning to disappear, make myself small so I could hide my real self. I spent most of my high school years and college years at Yale (I’ve finally moved beyond the stage of saying “college in Connecticut”) afraid to share my own opinions and thoughts because I never felt smart enough. I know I’ve probably hurt others by my silence and acts of omission. I joke around that I’m only now coming out of my adolescence and figuring out how to be my real self around others. But it’s still not easy. It’s still terribly awkward.
So why be vulnerable if it’s so scary, and hurts, and is plain uncomfortable? Because it’s the only way to live with your whole heart. The only way to live your life fully. To be able to really connect with others without the masks, just to be your real self. And that’s what I want to teach my children.