Vulnerability: Why It’s So Scary & So Necessary to Get Real

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~C.S. Lewis

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” ~Brené Brown

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ~The Velveteen Rabbit

Vulnerability. It’s a word that has been known to send grown men and women screaming and cowering into corners. It’s the feeling of being naked in Times Square or standing in the middle of an empty stage in front of a packed house with absolutely no idea what to say. It’s a concept that is terrifying and mysterious…inviting and anxiety-provoking, all at once. And it’s not just a fancy idea – it’s a way of life. One that I find myself increasingly drawn to in a world that seems to be becoming less about substance and more about surface. If we SAY we’re happy on Facebook, then we must be happy. If we don’t look perfect in a photo, we can airbrush our imperfections. Musicians no longer even have to worry about hitting sour notes, because they can auto-tune their mistakes right out and sound flawless. As the demand to be perfect escalates, so do our methods of hiding our mistakes and scars and quirks. Instead of celebrating who we are, we’re working overtime to conceal who we are for fear of being judged for it. And the more we “fake it until we make it,” the higher the walls around our lives and hearts grow.

That’s why I was thrilled to get an invitation a few weeks ago to join a group of girls who have decided to cast off all the fear and self-doubt and anxiety about being vulnerable and dare to get REAL. There are eight of us total and we are working our way through Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and the concept of actually daring greatly. Daring to do what, you might ask? Daring to be ourselves. Call it like it is. Stop being polite and start getting MESSY. Cut to the chase. Say what we mean and mean what we say. You get the point. What’s so great about this group is that we are from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, and all different career paths. Some of us are married, some of us single, some of us have kids, some of us have none. We couldn’t be more different if we tried, but the thing we have in common is a hunger for authenticity. For truth. For REALNESS. During our first meeting last week, which lasted for four hours, we shared from our hearts. We got down to the nitty gritty of who we are. We didn’t pull punches. We broke through facades. We cried. We laughed. We didn’t hide behind walls or pretense or self-preservation. And it was scary, and wonderful, and messy, and beautiful. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this group over the coming weeks, but I do know that I could not be more excited to be a part of it. So much so that I want the same for every one of you. The type of friendships that are based on substance instead of surface. The type of safe circle that you can ugly cry in front of and no one will run out of the room. The type of support system that allows you to work through the really gritty and dirty parts of your story without fear and without shame. One of the biggest revelations I received in our first meeting was realizing: “I’m not alone in my dysfunction! It’s not just ME!” which is what led me to choose the C.S. Lewis quote above as one of today’s quotes. No matter where you are in your journey, no matter what dark place you have found yourself in, no matter how alone or isolated or insecure or messed up you may feel…there are others who have felt the very same way that you have. No one is perfect. No one has it all together. Anyone who pretends to have it all together is lying. We all have the same fears, the same self-doubts, the same feelings of inadequacy. And what makes that knowledge really extra beautiful is seeing the faces of those women in my circle and realizing how very worthy they are of love, and acceptance, and belonging, and happiness. And if THEY, my sisters in humanity, are worthy of those things, then guess what? So am I! And SO ARE YOU.

I say all this today to encourage you to seek out your own circle. Ask God to lead you to it. Get REAL in your search for authenticity, and the right people will find you. The more authentic you become, the more authentic your relationships will become. Find a group of people you can be messy with. It is so necessary to our evolution as women and as humans to have this safe space. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn over the coming months as I am challenged and inspired by my own circle. And I look forward to, as the Velveteen Rabbit quote says above, becoming more REAL. The process of becoming real is always painful and never pretty. It means we have to face up to things about ourselves we’d prefer to deny. It means we have to agree to endure constructive criticism. It means we will be polished and tested and even put through the fire. But on the other side of all of that messiness is something more beautiful than any makeup or Photoshop or Facebook post could ever hope to create…

Realness. Truth. Vulnerability. Our true selves.

In what ways are you “daring greatly”? Do you have an inner circle you can “be messy” with? What do you think is the biggest challenge about being vulnerable? Comment below…

3 Responses to “ Vulnerability: Why It’s So Scary & So Necessary to Get Real ”

  1. Natalie
    August 17, 2013

    I think that the biggest challenge about being vulnerable is the chance that someone may use your pain or story to narrowly define the way they perceive you. It’s an act of high risk, high reward, which is why to be vulnerable is to be courageous. The way I see it, the ultimate rewards for being vulnerable are acceptance and sympathy.

  2. CC
    September 22, 2013

    I agree. While I do desire the type of relationships in which I can be completely vulnerable, I also fear being judged or looked at differently. Often, when people hear one part of your story, regardless of whatever else you share, they stay focused on that one part (or parts) that may be negative. The second challenge I experience in being vulnerable is finding people who genuinely care. I’ve found that people, even those I consider friends, are often too consumed with their own cares to go past the surface level that vulnerable relationships require. This is one (of several) reasons I am reconsidering my friendships at this point in life. While I do fear the loneliness of letting go of these relationships (my circle is already small), it can’t be worse than the loneliness that results from continuing to entertain questionable and surface-level friendships. I know this is a lot lol, but this post really exemplifies the true friendships and relationships that I’ve prayed for and seek in this season of my life. Thank you, Mandy for sharing!

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