I was speaking with a friend of mine, Eva, the other day about the growing presence of transparency in social media and how realness is starting to give perfection a run for it’s money. Words like “vulnerability” and “authenticity” have become trending buzzwords. It’s a beautiful thing that people are sharing what is real and raw so freely–that hanging our dirty laundry out to dry for the world to see is becoming more and more the norm. But there’s something we noticed: the vast majority of this sharing is retrospective. People tend to confess their problems and mistakes once a solution has been reached and the messy stuff has been cleaned up. It’s inviting strangers into your home once you’ve tidied up the clutter–it’s still personal, but it’s not an accurate representation of how you actually live. It’s looking back and saying, “I’ve recovered from this now so I feel comfortable sharing bits and pieces of the experience and can tie it up nicely with a motivational life lesson so that it doesn’t feel so dark and heavy.” It’s essentially half-assed vulnerability (which, don’t get me wrong, is still far better than no vulnerability at all).
Waiting to be on the other side of a situation before acknowledging it is a defense mechanism–it’s shame masquerading as courage. It’s retroactively raw, only surface-level transparent and, to some degree, inauthentic to share your vulnerabilities only to the point that you’re able to control how they’re presented and perceived and once you’ve separated yourself from them with time. It’s much easier to own up to something as “this was me then” versus “this is me now.”
On some level, this is probably because fresh wounds are painful to discuss and maybe we need time to heal and process before bringing it out into the light. But on another level, I think it’s because we’re still allowing our egos a seat at the table. The ego says “okay, okay, you can own up to your weaknesses but only once you’ve dressed them up as strengths.” By neatly packaging up our difficult experiences we’re leaving space for shame to surround our imperfections. And maybe the greatest opportunity for healing rests in exposing the wound before we’ve had time to lick it clean.
Sometimes I want to scream at my self when I’m lost in orchestrating and planning and controlling, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT TO JUST SHOW UP.” And what’s more is the world doesn’t need you to. None of us needs to single-handedly save the world and it just so happens that speaking your truth as it’s happening is far more therapeutic to yourself and helpful to others than any carefully constructed, pre-concocted, edited and glossed-over version of your past.
The greatest form of vulnerability requires being vulnerable in the thick of it, when the pain is still suffocating and real.
Your confusion deserves to be spoken just as much as your clarity.
Say what’s real.