I Am Strong Because I Am Not Afraid To Be Vulnerable

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“Do not cry! Never” That’s what I have been telling myself all my life. It has become the first rule on my “List of rules for survival”, together with Rule 2 “Don’t trust anyone” and Rule 3 “Don’t hug”, and it has been a part of my existence since I remember myself.

I have always perceived vulnerability as something bad, ill and even sad, as something that people should try to get rid of. I have always hated the traditional option “cry on a friend’s shower” or “a hug can be a powerful tool for calamity.” For me, those have always been part of another list, called “Bullshit of life.”

But I don’t want to sound like the toughest girl in the world, because I am not. I have many times cried behind the closed door of my room, in the bathroom, during theatre plays, while watching TV news about poor children. Man, I have had my share of tears. But, I have always tried to do it in private, so that others don’t think that I am weak.

This is why I felt very uncomfortable during one of the games at the NOW Encounter in Switzerland. We were gathered in one room and played the Game of Privilege in silence. If you have heard of it, you can relate to what I am talking about. If you haven’t, go online and check it now. It’s a simple game of emotions that can change one’s life. It changed mine.

So we were sat down in a circle and each of us (around 70 people) had to list the privileges they have had and continue to have in life. At the beginning it looked like a stupid exercise – “Everybody has had the chance to go to school”, you think, and “Of, course, everybody have beed taken care of as a child.” Well… yes, some people had a fill list of those. Others had almost nothing.

The room was heated up. Those who had nothing were somehow angry as they saw others had almost everything. Those who had everything had realised for the first time they have had that privilege. People were shocked. And in tears.

I didn’t cry. I just could’t. I was sitting on the blanket with bare feet, as we usually did during all indoor activities, observing faces full of inner sorrow, and anger, and frustration. Seeing all those people’s vulnerability made me somehow angry at them for showing such weakness, and at myself, for sitting there and witnessing all of that. Weird, I know…

This is why it hasn’t been a surprise that at our regular Reflection Group meetings during the NOW Encounter, the card “Showing vulnerability” was always right there in from of me, pointing to what I have to work on. But I have been refusing to.

“I just don’t want to cry, ok?!” I used to tell Omer, my facilitator.” Poor guy, he has been very, very patient with me.

It was hard for me to understand why the hell I need to show vulnerability. In the world I have grown up, being tough was seen as a powerful tool for survival and success. Being always the one who stays neutral and calm, and who can handle her emotions, has been my primary goal in life. And now, people were telling me that was a problem and I have to work on it…

“Are you kidding me?!” – I was both surprised and confused.

Nevertheless, I have tried to stay as calm and as positive, as possible. Right at the beginning of the Journey we were split in Reflection Groups, guided by two facilitators, where we were sharing about who we were, how we felt and what we wanted to change in ourselves. Step by step I started revealing more and more about myself – my feelings, my weaknesses, my fears. The atmosphere has been so intimate and family-like that it has been hard to try detach myself, as I usually do.

And how couldn’t I?! I finally met people who, even totally different from me, were listening to me and were trying to understand me. “Man, was I becoming weak?” I found myself thinking. “Since when I share such staff with people I don’t know?!” I was breaking Rule 2 and was somehow afraid I was about to break Rule 1.

For all those 8 months I didn’t shed a tear. However, sharing personal stuff about myself was like throwing out everything I had been keeping inside… like crying out loud… like saying “Hey, this is me”… like forgetting about all the boundaries… I was showing vulnerability. I was! Without even realising it.

Only eight months later, after the NOW Journey is over, I realise that I have been perceiving the act of showing vulnerability the wrong way. All my life!

First of all, crying does not mean you are weak. On the opposite! Crying means that you are not ashamed and afraid to show how you feel at a certain moment, which requires lots of courage. This is not a weakness. This is strength! And second of all, you can show vulnerability even without crying, but by exposing your emotions, sharing your fears, weaknesses and doubts, without masks and built walls. By just being you.

I have read an article on the power of vulnerability and the following sentence cannot get out of my head since then:

 Being vulnerable doesnt mean you walk around with a box of tissues and share your deepest, most personal secrets with everyone. It simply means you are ready to let your guard down, put aside any pretences, and be your real self.”

I am Tsveti and I am strong because I am not afraid to be vulnerable!

What about you?

Written by Tsveti, alumni of the NOW Journey 2017 from Bulgaria.