It wasn’t until I began letting vulnerability into more parts of my life that I began to realise how incredibly useful opening up could be.
Honesty, I’ve discovered, is the answer to everything. That doesn’t mean I think it's a good idea to go around baring the deepest, darkest parts of your soul to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Olatunde, because quite frankly that’s dangerous! Not everyone is responsible enough to warrant that level of trust. No, I don’t endorse oversharing and exposing yourself. The kind of honesty I am referring to is a much more private one, a kind of personal truthfulness.
So given my largely creative background, I always thought I knew what vulnerability was. I certainly heard the word enough times, it came up in a lot of discussions where I remember just kind of mumbling along “yes vulnerability yes yes hmm hmm”. I wasn’t exactly lying at the time but rather assuming that I knew what the concept was because I knew what the word meant.
It wasn’t until I began letting vulnerability into more parts of my own life, that I began to realise how incredibly useful opening up could be. Not necessarily even opening up to others - although that helps a lot because we’re social animals and need to be seen and heard by people that we value - it’s soul food; but even the act of just opening up to yourself, admitting what you feel when you believe it is significantly beneficial. Life is fun and purposeful when you are not constrained by squashed down truths.
If your life is a joyless one you can’t do anything about it without first daring to see it for what it is. It takes massive amounts of courage to be that truthful (especially to yourself) because by admitting certain things about who we are, we force ourselves to acknowledge the ways in which we are not perfect. If you are continuously in and out of relationships, as an example, and can't seem to find a genuine connection, it could be tempting to want to chalk it up to bad luck or to place the responsibility solely on your previous partners (who were all awful at partnership, right?), but it’s braver and certainly takes more effort to stop and wonder: "Is there something about the way that I am living my life and approaching my relationships that's getting in the way of my finding real connection?"
Even being able to ask yourself that question, instead of immediately mounting a defence, is practising vulnerability. If it emerges that you are doing everything right then fair enough, but if you aren’t then rejoice because now you can do something about it, should you choose to. It might be slow going at first, but it’s worth it because the great irony in all of this, of course, is that ultimately vulnerability is the only real form of invulnerability.
I believe that in this present age, we place ample emphasis on transformation but not enough on restoration, so instead of talking about metamorphosis, let's speak for a moment about resuscitation. About reclaiming our indestructibility. I believe that we incredible beings are born perfect or as close to perfect as anything can get (since true perfection is really just a wild goose chase) but somewhere along the way socialisation burdens us with erroneous priorities which paint themselves over our original comparative flawlessness.
Ultimately, vulnerability is the only real form of invulnerability.
Resilience is in itself a very useful thing, but certain factions of our society are guilty of having commandeered it, through centuries of compounding malpractice, into a prison that currently incarcerates according to gender. I weep for young men like myself sometimes! Not because it is in any way wrong to want to be brave but because it’s dangerous to suppress - to pretend not to feel that which is quite clearly felt. We have feelings for a reason and when we repress them, they will just find another significantly more harmful way to manifest themselves into our lives. Violence is a very good example (or a very bad one, I don’t know, just don’t do it) of misguided self-defence…
It has been said that a stitch in time saves nine, and in this case, it’s this: cry now and learn so that you can have a chance to laugh about it tomorrow. Jared Anthony Higgins showed me the wonders of vulnerability and ever since I let it into my life, to be brutally honest, I’ve definitely had a few good cries but laughed loads more. Out of all the frowned upon habits that I have picked up in my life, telling the truth has proved, by far, the most useful.
Marshall is a self-taught student of psychology, hugely interested in diasporic politics and contending with the question of how we can all best function within an increasingly polarised society.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.