Some of my therapy has actually been discovering things I’m doing right, or things I already knew but didn’t really know that I knew it…if that makes sense. One of those things is the Power of Vulnerability. I’ve interacted a little bit with the concept through Brené Brown (hence capitalizing it because it’s like HER THING and I can’t help it) but I never really connected with it until when my therapist pointed out that sometimes when we make ourselves vulnerable in front of other people (like crying in front of them) we can create better connections. Something about how we were talking about it, or maybe when made it click with me: YES. THIS IS SO TRUE.
I have built a lot of friendships through this blog by being vulnerable. Back in the early days it was openly talking about my struggle to have children. But I’ve also opened up about struggles parenting kids with their own emotional challenges, and then we’ve bonded over grief, and lately we’ve connected a lot over my move to seek out a therapist. All of these steps along the way I’ve been vulnerable and many of us have seriously connected over it, making me closer to some of you guys than I am to people who I see every day.
But then lately she also sent me to Robert Waldinger discussing the power of strong relationship in defining happiness and it hit me again: I AM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.
Since 2010 I started putting myself out there in the real world to meet people and the more true connections I make, the happier I feel. It may seem silly to be like, “I’m the happiest I’ve been in years!” at the same moment I’m seeking out therapy for the first time. But the thing is, I feel like lately I know what happiness feels like. There have been years before that I didn’t know what I was missing out on, in any consistent level. But since 2010 I’ve really gotten a feel for the power of joy and I’ve also become less scared of reaching out for help so when my darks got so dark in February and March – knowing how light my life can be now – I had to get help.
But in general I have really been happy with my relationships and I truly feel a lot of them are built on mutual vulnerability. Even if it’s something silly like admitting you’re terrible with names, that allows someone else who also has the SAME PROBLEM to admit the same thing and then you have this really strong connection over that things that makes you feel really ashamed sometimes. I’ve built so many friendships on the mutual disclosure of social awkwardness. It’s amazing, really. It seems so silly but when you admit to someone you are socially awkward, it’s like immediately giving yourself permission to relax because YOU HAVE ALREADY WARNED THIS PERSON. And if something awkward happens? You can bond over it instead of falling into a shame spiral.
I highly recommend having “Text Friends” who you can send “MAYDAY! MAYDAY!” messages too when you’ve done something stupid. It immediately lets you put that Thing Out There that is embarrassing you so you stop (or maybe just slow down) that terrible Rumination of Shame thing we all do where we replay embarrassing moments over in our head for years. STOP RUMINATING! It’s so bad for you.
(This is something I shout at myself 100 times a day.)
So I’ve learned that when I started putting myself out in the world, I started feeling happier because I was making connections based on vulnerability. AND I NEVER EVEN REALIZED I WAS DOING IT.
I’ve been thinking about the ways I’ve been making this happen and not realized it. I think a lot of it is thanks to Facebook, honestly. I post a lot on Facebook. I fangirl on Harry Potter articles and admit crying over puppy videos. I share stories of humiliation in an entertaining fashion and I share information about mental health and grieving. All of these things allow me to open up about being vulnerable in an assortment of different ways, without having to do it face-to-face. So when I get face-to-face with someone I know on Facebook, we can connect over things maybe I’ve discussed before. I’ve had so many wonderful encounters with people who said, “I’m not religious either, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in Alabama.” Or maybe, “Thank you for being so open about LGBTQ issues. I don’t have a job that allows me that freedom but it’s nice to see your support.” Or even, “I AM TOTALLY AWKWARD TOO! YAY!”
Facebook has allowed me to establish vulnerabilities in a type of “safe place” so that I don’t have to be freshly vulnerable in person.
I also find myself only spending time connecting with people in environments where we can actually CONNECT. I have two women’s groups I meet once a month and they are both very conducive to opening up. We meet in people’s homes and we are all vulnerable together and it’s wonderful. And then there’s my running friends and the WONDERFUL thing about running is you don’t have to look people in the eye so it makes it THAT MUCH easier to be vulnerable. My running friends know more about my personal history than some of my family probably does. It’s amazing how safe you feel opening up to someone who knows you just peed in the woods.
I get overwhelmed with all of the things in my life I feel like I’m doing wrong, so it’s really nice to uncover things I’ve been doing right. Being vulnerable here has allowed me to be vulnerable in the real world and I’ve made connections in both places that have given me a foundation of happiness to build upon. Pre-2010 Kim didn’t quite know this kind of happiness was possible, the kind you feel when you have an arsenal of friends fighting a war with you. Thank you for being in the trenches with me. You have shown me what happiness feels like and given me the strength to reach out when I need help.