I’ve been promising you–and myself–a piece on Vulnerability for awhile. And in my “post map” that I write every two weeks (YES I write out a Post Map–I’m really Type A that way), I keep including “vulnerability piece” and I keep not writing it. Or I start it but don’t finish it. IT’S ALMOST LIKE WRITING ABOUT VULNERABILITY IS GOING TO MAKE ME VULNERABLE OR SOMETHING.
Nothing is scarier than letting yourself be vulnerable. God, that sounds so trite and stupid as I read it back. Of COURSE being vulnerable is scary or else it would be vulnerable. Ugh. This is hard.
Fuck it. We’ll go with cheesy and obvious for the time being. YES, being vulnerable is scary. Being vulnerable is also extremely empowering, because it is only through being vulnerable that we are truly able to connect with another human being. It’s only when we cut through the bullshit and the armor and Holy St. Irony that we are able to reach one another, heart to heart. It’s the most precious thing there is. Maybe that’s why it’s so scary. Because if it wasn’t scary we’d do it with everyone and then it wouldn’t be precious anymore.
A life well lived is a life that encounters doubt. A life well lived is a life that encounters rejection, disappointment and despair alongside love, companionship, passion and community. A life well lived is a life that sometimes hurts. We must open ourselves up to hurt in order to be happy. We can’t open ourselves up to the joy and glory and moments of true, profound shared beauty and intimacy and then shut ourselves away from pain and loss. If we want to feel things as profoundly as we can, we must feel ALL the things. This isn’t Burger King. We can’t have it our way. There is no Burger of Life where we can hold the pickles and rejection. And why would you want to? Pickles are delicious and rejection is important.
My special brand of embracing vulnerability came hand in hand with my finally learning–at AGE 30–to let go of being perfect. You know what perfectionism is? It’s a crock of shit. It’s a wall. It’s the biggest lie there is. Because there is no real perfectionism. The perfectionist, in my experience, does not even believe they can make things perfect. They just want to be the first one to point out how their work/art/relationship/friendships/clothes/body aren’t perfect so they can do it before anyone else can.
And for what? Perfect isn’t attainable. And even if it was attainable, why would we want it? Why would we want to pull out the flaws and mess when the humanity lives in those flaws and in that mess?
Perfect. Isn’t. Interesting.
It’s our flaws that make us compelling. Our mistakes. Our stories. Our disappointments. Our losses. There is no vulnerability in perfection. No connection. You can’t hear the beat of someone’s heart through all that armor. Perfection is a dehumanizer.
It was fun watching my perfectionism drain away.
First went my obsession with having perfect looks. I accepted that I would never be skinny and I would never have glossy Kate Middleton hair or big poofy Angelina lips. I accepted that I was going to look the way I was going to look and people might judge me and I was just going to have to be ok with that. I started dressing for myself and doing my hair the way I wanted and wearing makeup because I thought it was fun to do.
I accepted not having perfect grades. Actually, that’s not true at all. I did have perfect grades. But I hope that if I went back to school today I would accept not having perfect grades so long as I was learning and exploring.
I accepted not having a perfect love–I embraced the idea that “soulmates” weren’t real and if I wanted to be happy I was going to have to love a person who would be flawed and who would sometimes disappoint me. And guess what? Loving a flawed human is way more fun and exciting than chasing a dream.
I accepted not having a perfect home, which was a HUGE life upgrade as I was finally able to put down the feather duster and let the dishes sit in the sink over night and do something fun instead of cleaning all the time.
Finally, and most difficult at all, I accepted that my work would never be perfect. I will never give a “perfect” performance. My voice will never have perfect tone and power and expression. My writing will never be without grammatical error or clunky phrase. I will never reach a point in my work–in any work, even the mundane–where there are no mistakes or errors in judgment. AND THANK GOD, RIGHT? Because what on earth is more boring than perfect? Perfect has no beating heart. My work will never be perfect, but from this day forward it will always have my beating heart inside of it.
For clarity, taking “perfect” off the table doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. But instead of trying to make our lives and work “right,” let’s try to make them joyous, and dynamic, and interesting, and exciting, and (gasp) FUN.
Basically, I’m trying to take the judgement out of the equation. I’m going on instinct and experience now, kids. I’m trying to work from a place of what feels right and not question it too much. Let others assign value. Not my job. Do I always manage to do this? Of course not. I fail all the time and fall down the rabbit hole of “right” and “good enough” and “worthy.” And when that happens, I try to be gentle with myself. This whole deal is about accepting mistakes and setbacks and where I am now, after all.
It’s scary as shit…but doesn’t it also sound kinda awesome? And if you wanna give a mental FUCK YOU to anyone out there who made you feel like you were somehow less than for not coming out of the gate perfect in whatever way, please go ahead. I’ll wait.
Being vulnerable, whatever that means to you, is as exciting as it is terrifying. It’s scary to fully embrace who we are and put it out there for people to see because people may not like us. There will probably be times when we all misplace our trust in who/what to be vulnerable with and maybe have it bite us in the booty. And those times are gonna suck, no lie. But to me, every moment of truth found or imagination expanded or love fully felt is absolutely worth the pain and disappointment. Worth it tenfold.
So peace out, Perfectionism. It was fun while it lasted. Actually, that’s a big lie. It was NO FUN EVER, because you’re a total killjoy. I wish I could say I’m gonna miss you, P., but I know I’m better off without you. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m too good for you.
And in case you’ve not seen it, here’s Brene Brown’s AMAZING Vulnerability TED Talk.