Finding my voice

Finding my voice

When I was in middle school, I internalized a message I felt I was receiving from peers: you’re too much. Too loud, too hyper, too goofy, too talkative, too whatever. I started to feel like people didn’t like me. Like maybe there was something wrong with my personality. Even though I had great friends and family who I knew loved me, I started letting the opinions of a few dictate how I felt about myself.

After eighth grade, I switched from my small private school to a large public school. I remember thinking it was my chance to start over, to have a clean slate. I only knew one person at my new school, so I thought I could “reinvent” myself and become the type of person people liked.

I went into 9th grade craving validation. I became shy, quiet, scared to say much or show much of my personality, in case people didn’t like what they saw. I just wanted to “fit in.” When I look back at that time, I feel sad because I realize I had this wall up, too scared to truly let people get to know me for fear they wouldn’t like me.

When I got to college, I started to come out of my shell a bit as the years went by. I was still scared to share my opinions or show too much of myself. I was a “yes person”, always agreeing to what others said or believed. I was still stuck on the idea of being liked, and those old criticisms from my middle school classmates still rattled around in my head.

Starting this blog my junior year during study abroad was my first real step in being vulnerable and truly being myself. My first post shared a personal story I had never shared before, and it was the first glimmer of the personal nature my blog has now. When I graduated from college, I wrote a post about my post-grad struggles, and received a lot of positive feedback from other people who were feeling the same way. That was my first taste of how sharing your story can positively impact others! I liked that feeling. Maybe sharing my opinions, and taking up space, wasn’t so bad! Maybe those middle schoolers had been wrong.

Over the past few years I’ve seen myself open up even more, and slowly start to talk about topics I never thought I would talk about. I hardly recognize that scared, self-conscious young girl who thought she had to be quiet to be liked. I’ve finally realized that “being liked” is completely out of your control. All you can do is be kind and be yourself, and the people that are meant to be in your life and be supportive will find you! I’ve also realized that not only was I depriving others of getting to know me during the time when I had a wall up, but I was also depriving myself. It is so therapeutic to be vulnerable, to connect with people through storytelling and writing and sharing my truth. It can help others, but I think it actually helps me the most.

This path to self-discovery and finding my voice has been slow and painful at times, and I don’t think the journey ever really ends. I can’t sit here and say I feel 100% confident or 100% comfortable sharing my opinions in every situation, and I don’t think I ever will. I don’t think anyone ever reaches that 100%. What I do know is that I feel more myself today than I have for the past 27 years. I feel happy when I get to share my story through this blog, my podcast, and my Instagram, and my new TikTok account.

If you are someone who is still afraid of opening up, letting others in, or speaking your truth, it’s okay! It takes a lot of time and practice and patience. You’ll get there when you’re ready, just like I did.

What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

Vulnerability is a word you probably hear thrown around a lot, but do you really know what it means? I recently watched Brene Brown‘s Netflix Special, “The Call To Courage”, and it opened my eyes to a new perspective on what it means to be vulnerable. Real vulnerability is achieved when we feel scared but push through the fear and do it anyway. When we feel ashamed about our past, but we choose to talk about it instead of hiding it. When we say “I love you” without knowing for sure if the other person feels the same way.

One of the defining characteristics of vulnerability is the presence of some kind of risk. According to Brene, “Vulnerability is the feeling you get when there’s uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.” If you don’t feel a little bit uncomfortable or scared in your life, you may not be letting yourself be vulnerable often enough, and this can actually have a negative effect on your ability to connect with others and have a fulfilling life!

One of the main misconceptions about vulnerability is that it is a sign of weakness. However, it’s actually the opposite. As Brene says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” It takes a lot of courage to be truly vulnerable, because it usually means making a decision that could lead to failure. Asking for a raise, starting your own business, telling someone you have feelings for them. You don’t really know if you will succeed in any of these moments, and in fact, you are likely to fail. But if you never try, that’s the real failure!

In Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, she says the word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart. The original definition of “courage” is: “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” I absolutely LOVE that definition! I’d never thought of courage that way before, but it makes total sense. It takes great courage to be authentically you, to let people in to what you’re really thinking and who you really are. To tell your story. That’s vulnerability!

One of the main things that hinders vulnerable is shame. Shame is a feeling we all experience, and the only people who don’t have “no capacity for human empathy or connection” according to Brene. We’re scared to be vulnerable, because we’re ashamed of ourselves, ashamed of our past, of our feelings, of our desires. We’re afraid of being judged, of coming across as weak, of not being liked. But in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen. We have to harness that courage, push past the fear and shame, and let our voice be heard.

As I wrote about in this post, it’s always been difficult for me to open up to people. This blog has helped me with that immensely, and has been a great source of comfort for me when I need to get things off my chest. Finding my voice and being vulnerable isn’t easy, and I still struggle with wanting to bottle everything up and be the person I think people want me to be. Watching Brene’s special and reading more about her thoughts on vulnerability has been a huge eye-opener for me, and I feel ready to fully embrace my vulnerability moving forward! I know it won’t be easy, but nothing that’s worth it in life ever is.

What does vulnerability mean to you? When was the last time you felt truly vulnerable? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!