Vulnerability, Shame & Society: Let Us Be More Open With Each Other.
Why is letting people in and letting them see you so incredibly scary?
We feel afraid of being rejected in the moment we bare our soul, and these feelings are totally valid and need to be honored, but there is more.
There is the shame I feel when I open up and let myself be seen. The shame that despite fundamentally believing vulnerability is beautiful and essential to existence, I still need to fight through to be able to open up.
My inner critic, the shame-thrower, is always hurtling reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t.
And it is bullshit.
It is societal. The shame, the self-criticism around our fragility — everyone’s fragility — runs so deep and yet it is so deeply shared.
I believe this shame isn’t ours — it is ours to name and to be with in ourselves, but it isn’t ours to blame ourselves for.
I believe the shame is here for many reasons, too many to name in one article, but one of them being a deep-rooted systemic fear that if we all lived our lives connecting with each other from a place of love and openness, compassion and respect, rather than the fear, criticism, and judgment that is so widely spread by the system we are part of, the world would be a very different place.
I believe the system we are part of is terrified of this kind of living.
We wouldn’t need as much from corporations, the government, from those in control. We would feel freer and more able to embrace our fragility, our brokenness, without searching for things to fix it, numb it, or make us anything other than what we are.
Vulnerability and openness breed connection, and when we feel connected, we give a shit — about each other, and about where we live. When you care about something, you want to look after it, including all people and our planet.
So I believe if we were all more open and vulnerable with each other, there would be a lot less pain and suffering in the world.
I am not imagining the world to ever completely embrace vulnerability, but I do believe we can — and need to — embrace it more.
We can connect more authentically and openly about what we are feeling and experiencing in ourselves and our lives. We can connect more, despite the shame.
And more importantly, we can connect with each other about the shame.
The more time I spend in the anarchist community where I live, the more time I spend challenging shame, stigma, and the societal pressures all around us, because I see other people doing it too.
I don’t believe feelings of shame, self-criticism, judgment, or fear of being different, of challenging the norm, will ever disappear, because they are part of being human, but sharing and connecting around it all helps me feel less alone in it.
The more I realize how deeply society’s pressures ripple into myself, in my psyche, and the way I talk to myself, the more I feel empowered rather than powerless because I am not just challenging the shame, self-criticism or judgment, I am challenging where it comes from as well.
Society doesn’t know shit about what I need or how I should feel, yet society is still is there, deep inside myself, with my inner critic yelling at me daily about all the places I should be, all the things I should be doing, all the ways in which I am failing or have failed.
The more I live from this place of challenging society’s notions of what matters, what success is, what my life needs to look like, and what I need, the more I realize that the shit society sells us isn’t what I need at all, be it material possessions, lifestyle choices, or ways of thinking.
The more authentic I feel able to be, the more of myself I need.
“In a society that profits from self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act”. ~ Unknown
It is really fucking difficult to cultivate self-love, self-acceptance, vulnerability and openness in a world where the opposite is so frequently encouraged. Take the beauty industries — if we all challenged what they preach, they would go bust overnight. But it is possible. I also see that daily.
No one is immune to society, and that is the bullshit thing, but also the reassuring thing at the same time. If nobody is immune, then it is a something we all share, and something we can work with each other on, and therefore, not be alone in it.
We don’t need to feel alone in the shame and judgment society hands us through what it says we should be doing, through where it says we should be, and through who it says we should be.
Having this awareness doesn’t stop it, but it does allows me to change my relationship with the shame and self-criticism I feel.
Although my inner critic and abusive self-talk will never completely go away, awareness can help me soften the volume and be kind to myself for feeling shame or for having judgment towards myself, and high, non-achievable ideals, rather than this being another fuel for the self-critical fire.
Understanding this self-talk allows me to boost the volume of the compassionate part of me — a part that we all have. The part, the voice, that can respond to my inner critic with all the reasons why what he says (my inner critic is a bloke) just isn’t true.
So go out and show your humanness, your vulnerability, your fragility, to someone you trust. And most importantly, show it to yourself. You deserve it more than anybody.
Let’s be open about what makes us human — our flaws, our joys, our confusion… all of it. And let’s challenge the society it comes from.
Because that shame? It can fuck off.