Thursday, 14 July 2016

Why We're Too Scared to Admit When We're Vulnerable

"We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending."

- Brené Brown, Rising Strong

A curious quirk about the nature of blogging, I've come to realise, is that the story never ends. 

As writers, social mediacs, online diary keepers, one day we begin to write our story and we never stop. We start from what we perceive to be the beginning, or perhaps languish in regaling the tales of our childhoods and our former selves which all contributed in some way to make up who we are now, the person behind the fingertips above the keyboard. And while some may quit, give up or just forget they ever started telling it, that story doesn't end until we do. 
And soon enough, the story we tell catches up to real time. The chapters become naturally less frequent as we try and formulate our fresh life happenings into meaningful sentiments worth sharing, with an increasingly snappy turnaround. The pressure mounts when we struggle to find things worthy enough to add to our ongoing narratives, and we risk falling foul of believing our lives have gone to shit. That we used to do wonderful things, and now our lives are dull and purposeless because we can't extract the gold like we used to, and we're not constantly living this highlights reel our previous chapters suggest we used to be.

But there's a reason 'truth' and 'story' are not synonymous. 

While we can both tell the truth and tell the story, the results may perhaps differ wildly. But, that's not to say they're antonyms either. For the truth is objective, the real things that happen to us and that we are a part of. But the story is subjective, how we perceive, react and adapt to the real things that happen to us, and how we think and grow in response to them. And personally, I know which one has more value to me. 

Our stories become our most prized possessions, and other people's stories have the power to make us, break us down, and build us up again. Storytelling is the currency of the soul. But to have meaning, each story has to have a conclusion. We need that ending to fully understand the moral or a message which is revealed at the end. 

But with the never-ending chronicle that we create of our lives, this is something we do not get. When the story is never over, we're constantly seeking that understanding, chasing the sweet irony of 'The End' so that we can have that retrospective epiphany we won't even be able to appreciate because it'll all be over. We can only seek to understand the smaller stories within our lives, figuring out the point of each passing day, month and era as we age. 

But what happens when your current chapter, the era of your life you are living at this second is like staring into impenetrable mist? When you cannot extract the story, let alone the meaning of your life, because your truth is far to bleak to feel like it even means anything?

This is the point where closure seems further away than ever. When the idea that this blankness and pointlessness is a formative experience that will later be a part of a greater story, seems laughable. When you exist in a paradox of feeling caught in a Groundhog Day loop of doing the same dumb shit day in, day out like time has frozen, whilst being painfully aware that time is slipping away from you faster than ever, wasted to mundanity and apathy.

This is the place we fear more than anywhere. This is story we don't want to hear. This weakness, doubt and vulnerability is not good for our egos, and is best served delicately brushed upon just enough in stories to add weight to the grand conclusion, but never lingered upon uncomfortably so that it accurately represents how shit that truth actually was.

"We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending."

And the reason I know all this, is because this is exactly where I am now. And this is where I've been for the last year of my life, a character left hanging in an empty storyboard whilst silence falls in the writers room, and no-one can really work out what happens next. 

I don't like thinking about it, I don't like talking about it and I really don't like writing about it, because vulnerability is something as hard to admit to ourselves, as it is uncomfortable and awkward to hear someone at the pub suddenly spew out embarrassingly after a few drinks when asked what they've been up to lately.

I'm reminded of another quote in Rising Strong, Brené Brown's fascinating book which has bought me a long way into understanding what's happening recently;

"Falling down, screwing up and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgement, our self-trust, and even our worthiness. I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough?"

And while it's perhaps this lack of a 'great fall' that's derailed me as to understanding what's gone wrong, I empathise deeply with the change in mindset. I have gone from advice-giver to so desperately seeking advice, rendering me a massive hypocrite for all I've tried to achieve by telling my story. 

All in all, this is the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn - that sometimes progress grinds to a halt, and the universe suddenly stops seeming like it's got your back, and you look up at this vast great wheezing machine that's suddenly broken and you realise you have no fucking clue how to begin fixing it.

It's a truth we never hear because it doesn't make a good story. It's not exciting, or engaging, profound or formative. It's scary and unpredictable because we never knew this could happen. Because when we don't hear the stories, how can we know what to expect? That it's human? How to fix it?

Deep down I suppose I have to believe there's a certain courage in vulnerability. A humility in admitting catastrophic imperfection, without admitting defeat. That there can be an elegant, thoughtful way to shine a light on the more inelegant, undesirable parts of life.

And I think that's all I need to say right now. How apt that I can't think of a conclusion to end this story, huh?


  1. I loved reading this. I took me a long while to realize that vulnerability is not a weakness but rather a strength. So kudos to you for realizing it now, because most people spend their lives oblivious to the fact.

    I'm still working on living within the unknown. I'm not good with unanswered questions. I'm not good at waiting.

    I used to blog every day about literally the *dumbest shit* possible. Now I go weeks without posting, because the story is still being written and I have to learn what it feels like to not know how it's going to end.

  2. This was beautifully written. I think you're right in that it takes courage to be vulnerable because it means we understand and admit that we are not perfect, that we are not invincible. But I think vulnerability is one of the beautiful aspects of being human and mortal because it allows us to receive and accept love and support.

  3. This is such an interesting idea - I especially love how you say "storytelling is the currency of the soul." Very true.

    xx Alyssa
    VISIONS OF NYC // @alyszsa

  4. the question - AM I ENOUGH? - has the power to scare the shit out of me. I don't like knowing that I suck but eventually, at the end of the day, I need to be accountable to myself and tell my own self the truth. Vulnerability isn't a fault, it's just a phase and it's not staying forever!

  5. It's true, I think it's something that will never end x

  6. Thank you so much for another beautiful and insightful post Katie. I saw Rene Brown's TED talk about two years ago and it inspired me so much to allow myself to be more vulnerable and start a blog.

    I think the beauty in telling our stories is that we are uncertain of what will happen next.


  7. I love this post! Reading your posts always makes me feel different.. Possibly the way I think. I like it because your words mean something to me!
    Thank you!
    Jade x

  8. i was in tears by the end, i could relate to so much of this, especially the part about advice-giving/ needing it. I found that, ironically, those moments I NEEDED advice the most was when i wass giving it out! Almost like i wanted to convince myself of it too? Thank-you for your honesty, take care xxx

    Bumble and Be

  9. AHH, this resonated with me so much because I've struggled with vulnerability for a long while. I love Brene Brown (have you read her other book, The Power of Vulnerbaility?) and there's something *so* powerful in being vulnerable (which I'm only just getting marginally better at). I actually wrote about it recently but to be that authentic, that open and that raw? Well the truth is, we're all terrified to tell our story, so we hide behind 'other' easier stories but when we find and voice our truth; when we somehow decide to share our deepest insecurities or fears? That is, I think when the magic happens. As an avid reader of everything you write, I can say that your honesty, your authentic vulnerability makes you, in my eyes at least, a brave and inspiring soul! <3
    Thank you and never for one moment longer doubt your strength and your impact! Ana xxx

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