What My Friend Taught Me About Vulnerability

After months of spending time alone and sharing meaningful, intimate conversation with one of her guy friends, a close girlfriend of mine dialed his phone number with shaking hands and told him how she felt.

She was petrified. What if he didn’t feel the same way? What if they were no longer close once he knew she liked him as more than a friend?

Mary Kate and her friends.
Mary Kate and her friends.

But when the phone call ended she felt freed. No more wondering about the “what-ifs” or making excuses for why he hadn’t made a move. No more constantly analyzing his every word or obsessing over every interaction. She told him where she stood and he told her that he felt differently. But her relief came from the realization that she was free, now, to move on.

In opening up to this man my friend learned a groundbreaking truth about herself: she was not as fragile as she had thought.

For some of us, the idea of revealing our innermost thoughts and feelings to certain people in our lives is the scenario of our worst nightmares. But by actively fighting this self-preservation instinct, we surprise ourselves and find that we’re actually much stronger than we’d expected ourselves to be.

As women, time and time again we’re told to reel in our emotions, keep our thoughts to ourselves and, as Miranda Lambert puts it, “hide our crazy.” We’re told not to share too much, not to open up to quickly, not to be the first to say “I love you.” We’re advised to lure men in while simultaneously maintaining the upper hand – but why? To avoid rejection? To appear less attached? They say that the person most in control of a relationship is the person who loves the least – so is this what we’re aiming for? To love less than our beloved? This seems completely backwards.

I don’t mean that we should make a habit of pouring our souls out to any Joe on the street – it is true that we should guard our hearts and be selective about who we share ourselves with. But, to express that we care and that we’re interested in the well-being of the people we love is an indication of strength rather than weakness.

Vulnerable doesn’t have to mean “door mat.” To be vulnerable more often indicates that a woman is self-aware and confident. A woman that is undeterred by her fear of revealing herself when it means sharing kind words with another person appears strong and sure of herself. To be vulnerable is not to be weak; to be vulnerable is to be courageous.

In choosing to be vulnerable in my own life, I have at times been very afraid, but I have also realized that in most cases I don’t regret my vulnerability for three reasons—even when my fears are realized.

1. While opening up might mean a betrayal by a friend or the realization that those feelings are not reciprocated, it can also serve as a reminder that we are self-aware and in touch with our deepest desires, preferences and needs—and that’s a good thing!

2. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can also be very revealing. Our eyes are sometimes opened to truths we might not have seen before – truths like perhaps our supposed “friend” might not have been a very good one, or that this person who’d been the object of our affection had not been so deserving as we might have previously thought.

3. It is also possible that, in being vulnerable, we are simply humbled by these scenarios. And even that process, although painful, is actually a very good thing.

It is unlikely that the people we love – family, friends, boyfriends, etc. – will know how we feel or what we think if we do not tell them. To place ourselves in the line of fire for the sake of making absolutely sure that the important people in our lives know that we love them, admire them, or even that we’re sorry, is what I believe love is all about.

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