Be human, be vulnerable


Some people live in cages with bars, built from their own fears and doubts. Some people live in cages with bars, built from other people’s fears and doubts; their parents, their friends, their brothers and sisters, their families. Some people live in cages with bars, built from the choices other made for them, the circumstances other people imposed upon them. And some people break free.

~C. JoyBell C.


What comes to mind when you think of vulnerability? Perhaps you think of fear, anxiety, and shame. But vulnerability is actually a strength. It sounds like an odd thing to say in a world that is obsessed with perfection. To be vulnerable does not mean to make yourself a victim – feeble and submissive. It means to own up to your imperfections and be bold. This applies as much to teenagers who are affected by beauty standards as to leaders and amateurs who have aspirations in life. If we allow ourselves the privilege of being vulnerable, we are doing ourselves a favor. This is what Virginia Woolf meant: “A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”

Figures who possess power and influence over a wide public should work on exposing their vulnerabilities because they are role models to people around the world. It is extremely dangerous for young adults to worship figures such as the Kardashians, the epitome of ignorance. They purposefully market themselves in a way that makes it seem as though their lives are flawless. They flaunt their curvy bodies on social media outlets such as Snapchat, collect rare cars, and attend socialite events. In other words, they bask in fame and piles of money. What else could they possibly ask for? Ultimately, though, fame corrupts and whatever “perks” it may have brought pale in comparison with the bigger picture of life itself.

In my personal life, I have come to realize that most of my suffering originates from feigning invulnerability, only to realize later that it is humanly impossible. Since I am very self-critical and detail oriented, I understand how difficult it is to be vulnerable – to expose my flaws and shortcomings. However, it is a lifelong process, which over time leads to a greater self-awareness of who we are, allowing us to grow – both individually and collectively. The only way we, as students, can achieve Graded’s core values is if we permit ourselves to be vulnerable. I can only imagine how exhausting it must be to walk around with a coat of armor, pretending to be invincible. Miserable, actually. The fact is that imperfection is inevitable. Vulnerability is an inherent characteristic of humans. Essentially, to be vulnerable is to be human.

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, delivered a TED talk in 2010 about the power of vulnerability. Dr. Brown argues that we are losing our tolerance to be vulnerable. Despite the negative connotation associated with the word, she claims that vulnerability is, interestingly enough, the birthplace of joy, love, belonging, creativity, and even faith. The illusion of perfection is a shield we use to protect ourselves, especially our self-esteem. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. Hence, the original meaning of courage was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. As Brown beautifully put it, “surrender and walk into [vulnerability.]”

Vulnerability helps us to understand our essence. It also permits us to forgive ourselves and thus improve. To be vulnerable is an act of self-love – of rebellion, really. In a way, vulnerability defies status quo. Be vulnerable in work, love, and life. Allow yourself to be human.