Preparing for a family get together this past weekend got me thinking about the subject of vulnerability.
As my husband and I prepared our house for guests, I noticed how stressed out I was becoming. Every little piece of dirt and dust seemed magnified to me; it wasn’t enough to just dust or vacuum. My house had to be perfect. My husband kept reassuring me that all would be well and that the ones that love us don’t notice these small, insignificant things. Yet, my type A personality was coming out in full force and it all needed to be perfect. It has to be. At one point I had to stop (before I almost blew up for a spoon being out of place) and ask myself this question:
Why does it matter so much?
The response I got from the frightened, vulnerable little girl that resides within me was this:
What will they think of me?
I got curious and starting asking more questions like “why do I care so much about what other people think of me?” and “why is my sense of self so wrapped up in how others perceive me?” I acknowledged the little girl inside me who still needs everyone to acknowledge her contributions, her strengths, her gifts. If they go un-acknowledged, if they aren’t mentioned, or even criticized, all of a sudden my self esteem takes a huge hit. I had learned from an early age that my sense of self is tied closely with how I appear to others, especially in the hospitality department.
I sensed the part of me inside that wasn’t ready to just accept myself as I am; imperfect. Denial had been my best friend, along with positive affirmations. Thing is, even if you sweep the dirt under a rug and pretend it’s not there, it still exists; it’s still there. I thought more about that as I swept the floors and vacuumed; the work involved. It takes work to clean up a house as it does to clean up a mind. What’s the result? My wood floors looked amazing after the dust was cleaned off. But what of the mind?
I saw the dirt as representative of my vulnerability. Acknowledging it and doing something about it took effort; and as painful and stressful as it felt at the time, it was oddly freeing.
I noticed too that I didn’t get every nook and cranny. I did what I could that day to clean my house as best as possible. I thought; what if I just left things as is and accepted them? What if I saw the imperfection in it all as representative of my truth? That I can’t keep a very clean house all of the time?
As I write this, I would like to take it a step further; I can now admit to myself that I’m not where I would like to be in life. I feel disappointed that I’m not able to physically have children right now, that I’ve lost my job and have no prospects, and that I might lose my house if I don’t find work. That I am currently overweight and have struggled with emotional eating for awhile now.
As painful as that is, I have to tell you; whoever may read these words, that there is something incredibly freeing when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. When you speak your truth with courage, no matter if you say it out loud or write it in a blog, whether you confide in a friend or speak it to a group of strangers. In fact, the most powerful shift comes from first admitting it to yourself.
Like the exhale of a breath, the tension to hide the truth is gone. All I am left with is this moment; filled with a sense of peace.