When it comes to being an individual and unique person, our world, our society, and the people in it can be terribly unforgiving. One of our most basic needs as people is feeling that we belong—that who we are is validated by others, and respected by most. Though basic, sometimes it feels like this is the hardest need to meet, because many times in order to achieve surface belonging, we find it necessary to abbreviate what we feel; we temper excitement, stifle vulnerability, and standardize opinions for the sake of maintaining calm waters. It is not so hard to imagine why group homogony is many times favored over individual expression. However, I believe that there is a reason that every person is unlike the next. That reason is not so we can tuck those people away in favor of a gilded society that favors harmony over authenticity, detachment over real emotion, and essentially, walls over windows.
Aligning ourselves with others with the goal of being accepted has its benefits—it is a protective mechanism. If we abbreviate how we really think and what we really feel, we will never run the risk of being rejected by others. Few things sting like rejection does, for it is the ultimate denial of the basic need of acceptance; rejection, in essence, means that who we are—our beliefs, preferences, thoughts, opinions, and emotions—are not valid in the eyes of others. What we must remember, however, is that living a life solely based on external validation has its severe limitations—limitations that are far more reaching and enduring than the possibility of rejection.
Sadly enough, many fall into the trap of leaving walls up permanently, for fear of being wrong, being judged, or being hurt if vulnerability is permitted. There comes a point where being vulnerable is both the hardest and the best thing that we can do for ourselves. Perhaps there is nothing more noble than wearing your heart on your sleeve. A man who knows not what it means to be in a position to be hurt, yet remain safe, will never experience some of the truest rewards in life. There is a dangerous purgatory that can be found by living life the twilight of fear and insecurity. No true failure can be found here—this is what lures many of us. Reciprocally however, no true success can ever be found here.
One of the most common quotes that we see is that we live in a world that is trying its damned hardest every day to turn us into something we are not. Perhaps this is true, but perhaps we need to shift this viewpoint slightly. Instead of seeing our world as something that is unrelentingly against us, maybe our world is rather one that is challenging us to find ourselves and challenging us to maintain our sense of self, among others who are struggling to do that very thing. Perhaps it is not us against the world in the search to discover who we are, but us against ourselves, in the search to remain individuals among a population that is as frightened as we are to do so.
There is more strength to be found in being vulnerable than there is strength in fear of being exposed. Being vulnerable means that there is a certain security that says, I’ll be alright if this doesn’t work out. I’ll still be me. And being me is okay.