For most of my life, I’ve arranged things (and when I say things, I’m referring to friendships) in such a way where I don’t have to be the slightest bit vulnerable. In most of my relationships, I’m fun, outgoing, friendly, cheerful, and positive. This has served one purpose and one purpose only: to minimize vulnerability. Because to me, vulnerability equates to death. If I don’t let others see my hurting side, they won’t be able to hurt me. If they don’t see me vulnerable, they won’t want to push me away. Because that’s when people push away you know, when you are at your most vulnerable. At least, this is what I was taught at a very early age by my mother. My mother was wonderfully sweet, loving, fun, and goofy. As long as I was happy and cheerful. The second I would begin to get upset, whether it was because I broke a toy, or because I couldn’t find my favorite pair of sneakers (I’m totally making these situations up – I can’t actually remember any specifics), she would shut me out and pretend like I wasn’t there. I would cry and scream til I was blue in the face. I would pull on her pant leg. I would throw myself on the ground in sobs. My efforts for connection were futile. As long as I was upset and vulnerable, she was not available to me.
I vaguely remember, probably at about the age of three or four, realizing that since no one would ever comfort me when I cried, it was pointless crying. I therefore didn’t cry from about the age of four to the age of twenty-two. I’ll save the story of my first cry at the age of twenty-two for another day. But the point is, I learned how to be and how not to be in relationships. To this day, it’s nearly impossible to allow myself to cry in front of another person, or even to allow myself to cry at all.
However, I don’t want to live my life in loneliness and isolation. Therefore, I must be willing to face my biggest fears, and let myself trust that the people in my life will not leave me at the first sign of vulnerability. My logical mind tells me that the people who I’ve chosen to allow within my inner circle are trustworthy and consistent enough that they wouldn’t leave if I open up to them and allow myself to be vulnerable. I have the privilege and honor of having several people in my life who I consider my closest friends, and who I trust will not walk out and leave at the drop of a hat. My emotional mind however is a different story. Sometimes it needs a little extra reassurance that I haven’t been abandoned just because I opened up to them. I am lucky that my friends are kind enough to understand this.