Vulnerability, the Sweetest Taboo
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali Nov 6, 2015
I just finished taking a OneTaste course called Taboo. On the first night, we talked about how one of the most taboo things we run into in relating with other people is vulnerability.
Brené Brown, a research professor who studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, says that the first thing we want from others to feel connected is to feel their vulnerability, which is typically the last thing we want to reveal. So we spend our time having surface conversations that don’t fully nourish us. We seem to have an unspoken agreement not to challenge each others’ façades. This never worked well for me, being sensitive and desiring real connection since I was a child, but I played along in order to survive, hiding behind a well-constructed, wise, compassionate self that is a good listener. I invited the vulnerability of others to come out while keeping mine largely under wraps. As a result, I often felt unseen and alone when with people.
About a month ago I began a relationship in which I decided to do it differently. Week-to-week, we research different aspects of relationship. From the start, I decided to research letting my vulnerability out. To my surprise, he didn’t run. He didn’t reject it or shrink back. He received and loved me in those places, which is more confronting to my story than if he had disappeared. He came in closer and began to open at his own pace, without being pushed or pulled by me.
I’m surprised by how easily tears spill over when I say something as simple as, “I want you to stay over tonight,” or, “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” How hard it was to ask him to sit next to me in class for the tenth time, and my surprise at his tenth yes. How scared I am to say, “I love you,” not knowing how it will be received.
How tender, in fact, my heart.
Daily, my adult woman gets embarrassed by all this revealing, and I don’t care.
Here’s the kicker: I’m happy and feel lighter than I have in years. Why? Because revealing myself and being met there feels good. Because vulnerability spills out all over now, in a better connection with my mother, in laughter with friends, in a real conversation with a server at a restaurant.
For me, the most challenging part of Taboo was not the edgy power plays, nor the examination of old wounds, nor even the realization that I often am run by my victim. It was admitting that my heart is overflowing with love. That being happy feels like I’m shirking a self-created contract to struggle and suffer in order to be a spiritual person. That whether or not we decide to continue being in relationship past the next month, I’m enjoying the love, joy, depth, growth, passion, and fun I have with my boyfriend. That this opening is happening in me, is created by me, and ripples out to those I meet. That I’m listening to and speaking my desires, in some areas for the first time. That I’m being myself instead of the self I was raised to be.
And—who knew—that self is magnetic, beautiful, enough.
Photo credit: Katerina Plotnikova