What I learnt about vulnerability experimenting with it: Part 2

Illustration: Mari Andrew

Synopsis: Let’s start with the spoilers first

In a conversation with a friend about this, she asked me to what being vulnerable meant to me in this experiment, throwing me my own question. I explained with a metaphor, the obvious one, one that I have frequently used since.

Illustration: “Too Good For You” by Polly Nor

The Experiment

Step 1: To be or not to not be

How does one start being vulnerable?

Step 2: Peeling off the layers

I went back to the metaphor (I think better with them). That’s when it hit me: This whole time, I had been trying to “look naked”. Sure, that was also uncomfortable, but that wasn’t the same as being naked. Being naked was about stripping off the layers, not about wearing a body-fitting naked-looking suit. All this while I have been trying to be vulnerable based on my version of what vulnerability looks like. All I had to do instead was not try so hard to not be vulnerable. What I needed instead was to not hide under the clothes because I was uncomfortable with the nakedness but because I was choosing to be that way. I needed to be more mindful of why I was wearing the clothes in the first place. I needed to be comfortable in the skin and body underneath, so that I don’t feel exposed and defenseless without it.

Comic: The Awkward Yeti
Illustration: Mari Andrew

(1) … I’d be hurt.

Drawing: Liana Finck

(2) …. I’d be exposed.

Drawing: Liana Finck in The New Yorker

(3) … I’d find out things about myself I am not yet ready to know.

Drawing: Liana Finck
Illustration: “Be You But Better” by Polly Nor

Step 3: Fact checking

The thing about these fears is this: while they are not entirely untrue, they need not always be true. And that whole grey area in between is where the empowerment happens. If these fears were strong enough to influence the decisions I made, I wanted to know they were valid fears. I started paying attention to what happened when I did something against that fear. Let me explain.

Drawing: Liana Finck
Comic: Cyanide and Happiness (Explosm)
Comic: The Awkward Yeti

Observations

So, what did I learn from these tests?

Revelations

(1) So much of what hurt me actually had nothing to do with me!

Illustration: Mari Andrew

(2) I was measuring my worth with a checklist of way too many “shoulds” that I didn’t always believe in

Illustration: Mari Andrew

(3) I, as well as the world, was a work in progress

This sounds obvious. I was pretty sure I knew this. This experiment, however, made me realise how often (and how conveniently) I forget this. Or how often I think “well, he/she/they is a work in progress, but I should be this finished piece, and thus had to be perfect right now”.

Comic: LunarBaboon
Illustration: Mari Andrew

What vulnerability was not

(1) It wasn’t sharing everything that was on my mind. It certainly wasn’t oversharing.

Comic: Ben Ward in The New Yorker
Drawing: Liana Finck

(2) It wasn’t an excuse to do what I wanted to do under the guise of being “authentic”.

Drawing: Liana Finck

(3) It wasn’t blindly trusting. Or falling in love with everyone you meet.

Drawing: Liana Finck
Drawing: Liana Finck

(4) It wasn’t weak. It wasn’t about being a doormat. And it certainly wasn’t passive.

Illustration: Mari Andrew

In (kind of) conclusion: So then what happened?

(1) It changed my relationship with myself

Illustration: Venus Libido

(2) I began “collaborating with life”

Illustration: Mari Andrew

(3) It changed my relationship with the world

Illustration: Polly Nor

The (*)

Illustration: Mari Andrew

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Story-curator. Facilitator. Wondering about collective sensemaking, stories, love, belonging & questions that have no complete answers. https://jayatidoshi.com/

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Jayati Doshi

Jayati Doshi

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Story-curator. Facilitator. Wondering about collective sensemaking, stories, love, belonging & questions that have no complete answers. https://jayatidoshi.com/