By: Elizabeth Iwunwa

In our lives it is important to be strong but it is even more important to be vulnerable. Contrary to popular opinion, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable means that we show ourselves as we are, without refrain. Shame often holds us back but people who choose to be vulnerable anyway make deep human connections and are regarded as courageous. Dr. Robert Anthony describes courage as being simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway. We have very many voices and things showing us that we are not worthy of genuine love. The smallest, most persistent voice almost always wins.

It is okay to be imperfect and acknowledge it but it is never okay to remain complacent. To be vulnerable is to know and trust yourself well enough to invite someone to share in that awareness. It is choosing to wake up each morning and open up knowing full well that you might get hurt in the process. For many, being vulnerable is terrifying. It leaves one exposed, unsheltered, and without defence. With the events going on in our world and lives it is only human to want to build walls of Jerichos around our emotions. With the repeated terror attacks, I think it is very easy to become desensitized. It is very easy to slip into armchair discussions, complete with sighs and solutions until something else happens and then the occurrences become normal.

Choosing to become vulnerable is being open to the possibility that our hearts might get broken, and our spirits might get crushed time after time. Presenting yourself as you truly are is a function of self love. Self love should be more than a catchphrase. It should be more than a selfie caption. It should be choosing to love the dark and twisty crevices of your being as much as you love the bright and shiny parts.

 When it comes to relationships of all kinds, we sometimes regard vulnerability as a liability. The truth is that when you open up to someone on an emotional level, there is always the possibility that they might take undue advantage of you. The reason people adore little children is the fact that they trust and are filled with awe at life’s little things. Of course children need guidance and structure because life truly isn’t always peaches and cream and there is evil as much as there is good in the world.

But having the heart of a child is priceless. One of the joys of life is sitting in satisfying silence after a rejuvenating conversation with a friend. Another is listening to a fellow traveller and complete stranger and knowing in that moment what they mean. That is what vulnerability feels like. Brene Brown however says to only share your feelings and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. However, I do think that the reason we often confide in complete strangers rather than those we have come to know and trust is that we most likely will never come across them again and don’t want to be looked at with pity.

 After all is said and done, things don’t always work out the way we intend for them to. You might say, do, and be all the right things and still get your heart stung. Honestly, you cannot control the amount of pain another soul inflicts on you. The temptation after then would be to shrink back and pull away. The best I can say is to take your time and let your emotions run their course. This sits well with the carrot, the egg, and the coffee bean in hot water analogy. The carrot on going in hard, softens. The very delicate hardens. But the coffee bean releases its flavour. Do not let an incidence or a few more change your disposition towards love. Our struggles mine our strength.

 Being vulnerable means stepping out of your comfort zone. In our campus community, those opportunities might present themselves as applying for a position you feel under-qualified for, asking someone out on a date, saying “I love you” first, or becoming an exchange student. Life in our community presents us with numerous chances to grow, advance, and be the very best versions of ourselves. And along the way, you’ll meet people. Ones who accept your genuinity because I think a lot of people hunger for that. The world is full of people wearing masks and hiding pain.

 And when all else fails, many people resort to numbing. Numbing is the process of depriving oneself of emotions and responses. It is a mindless reaction to grief. The thing with numbing is that it might work for a while but after then, you become a literal zombie and emotions become steel. C.S Lewis’ wise words come to mind. He says, “love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

 Vulnerability avails us the opportunity of making sure that we just aren’t walking through life. Life is full of many rich and very diverse experiences. Keep your heart open and live your life. To be vulnerable is to be fully human.