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Facing up to Vulnerability

C. B. Lieber

We all want real, deep, and meaningful relationships. Allowing ourselves to become vulnerable in a relationship can help break down barriers. How three women opened themselves up to change

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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“I couldn’t put myself out there and tell anyone what I really thought or felt. Because those who don’t try never look foolish, right?”

 

Hear My Voice

 I’ve been playing music since I was a small child. Years of piano lessons led to my playing for just about every school performance, and then some. Songs play in my head throughout the day. Songs of my past, popular songs of today… and some of my own songs, too.

But I was afraid to share them with anyone. I mean, me? I was Ms. Cool. Ms. Has-It-All-Together. If I shared my music with someone, they might think I was, you know, a little too “artsy,” trying too hard. And they’d probably think it was awful. It wasn’t worth the risk.

So I never told anyone that I wrote music. I did all the “good girl” things instead — went to seminary, then to college, got married, moved to Lakewood, got a job. My husband was learning. I looked the part, played the part. Smiled. Wore the right clothes. Fit into society.

Well, sort of. Because part of me rebelled against being in the box all the time. My family is this odd combo of perfectly typical and very individualistic, and my siblings have all taken very different paths. Lakewood didn’t really work for me. But my husband was learning, and that was what I wanted. We stayed.

.

 

Here and there, I’d play piano for family parties. I’d practice every once in a while, late in the evenings, when my husband was out learning. I’d try a chord here, a new tune there. Then I’d block them out of my head. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was weird. Yes, out of the box. But not creative. No, that would be too different.

Inside me, the rhythms thumped, waiting for expression. And then one day, I came across the work of Brené Brown. Inspired, I read one of her books, where she discusses the concepts of shame and vulnerability. I read how we all have these thoughts, I’m not good enough because of x and If people knew x about me, they’d think I’m ____ (awful, weird, pathetic…). She wrote how we mistakenly view vulnerability as weakness instead of the opportunity for growth and connection.

Suddenly, the fog lifted, and I saw what I’d been doing to myself. Isolating myself. Hiding behind this curtain of “I’m not good enough” in my head, but portraying “I’m too cool for all of this” to the rest of the world. Just to protect my fragile ego. For the first time, I thought to myself, Why? Why can’t I just be myself? Why can’t I tell people that I love music, that I write music?

It sounds so stupid, but my external persona was all about being strong. I projected to the world this sense of invincibility, nothing can faze me. And by definition, doing that shut off my natural creativity. I couldn’t open up to people. I couldn’t put myself out there and tell anyone what I really thought or felt. Because those who don’t try never look foolish, right?

I took a deep breath and sat down at the piano one night, and I played. A new tune emerged, one from the depths of my being. For the first time, I knew I’d gotten it right. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 598)

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