For most of my adult life, I thought being vulnerable was considered as weakness. I grew up in a home where I got used to the Hebrew saying – “do not wash the dirty laundry outside,” or in other words, do not expose your weaknesses and flaws outward. To show weakness is to put yourself in a vulnerable position, or to reveal your imperfection. Why? I don’t really know, this is the environment in which I was raised.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints about my upbringing. It is what it is. But today, at 38, I allow myself to reminisce and reflect on the past.
I will never forget the moment I went to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), to start treating my claustrophobia. I took a few sessions to get practical, short-term tools for dealing with the fear of enclosed spaces. The therapist asked me to share my life story. And so I did… After almost an hour, there was silence in the room. Or what we call in Hebrew “a thunderous silence”. Then the therapist commented: “Look… We can start treating your claustrophobia, but I think there’s a much more important issue here – to bring down your walls of defense!”
I replied: “What ?! What are you talking about?! …” and he replied back: “It seems that over the years you have wrapped yourself in so many walls of protection, that you have created a story for yourself that protects you, but this story is not an objective story, it’s not a real factual story.”
I went out of the conversation in shock. Total shock. It was the moment I realized for the first time in my life, how all these years I had covered myself in layers of protection, layer upon layer. I did what ever it tasks not to be vulnerable, not to be exposed.
This moment was a defining moment. I felt as if a concrete block fell on me. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I realized I was only at the beginning of a long-long process. I suddenly realized that I had to begin making an internal process of change.
I had to remove from myself all “past settings”, all the titles and those inherent defences. I realized that my job-role could not define me, my academic degrees should not define me, the story I had told myself up to that moment could not determine my identity. It is a very difficult process of cleansing. As time went on, I realized that I had to shed all the externalities that to this day had established my inner identity. I slowly realized that I don’t have one definition, I can “wear several hats” that represent different identity definitions without confronting an internal contradiction; and despite the fundamental difference between the new characteristics I began to recognize – they do not contradict but rather complement one another and turn me into a someone with a much more diversified identity.
Continuing my inner process was to start openly talk with people around me about my flaws, shortcomings, difficulties and challenges, that by the way, everyone in this world has. For the first time, at the age of 35 I started dubbing my imperfections. I began to share all of this in the right amount and appropriate context of course, with the people around me.
It was precisely this vulnerability, I felt, that enabled others to share with me their imperfections as well. It allowed me to create deeper conversations, and more genuine connections. Being imperfect is not a bad word. Being imperfect is the most human thing there is. Imperfection is inherent in the human genome, and it is what allows us to make more human connections between people. By making myself more vulnerable, I was slowly able to allow people to be “the mirror of my inner self,” and wherever I looked I saw myself.
I decided to share with you here on my personal blog the secrets of my heart, in order to give you the courage to be vulnerable, exposed, real and honest in front of the people around you. Don’t be afraid, because the courage in vulnerability will allow you to be just who you really are.