I have a friend whose primary language is sarcasm. She’s always making a joke of sorts, always deadpanning her way through her day. I’ve always been friendly with her, yet something has shifted in the last year: where she once would use her wit to mask her emotions, she is now listening more acutely, responding more personally, and opening up to others about how she feels – even if she doesn’t know why she feels the way she does. The “friendly”-ships she’s had, with me and with others, have started to turn into deep, personal friendship bonds. She’s got a bold, infectious personality and has always spoken her mind. But as I watch her navigate through her day-to-day interactions with the world around her, I realize what’s different – she is finally speaking her heart.
To speak your heart is your right, but also your blessing. We are all blessed with the capacity to feel an entire spectrum of emotions and formulate all kinds of opinions and, moreover, questions, based on those emotions. So why is it that with this incredible blessing, so often we stay silent? Why are we so afraid to be ourselves – all of ourselves?
Sometimes we feel so alone in our thought processes that it seems “wrong” to speak our heart. To talk deep, as some call it. There’s this notion that expressing thoughts, feelings, opinions, and questions of an empathetic, introspective nature is embarrassing and makes us vulnerable. And vulnerable, by definition, is being susceptible to danger; either physical or emotional attack or harm (I just looked it up to be sure). It’s this perception that is left over from childhood, middle school, and high school years: the perception that speaking our hearts, being authentic and unique, and letting others know how we feel is a sign of weakness and just another chance to be teased or ostracized. And so we stay silent.
Of course we feel alone – we don’t have any proof otherwise.
“Mean Girls” don’t just exist in the 18-and-under set; they follow us throughout our young adulthood and into our lives. Adult judgement and gossip, we forget, have the exact same roots as their childhood origin: insecurity, myopic and a strong desire to remain top dog at any cost. And yet with that comes a loneliness. An emptiness, lack of connection, and a distance between the person they project on the outside, and the person they are (or long to be) inside. We all have the capability to become this kind of person: what ensures we don’t is how authentically we let our heart live out in the open…and with how much compassion we approach those who haven’t quite gotten there yet. Because the more people they see thrive in a space of authentic truth, hopefully the safer it will seem to follow suit.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I’d like to add: those who mind – the Mean Girls of our adulthood – probably feel envious that you have the self awareness to be honest; and those who matter will “be who they are and say what they feel” right alongside you. Aren’t those the people we want to be surrounded by anyway? They’re the ones who treat others like equals, the ones who can empathize because they’ve been there too. They’re the ones who can empathize with anyone, even the Mean Girls, because they know what it is to feel things deeply. They are the ones who, dare I say it, thrive in the space of being…vulnerable.
Vulnerability, at its core, is nothing more than honesty. Vulnerable is being truthful, saying I am raw, I am flawed, I am crazed, I am bare, I am on a journey and I am urging you to join me. Yet this idea of vulnerability is so often met with trepidation. Can I be vulnerable? Should I be vulnerable? Doesn’t that mean I’m in harm’s way?
Speak your heart and trust – you are not in danger. You might get a bit bruised, but by being authentic and true to you, there is nothing to fear. Speaking your heart – even if you’re hurting, even if what it’s saying is somewhat unclear – is about learning, healing and giving. At the root of you and of me there is a pull to do all three. For others, for ourselves, for both at once.
We all have the ability to self-heal – it’s just about accessing that power, and being not only brave enough but self-trusting enough to do so. We often view vulnerability as the danger from which we need healing. The barrier that prevents us from connecting. Yet vulnerability and speaking your heart is actually the bridge that forms connection; it’s the honesty that gives us the power to heal.