At some point in my life, I learned the lesson that vulnerability was weakness.
Whether that was admitting failure, showing my emotions, needing to depend on another person…it all screamed weak to me.
So I avoided it. I kept my true feelings behind a mask while talking to even my closest friends and family members. If I messed up, I gave a reason why instead of admitting I made a mistake and moving forward. I once moved an 80 pound mattress up three flights of stairs by myself just to prove I could — when someone was literally in a car on their way over to help me AND the company had warnings written on the box saying not to move it without two people.
I took it as a moment to be proud of. Not something dumb I did unnecessarily.
I was taught by what was most likely a series of small cultural and societal experiences that showing my soft was admitting to being fragile, feeble, puny, frail. And I accepted that lesson as truth. And I lived about a decade of my life around that idea.
I remember the first time I consciously tried to turn it off. I was on a solo road trip talking to a friend in a different state on the phone, and I admitted to her that in every story I told her, every moment she asked me how I was or offered herself to rely on, I spun the story to make it seem better than it was. Got laid off from work? Look at this opportunity to do something new! Not making the amount of money I wanted to be? But see this awesome low-income apartment I got out of it (real life, it was pretty stinking amazing though). Recent break up? It was mutual! (It wasn’t.)
So I’m on the phone, telling her that I do this, and the conversation changes. And even though I was just talking openly and honestly about how I would hide my “weakness”, it didn’t change anything. Within five minutes of the admission, I did it again.
Five minutes, kids. Habits die hard.
So I took the first step. I called myself out. I got about 30 seconds into her response to my story and I fessed up. And our relationship got stronger because of it.
Over the past five years, it’s something I’ve worked at a lot. It’s way easier now — I’m no where near hiding them 98% of the time like I was when I started. But every once in a while, I find myself explaining away something that I have every right to have feelings about. But I’ve finally realized that emotions don’t make you weak. They’re actually one of the most powerful indicators of strength that I know of.
Can you imagine someone who is unafraid to feel? Someone who is so solid and confident that anxiety or sadness or regret or shame doesn’t throw them in a dizzy? Someone who has no problems saying “I was wrong, and I apologize.” or “This hurt my feelings and I want to make it right.” That screams strength to me. That screams maturity and authenticity and power and confidence. And it’s something I admire.
Do you struggle with feeling strong while being soft? Share your story with me in the comments below, or join the party on my Instagram and share there: https://www.instagram.com/katrina.widener/
You'll also love:
And when you’re ready, here are three ways I can help you: