Vulnerable about Not Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is having a moment right now. Increasingly authenticity and realness are seen to be defining traits in people, whether it be celebrities, politicians, or other leaders. Even in the age of internet memes, those who are real with their audience have grown to the top.

Take for instance certain current hip-hop artists like Drake or Kanye who go against type to be honest and somewhat somber across big and bold beats. Hip-hop, known for its self-promotion and braggadocio, has become more emotional and self-doubting to great success of the aforementioned artists.

Look at two of the biggest podcasts around, WTF with Marc Maron and You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes, both bring in guests–usually comedy types and ask them serious questions about their lives. Maron revitalized his career and the podcast format through his honesty and unique ability to draw authenticity out of his interview subjects. Holmes admittedly mirrored the format of Maron’s podcast, but took the vulnerability interview to another level–focusing specifically on religion and sex–forcing his interviewees to “make it weird” by revealing information they would usually be closed off to. Despite the faults that both interviewers (and occasionally their guests) lay on the table, they are adored–their vulnerability is part of the charm.

Being honest about one’s failures and doubts and mistakes is a risky thing, but by opening up about these sorts of things we slowly realize how shared these are and it draws us closer to one another. You are broken just like I am broken. It’s beautiful.

Which makes me wonder, why can’t I be vulnerable?

I am such a child of this moment, I bask in other people’s vulnerability, despising those who put up a front for their own reputation, yet I can’t really talk about my feelings. I went through that third-wave emo phase where we all were sad. For some reason this hasn’t transferred over into adult life and things like sharing how. you. feel.

There are even times on this here blog where I don’t want to share things or to put things in public places, I guess for fear of what people will think, I’m not really sure.

I’ve pondered this for a little bit now and memories have begun to come back to me. I’ve always been an emotional kid, overtly serious about serious things. And I think being serious and emotional and caring about stuff began to haunt me when I didn’t see it reciprocated around me.

I remember my parents made us do an acted out lip sync of “Christmas Shoes”, yes that song about the kid who is buying shoes for his dying mother. The song had just come out so everyone was very emotional about it. There were three characters in the song, played by my brother, sister, and I. I don’t remember which one I was (there was the cashier, the boy, and the man standing in line) and though I was only nine or ten, this song gave me a real case of the feels. There was a moment when we were rehearsing it that I think I closed my eyes in a piece of impassioned performing during a real emotional part. Did my family go, ‘that Jacob is really trying to get into character here’ or ‘wow he’s a little weird for being so into it, but I guess that’s cool’, no, they laughed. I got upset. And I think a little part of the “don’t let them see you cry” piece of me grew.

In high school we had this big presentation come through about one of the Columbine victims in an anti-bullying effort. The assembly was pretty affecting, talking of the need to treat one another well in order to prevent great tragedies like the Columbine one. I was pretty moved by it, wanting to devote myself to a campaign of kindness to everyone around me. But as I looked around it seemed as if no one took it as seriously as I. They had a large piece of paper up on the wall where everyone was supposed to go sign their names to commit to these principles. I remember being semi-embarrassed because I went to do it, but none of my friends were quite as enthused as I.

Being young it is hard to deal with serious and emotional subjects, there is no understanding there and it is easier to harden yourself to the things you don’t understand. I always had a soft hard, but it is one that has calloused over time–hardening with years of feeling and having nobody to really meet my feeling. You don’t want to bawl your eyes out after A Walk to Remember ends? Saosin’s “You’re Not Alone” doesn’t make you want to befriend every person and wallow in sadness with them? Oh.

Maybe everyone was just too scared then. Irony is an easy train to jump aboard–foregoing all sincerity for a good laugh.

Maybe as time goes I’ll unlearn this habit of bottling it all up.

Anyway, I welcome the age of vulnerability for all those participating in it and those growing up with serious and emotional hearts like mine.

3 thoughts on “Vulnerable about Not Being Vulnerable

  1. Do you think about how growing up as a boy has affected you versus how girls are more accepted when showing vulnerable emotions? Or has it even played a role at all?

    1. I don’t think it’s ever been consciously stated that I shouldn’t be emotional because I’m a boy, though I believe that certainly was an underlying factor in the whole thing. Though I think my mom always watching “The Sound of Music” and “Anne of Green Gables” and having me watch with her relaxed that expectation a little bit. It’s funny because I see vulnerability in men as a sign of post-manliness in culture, something I align directly with, but find it so hard to participate in.

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