Vulnerability in a City of Tough Skin



They require you to be vulnerable. VULNERABLE. Like standing so close to a stranger you can see the hairs on their upper lip moving from their breath. Stepping up to the counter of a posh coffee shop and deflecting a wave of glares for ordering hot chocolate as an adult? (WHICH I paid $9 for a small, so just give me the cup minus the attitude, please.)

SYSTEM SHOCK #1

“Vulnerability takes many forms.”

I typically wear my heart on my sleeve, so I always perceived myself as vulnerable. Perceived is the key word. It is one thing to write a transparent blog post behind the safety of a screen. It is a completely different game when you are involuntarily forced to be vulnerable in public. Part of this shock caused my personal anxiety to flare. I woke up an hour earlier to try to catch trains before packed rush hours. I stopped going to new businesses because I liked the comfort of familiar experiences. Eventually I realized vulnerability takes on many forms. Whether it is with best friends or complete strangers, the key is to remember we're all human. Ya know what? Most people are probably paranoid they have dragon breath, but we all still have to ride to work everyday. I started pushing myself to find comfort with the feeling of being exposed. Yes, there are still some days where my gut clenches at the idea of being up close and personal. Yet, despite the fear I show up anyways.

SYSTEM SHOCK #2

"Our mind is half the battle."

Why did I feel triggered so badly one day about ordering hot chocolate? The actual unpacking of this incident occurred months later. That day I went to the coffee shop, I was already weighed down by the beast of comparison. There I was in my worn jeans, a sweater one-size too small, and thrashed flats ordering a hot chocolate. And I felt an insurgence of disgust from the fashionista patrons sizing me up. OR so I thought. Who knows, maybe they were? BUT I have to admit I was already self-deprecating myself from the second I walked in. I allowed my mentality to control my emotions, therefore making me shrink. I granted permission for my socio-economic insecurities push me into a negative space of vulnerability. Living here I've realized my mind is half (sometimes 90%) of the battle. As I'm getting stronger at controlling it, I feel a million pounds lighter.

SYSTEM SHOCK #3

"New Environments Challenge Vulnerability in Established Relationships "

I find it funny I initially had the hardest time being vulnerable with the people I loved the most. Have you ever successfully tried to talk to your mom on the phone and hold back from crying? It doesn't work out so well. Last fall, my solution became holding it all in. "It's going great! It's an adjustment for sure, but I'm grateful to be here". My PR statement to replace "I am lowkey miserable and having a really difficult time adjusting. This is freaking hard." A large part of me avoided sharing how I felt because I was riddled with guilt. I incessantly nagged all these people about how I wanted to live here (FOR YEARS). How could I let them down now by expressing how I truly felt? This toxic mentality also manifested in my relationship. We were both in a new place and not feeling like our normal selves. Naturally when you love someone you feel their sadness too. Keeping our happy masks on during the day for everyone else end up falling on our laps at the end of the day. This system shock was by far the hardest. Thankfully, I no longer fear being vulnerable with loved ones. When I finally told my mom I was having a hard time, I felt like I could run a marathon. lol We build up these expectations of remaining strong. The idea of "Never let them see you sweat". Well, I'm here to tell you It's okay to sweat profusely sometimes. Because those established relationships are the people who return you back to yourself. They bring peace, reason, and gravity back into your space.

The Bottom Line

Will I ever fully be okay sitting with my face in a standing passengers butt? No. Can I manage? Yes. Do I still get a little insecure when standing at the crosswalk next to the girl decked head-to-toe in designer clothes? Sure. I just know that even my $7 clearance sweater, my personality can still shine through. Life will push (more like shove) you out of your comfort zone. It will take some time to get back and the extent of that time is different for everyone. Regardless of the time, just know that each time you get up, you will be a little more prepared for the next.

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© 2020 by Shelby Wilburn