As I find myself discovering how woefully limited and inadequate my understanding of words like authenticity and vulnerability have been, I’ve been having experiences of discovering newer, different meanings through recent experiences.
A massive penny-drop moment happened last week when I caught myself saying the other day, “I’m being pushed to be authentic in ways that I haven’t been…” and “I feel like life is giving me opportunities for vulnerability like never before…” and N gently nudged me to check Who’s pushing you? before making me see that this is merely life occurring as it always does, nothing special pushing me to do or be anything different, nor any divine plan or occurrence that is whipping up moments for me to show up in. Most importantly, N showed me that life is occurring as it always does, and I have stepped into a new way of being. And this really hit me like a ton of bricks, overwhelming me because I realise these are the moments of evidence, the lived experience of all that I have been seeking — vulnerability and authenticity.
The thing with growth and change is it very rarely occurs in sudden, singular mind-bending or life-changing moments. Most times, it is slow and steady, constant and so gradual I don’t notice it. Sometimes it is so mundane, it passes me by in moments when I’m not even looking. When N pointed out that this is the product of the work, the relentless focus and determination and asked me to really own that power and not pass it off on life, or destiny and fate, I was overwhelmed to the point of tears.
I realised my notion of what “power” is, and what “owning it” looks like is so largely defined by a very pop-culture addled and Internet-driven brain that unless it came with an aha moment that I could capture in a byte-sized, hashtaggable, YAASSSGIRL style, or something I can dissect and write an entire post about, I will probably miss it entirely.
Power is quiet. Asserting and owning it, even quieter still. And right in there, I discovered a new aspect of authenticity for myself, that I had neither known or experienced before.
Authenticity, vulnerability and a deeper honesty — all very quiet too.
It made me also realise how important that validation is for me. For us as humans. And very quickly I looped back to something I’ve been thinking about a lot since the start of the year. N has nudged me in strategic, timely fashion to question why I put out what I do, and the nature of what I choose to put out. I have seen my writing on here change as a result of it.
How much of writing this blog every single day, logging inane details about this journey, is for validation? I don’t have any definite answers. I know it isn’t for social-media style instant validation and gratification. I don’t have a like button active, I do not check statistics much, and I mostly no longer bother about the quality of what I am trying to say even.
There is also the fact that I am no longer an everyday life-blogger, dishing out details about the happenings in my life. I may talk about it here and there, but it is not the basis of my blog anymore. I simply don’t think my life is that interesting anymore. So many posts go live in utterly vague, airy-fary fashion, and make sense to nobody but me because I write them as a marker of something I want to remember, not necessarily communicate in detail to an audience. And even if I sometimes choose to be really honest, bare my soul and get really detailed about the actual happenings f my life rather than just talk about my feelings, am I really 100% honest, authentic and vulnerable on here?
So why this medium with an audience then? Why would I not go private? Or write this in a journal? Again, no clear answers, though I have increasingly been keeping a journal too.
I’ve been reading a lot about how globally the search for vulnerability and authenticity has peaked, and how confusing doing this in the age of social media has made it for our generation. I have many thoughts about a lot of what I have seen and read, but I’m boiling it down to two things that have stayed with me:
- If I’m seeking vulnerability in my real life, why do I need to measure it by how vulnerable I can be online?
- Have we somewhere forgotten what the word — vulnerability — really means? And are we mistaking it for sharing?
It’s a little sad to imagine that the extent of exposure to social media has changed and reshaped the very definitions of some words for us as a culture, to the point that I’ve had to un-learn and re-learn some meanings altogether. That sounds like a profoundly first-world problem to have.
If my recent experience is anything to go by, vulnerability doesn’t have a single catch-all definition. I’ve discovered vulnerability in newer ways that I hadn’t considered ever before. I’ve seen how wide and all encompassing the word is for such an array of experiences — experiences that I cannot even begin to detail on here. Experiences that are personal, that I don’t necessarily want to detail on here.
If I’ve realised the quiet power of authenticity, vulnerability and a deeper honesty, I cannot possibly be unpacking it here in detail, or screaming it from the rooftops for all to see and know, right?
I’m finding more power, and sense, in quietly holding, containing it.
The fact that I am still questioning what I am doing on this blog, only points to my own discomfort with a standard I am unconsciously holding myself to. Why does my search for the authentic and for a deeper vulnerability in my real life necessarily have to translate into vulnerability online (whatever that is — in the age of general over sharing the lines are blurred)? Why do I need to perform my vulnerability and stretch it on here?
On the weekend, S and I had a nice big chat studying some Instagram posts by someone who considers themselves to be posting with a high level of honesty, authenticity and vulnerability, and it has become exceedingly clear to me in recent time that it is near impossible to be vulnerable with an audience. Vulnerability just simply isn’t for the masses. It cannot be painted on and performed, on tap.
It’s something hard won, an evolving thing almost, that morphs over time and with deepening experience, and most of all can only be exercised or experienced with a select few. A chosen inner circle, who have earned the right to be privy to it.
So I wonder again, why does this audience matter? Superficially, I can say no it doesn’t. Considering I get almost no feedback for what I write here, it doesn’t. But I also have to say that as a creative person, a writer, the odd time that on the rare occasion that I do get a deeply insightful comment, or a heartfelt email from someone who could relate to something I wrote, my day is made. It warms my heart to think I touched someone.
There is obviously the aspect of human nature of us all having stories, and wanting so desperately to be heard. The goal for me now, is to first find ways to be heard in real life, to share my stories authentically with those who deserve it, and who will hear it, rather than turn to this blog as an escape (like it used to be).
When I got off social media, I was driven mainly by the growing chasm between life online and offline. I know this is a sentiment many people share. The efforts to correct that by focusing on getting real in real life will do. I don’t know why I’ve felt the need to make my focus reflecting or projecting my reality online, as a marker of true authenticity.
Where have we gone wrong?
I’m still figuring this out, and certain that my thoughts will change and evolve with time, but for now, here we are with only some clarity.
Am I seeking deeper vulnerability all the time? Yes.
Do I want validation for it? Sometimes, it’s nice, yes.
Do I really want to be that vulnerable online, like I am trying to be (and being) in real life? No.
Are the two linked? No.
Three years ago: Birthday weekend in progress