If you’re reading this, remember that vulnerability is not a weakness.
Throughout my whole life, I have always been a listener. No matter what the conversation topic is, I have always preferred to hear my peers out rather than explain my feelings. I think it is my place in life to listen instead of to speak, and I take comfort in that.
Yet, whenever people give me the opportunity to speak about myself, I have trouble admitting my true feelings. My response has typically been “I’m doing well” or “I don’t have much to complain about.” I may elaborate on why I am feeling good if I am actually doing well. However, when I’m not feeling okay, I don’t admit it. You see, I’ve created an unfortunate cycle that goes as follows: I don’t admit when I am feeling shaky, people tell me “you really have it all together,” and because people have this image of me, I don’t admit when I am feeling shaky — I don’t want to admit a weakness. And so it goes.
This isn’t to say I haven’t told friends when I’m upset. I just don’t do it as frequently or tell as many people as I should. And it wasn’t until I was at my most stressed-out part of college earlier this semester that I realized how much I’ve needed vulnerability in my life. At the beginning of the semester, I was in the midst of ramping up my involvement within my extracurricular, taking tougher classes than I probably should have, and applying for a really competitive major. It started out fine. Eventually, though, the lack of sleep and constant self-doubt got to me, and I fell into a slump.
After feigning calmness and happiness for a few weeks, I realized that I could not keep that up. Nervously, I told a few of my friends how I was actually feeling —
run-down and depressed. Instead of judging me, they came by my side and comforted me. Instead of being the listener, I became the talker. Instead of keeping up a shield, I was vulnerable.
I still don’t genuinely express my feelings as much as I should. Sometimes, it is hard to break a cycle. My decision has improved my semester so much, though. I cannot be thankful enough for my friendships that have only grown deeper.
Vulnerability is not a weakness – if anything, it is strength. Always remember that your vulnerability will be cherished.
Ben T., University of Virginia