Wednesday, July 06, 2011

From the Blogroll: Vulnerability

Yesterday morning I read a great post from Anne Jackson. I've followed Anne's writings for a long time now and have seen a long journey that has taken on some recently bumpy roads. I'm impressed with her ability to manage writing during rocky times, whether it's by pulling away completely when necessary or bravely getting back into sharing her thoughts and feelings for the online world.

>Read the post at - From Knot to Knot

Since reading her post yesterday, I've been contemplating what it is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, especially as a writer and blogger.

It's not just writers who open themselves up every time they put out a piece of their own work. I recognize the same timidity in a cook offering a made-from-scratch meal to their friends or the look for approval when a kid shows off their freshly made bed to a parent. Even a barista friend of mine says she feels the same thing offering a freshly crafted cup of coffee to a customer.

It's a universal feeling for anyone offering something of themselves out for others to accept. They're open to criticism, rejection, dismissal or disapproval. But it's also one of the best ways to open yourself up for acceptance, affirmation, approval and love.

I've recognized this from the first time I strummed a guitar for others to hear and when I started taking writing more seriously. There are times when you pour your life into your work, sweating over perfecting each chord or struggling to word things just the right way.

That's when I feel most vulnerable.

That's when hearing the first hint of disapproval sends me rearing back in defense, immediately flaring my nostrils and defending the hell out of my work. Other times I immediately back down and begin editing my work in my head, bending it to a person's opinion.

There's a balance between impenetrable defense and weak-willed people-pleasing.

It's a balance a writer must find. It's a balance any musician, chef, preacher, teacher or barista must find. A parent learns it the first time their child is chastised by another adult at the playground. A friend learns it when they open up their emotions to someone else only to find the feelings are not mutual.

For me, the balance reveals more about my struggle with independence. I'm naturally a very dependent person and have recently recognized where it begins to turn from acceptable to a major flaw. I care deeply about what others think of me and I allow others to influence my life in an unhealthy way.

This reveals itself most in social settings. My natural tendency is to go with the flow and follow the crowd. If my friends are out at a certain restaurant or going to see a movie, I want to be there. If they want to come over to my house, I want to accommodate them.

By itself, it's no big deal. But when it starts to compromise my own identity and independence, then we have a problem.

I'm learning more and more what that line looks like. Before I consider bending to the collective will of my friends, I first look to myself and decide if it's really something I want to or need to be doing. If I'd rather stay at home to finish reading an overdue library book, then I should. Or if I know I need to hit the gym to keep in shape, then that should take some precedence over another Napoleon Dynamite watch party.

Friends have their place but taking care of yourself is hugely important and for a long time, I have not been able to strike a balance.

But I'm starting to get there.


Some questions:

Can you relate to the dependent/independent struggle?

When do you feel most vulnerable or defensive?

I know this post is a little more lengthy than typical but I'm trying some new things and want to put forth a little more meaty substance. I hope you enjoy it.

1 comment:

Kayla Joy Smith said...

I loved this, actually!!

I can relate to a lot of your feelings considering the balance of pleasing yourself but also the public eye when you want to "pour your life into your work"(very powerful). It's so difficult taking criticism as an artist but it's one of the most important things to have.

Gosh.. I really did enjoy reading this. You organize your thoughts well!