Mind, Posts

On Vulnerability

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside
And I ain’t gonna study war no more

(from Down By The Riverside)


This post has taken me a while to write. I think I must have redrafted it at least five times. Why? Because it is a sort of confession.

I have not been myself for a long while. In fact, I’m still not sure who my real self is – but I am beginning to realise who I’m not. Who I don’t want to be any more.

It’s problematic, because I am a sort of shapeshifter, a chameleon who can change personas depending on who she is with, or who she thinks she wants to become. I don’t know whether it developed due to my lack of self esteem growing up, my very active imagination, or something to hide my mental health problems behind – but it’s always been one of my abilities. It has been useful (and probably still will be) in cases where I have to project confidence, or where I need to inhabit a character while writing about them. But it also hides the real me – the me that not many ever get to see: vulnerable, unsure, fearful. This is why few people have ever seen me cry in public. I defend myself like a warrior before an invading army, like a crab within its shell.

Squishy! Hermit crab without a shell

But as I get older, I am realising I don’t need to have these masks to help me go out and do things I don’t really want to, or deal with people who I find threatening. Because I can just say no. And because I am learning to accept me as I am – not a badass warrior woman, not a businesswoman, not the person who everyone leans on because she is strong, not the person who thinks she has all the answers. I have laid down my sword and my shield and, like a hermit crab who leaves a shell it has outgrown to find another, I am revealing my squishy underbelly.

It does not mean that I will allow myself to be abused, or hurt. I just won’t engage with the fight. In my vulnerableness my senses are sharper than ever, and it is easier to see the things in my life that need to be culled as they no longer nurture me, and also what needs to be fostered with love. Obviously, this includes people too. It will take time as old habits are hard to let go, and sometimes my defensiveness still forces its way through and, like an over-protective father, can sometimes seem a bit over the top.What can I say? I’m human.

But one thing that I know for sure now, is what really lights me up. What makes me feel good and happy and that everything is all right. And that thing is writing – writing things I want to write about, rather than what others want me to write. My fear of having no money pushed me into a place where life had no colour in it, but I have realised that if I work hard at what I do love, it will pay off eventually (although I may have to live on a diet of baked beans on toast for now*). And so this year is the year I grow into myself, and eventually into a new, shiny shell that fits.

Maybe have a look at the shell that surrounds you. Is it doing its job, or are you feeling uncomfortable in its confines? Becoming aware and accepting of your vulnerability in order to grow is a difficult path to walk, and I feel that having support around you is vital (and I have the best support system in the world) – but I wonder, is anyone else on this journey? Or is anyone considering shedding their shell? Let me know – I am really interested.


* Joke – too many carbs for a start!!






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