Notes on vulnerability, shame and playing small.....
As someone who operates in vulnerability, I have often been told that people resonate with me and that vulnerability is my “superpower” and a gift. Me showing up authentically and saying the things that everyone is thinking but no one is saying, allows people to show up authentically OR it offends them. People are either like “woooah this girl is so transparent maybe I can also open up” or “She’s doing too much, why is she sharing her business out there so much, I could never”. This is why I wrestle so much with anxiety…..because I go back and forth between sharing authentically to “free people” AND “keeping quiet” so that I don’t make people uncomfortable and walking that line can be exhausting. One of my biggest fears is being misunderstood and the other day the holy spirit convicted me by telling me that I can care too much about man’s approval and that for where he is taking me, I need to let that go.
Being a safe space for people to hang their hats is Biblical. Jesus held “space” for so many people and that’s why people were drawn to him. They recognized they could bring their brokenness to him and he wouldn’t judge, he would listen and he would heal. He was the best thing for many people and also INCREDIBLY offensive to others, like so much so that they crucified him….YIKES.
You see, I’m a natural storyteller (people have called me drama queen, my whole life), but I’m also a trained storyteller. I literarily studied storytelling in university so I know how to bring forth ideas that transform people’s lives through the art of storytelling. I learned a long time ago that people don’t remember anything other than narratives. Unfortunately or fortunately for me, God keeps taking me through these lessons, so the stories I end up telling are “my stories”. If you read through this blog, you’ll see that 99% of it is telling my story, and hoping that others will resonate with it. I started the blog as a way to process my thoughts and emotions out loud (all my out loud processors say heyyyyy), but somewhere along the way, people started reading it (when I sent it to them 😂) and resonating with it. It’s weird because every time I put a blog post out there, I hope that no one sees it but also that lots of people see it. I’ve never been able to hold that tension perfectly. On one hand, these are my stories, these are my actual thoughts and feelings, the innermost vulnerabilities and insecurities I don’t want to share with anyone. On the other hand, when I do share, I feel lighter, I feel open, and other people also seem to find release. The problem though, is that putting yourself out there like this is risky, exhausting, liberating, and overwhelming all at once. For the longest time, I thought this blog was for me to simply process but lately, the holy spirit keeps convicting me about “playing small”.....I can’t lie I fought that a little; “holy spirit, how can I be playing small, I am putting myself on blast constantly, and then sharing it publicly, like what do you want from me?” and he said “I want you to be a light, a warm place for people, a safe place for people to land” ANNNND he said there is a difference with being a “safe place” and being an “inspirational space”. A safe space is messy, not cleaned up, convoluted, and sometimes unresolved while an inspirational space is full of grit, resilience, overcoming, resolution, and is often tied up in a neat little bow. An inspirational place sounds like “I was struggling and then I prayed, then God took it away and NOW you can do the same”. A safe space sounds like “ Omo, I am still struggling, I tried to pray and didn’t feel God, but I also know his word and I feel a little better, do you resonate with that?”
I’ll give you an example, I wrote about loneliness a few weeks ago…..and I got 2 responses from people that I love; one was “Ibiyemi, I was just talking about this, and it resonated” and the other was “Why are you always negative on the blog, you should aim to inspire people”.....Both of those responses are valid based on the context of the two people involved AND I love and respect both of them deeply. It’s called “holding the tension”. Some days I’m good at holding that tension and some days it sucks and I just don’t want to be misunderstood.
I’ll give you another example of the 2 sided coin that is called vulnerability. When you become a safe space for people, people can take advantage of that. In about 90% of my romantic relationships in the past up until now, I have been used as the “therapist, the confidant, the coach, the mentor, and the safe space” in spite of me. Now do I want to be there for my partner? Absolutely, am I good at listening and holding space? You bet, Do I need to have boundaries and guard my heart? Yes, I do. This has been the hardest thing to learn in relationships because one of my other gifts is generosity. The generosity of my time, effort, energy, finances etc. So I go back and forth between, vulnerability is great and it’s liberating and empowering AND vulnerability is hard, sucky, draining, and kinda scary.
Why did I even start writing about vulnerability? Well, it’s because I was just listening to Tim Ross and Preston Morrison on the topic of “Learning to say the hard things” and they were just talking about the dynamics of having courageous conversations, saying hard things, holding space, and building relationships “God’s way”. It resonated with me for 2 reasons, the first reason is that I’ve been having a lot of “big girl” conversations in some of my relationships, and it's been tough so I needed guidance. The second reason is that the holy spirit has been convicting me more about using my voice, not playing small, and being a light even though all I want to do at times is just HIDE. So for all my vulnerability girlies and guys out there putting out vulnerable content, whether it’s a podcast, a blog, a video series on YouTube, or a book (shout out to my girl Caroline, who just finished her manuscript on grief), keep going y’all. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, it’s not easy to “process out loud” with other people watching. It’s not easy to get what Tim Ross coined the “shame hangover”, where you share and it feels great at the moment and then the next day you are wondering if you overshared, and you second guess everything you said, keep sharing anyway. There is someone/people on the other side of your obedience and you CANNOT afford to play small.
Till next time,
Your vulnerable friend,