When I wrote my second book, Beautifully Imperfect, I was excited and terrified at the same time.
While I was happy to have the opportunity of trying my hand at bringing people closer to loving themselves, I knew that in order for anyone to believe in what I was saying and understand unconditional self-acceptance is a struggle I've dealt with in my own journey, I had to put myself out there in a way that I'd never done before. And that meant sharing things about my life that even some of my closest friends didn't know.
In other words, I had to be...vulnerable.
I worried before and after the book went to print, and even held my breath when I saw posts online of someone saying they had bought it. Instead of getting caught up in the sheer gratitude that someone was interested enough to buy the book I had taken almost a year to write, I let fear and the dangers of over-thinking creep into my head:
Would they judge me? Would they think and deal with me in differently? Would they consider me weak for having been in an abusive relationship? Would any men that I date who read it have preconceived notions about the type of woman I was? Would I be regarded as an empowered woman who rose above adversity, just someone to pity?
Anyone who has ever allowed themselves to be caught up in the tangled web of over-thinking can image the sleepless nights I had while I was foolish enough to entertain it.
But one night, in the middle of my self-absorbed, self-inflicted, and self-created torture, something told me, Jeanette, just stop it right now. You were lead to write the book for a reason. And so what if people judge? If you are able help even one person, you've done what you were put here to do.
Interestingly enough, a funny thing happened after the book was released. No one judged me at all (at least not to my face). But instead, people started reaching out to me and began telling their own stories. Some were people I knew, and others came all different parts of the US and beyond, including London, Spain, and Italy. Men and women whom I'd never met were beginning to communicate with me through social media, telling me how my little book gave them the courage to examine themselves and the trials of their life. They used my personal journey and subsequent realization that I was more than I'd given myself credit for, to figure out how to love themselves more and to understand that they too were ENOUGH.
I had no idea that my words would reach and touch so many people, and it was all from me just beginning to tell my story in an honest and real way. I let myself be vulnerable enough to put the things I had hidden behind a big smile and lots of laughter to finally come out in the open with creating a barrier to shield myself from potential shame or ridicule. And in doing that, even on a small scale, someone else's life was touched, and hopefully changed by it.
But that still doesn't mean that being vulnerable is something most people want to just jump into head-first. Even the official definition of the word leaves much to be desired: "susceptible to physical harm or attack". The majority of functioning adults don't get too excited about the thought of running towards situations where they may be perceived as weak, helpless, or unable to take care of themselves, so the instinct is to give the impression that everything is under control. After all, isn't it easier to just to look eternally strong so that everyone around you thinks you're this "superwoman" that most women admire and strive to be?
But here's the problem with this mentality: If no one was willing to share what they were going through (and if you keep living, life will certainly give you a taste of what "going through it" means), wouldn't that make it more difficult for someone who is suffering to understand that they were not alone and had the power within themeselves overcome whatever it is they were dealing with?
I firmly believe that trials in life exist to strengthen our spirits, and to share that experience with others to help someone else reach higher ground.
Being vulnerable also gives us permission to put down the impossible task of attempting to be "perfect" in everything we pursue. It allows us to embrace the fact that we will make mistakes, sometimes we will fail, and we may even fall flat on our faces with a large crowd of people watching. But if we can learn to embrace being truly vulnerable and allow ourselves to connect with our moments of weakness, difficulties, and pain to find the LESSON in each experience, vulnerability would no longer be something we shy away from. Instead it would become something we embrace not just as a life-line for ourselves, but for those who will be blessed by the lessons from our journey.