So much in my life lately has been pointing me toward vulnerability, transparency, authenticity. If you’re a Millennial, you’re probably familiar with those of-the-moment cultural buzzwords, ones that mean being honest and up-front about your life. I already write this blog and would say I’m a pretty open book. But there are some topics that make me bristle. Some things I’d rather not touch with a ten-foot pole, no thank you.
Last week, I penned one of, if not my most, deeply personal article yet. Once my words hit the Internet, I began to question if I said too much. Did I cross the line from vulnerable to can’t-keep-my-mouth-shut? Did I give total strangers permission to get to know me without returning the favor? Did I need to learn to leave a little more mystery in my life?
I never want to be unsafe or reckless with the things I put on the Internet. Being extra conscientious about my public life is a wise move. It's why I don't really write about my location, my day job, or my boyfriend. But if I want to connect with other men and women, meet fellow writers, and one day write a book, then social media and an active digital presence are an important part of that process.
As soon as I let the doubting voices find a home in my head, I’ve let them win. I’ve given them the power to control what I do and what I say, and I’ve chipped away at an opportunity for my life to be used for good.
Because, here’s the thing: Our lives are being used every second of every day. We aren’t some random beings placed on this earth to live and die and be forgotten. God’s purpose for us is much greater than that.
God isn’t in the business of shame.
Those doubters? Shame is their territory. You see, shame is like a boa constrictor. It will creep up behind you, squeezing tighter and tighter until eventually it’s suffocating you.
I’ve spent countless hours stuck in the boa constrictor’s embrace. It’s not a fun place to be, let me tell you. It kept me from writing this blog for the longest time. I didn’t want to put all my mess front and center for people to judge. Even when I did start writing, I kept the blog to myself for a few months. I couldn’t bring myself to post on social media, to open myself up to more readers and viewers and thus more potential for judgment, criticism, assessment. What if they thought I was a terrible writer? What if they thought I was egotistical or self-centered? And what would I do if they saw that I wasn’t the perfect girl-next-door but rather a broken women in progress?
Well… then they would see it. They would see the brokenness, and I would be the same person. I would be okay.
I refuse to let doubt and shame run the show anymore. That super personal article I wrote has over 480 shares, plus countless others directly on Facebook and Twitter. It was the first time when, reading the comments section, I did not see a negative remark aimed my way. I was surprised by that, but I really think it is because people crave vulnerability. We are tired of the filters and veneers. We want what’s real.
My post-publication freakout was a prime example of the “vulnerability hangover” that researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown speaks of in her books and talks. If you haven’t watched her TED talk, I highly recommend it (it’s only 20 minutes!). I recently read her book The Gifts of Imperfection and am currently making my way through Rising Strong. She talks a lot about how we can embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections, and live in a way that she calls “Wholehearted.” Doing so cultivates compassion, courage, connection. But it can be really, really hard for us to go there.
I allowed myself to be fully revealed—which can be seriously scary. As open as I am, I still fear being exposed. It’s much easier to make myself small and quiet. If I shrink back, I can’t be judged or shamed.
While there will almost always be people who try to shame us for our truth, we don’t have to feel ashamed. I was reminded by my pastor of Paul’s longing to visit Rome:
I wasn’t preaching the Gospel in my article. Yet I was talking in a way that I hope encourages others and shows them the power of God, the power of being unashamed. Paul’s a perfect example of that.
Paul gives me hope for continuing to share about my life and all God is doing in it. Sometimes, that will look like me sharing things that are so-not-put-together. I might share when I’m sad or angry, or when I’m feeling distant from Him. His work in my life is a process. For that, I’m grateful.
I came across the below quote from Marianne Williamson a year or two ago. A yoga instructor repeated it during class last week, surely not a coincidence. Marianne is right. We fear, at least I know I do. We fear being big even though we were made for more:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
We were created to be full and to be free. That’s what I’d like this little space of the Internet to be about—and that’s the life I plan on living.
If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuff, shoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life.
And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.
Truly, He makes beautiful things.