In today’s society we are told that we have to be unbreakable. We have to be iron men and iron women. To show any weakness or to have anything negative to say is taboo. Every day we are consciously and, more often, subconsciously inundated with messages that we must have a perfect life – a thriving career, beautiful spouse and children, exercise every day, cook delicious meals, have the cutest house on the block, and never, ever talk about any of our troubles, weaknesses, failings, or fears. But the irony in all of this is that, in essence, society is telling us that in order to be human, we must lose our humanity. Because it is NOT perfection that makes us human, or makes us loveable and relatable. What makes us human is our vulnerabilities. The basic truth that we don’t have it all together is the beauty that makes us human. It is our failures, shortcomings, and fears that make our successes, battles and joys all the more beautiful and all the more glorious.
And so we have to be willing to show up, to take off the masks that we hide behind, and show people who we really are. I’m not saying we be Negative Nancy all the time and bemoan all the hard things that we face every day. What I am saying is that sometimes, in order to find the light, we must face the darkness, not hide behind lace-curtained windows and pretend like nothing is wrong. Sometimes the way to find healing is not to put walls up between us and those who actually do love us despite our imperfect life, but to find healing in breaking a little. Because when you’re broken, the light can get in.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown teaches us to Dare Greatly—to show up in the arena of life, face the lions of our imperfections, failures, weaknesses, and heartbreaks—and to be vulnerable in the process. She writes: “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.” Maybe your “daring greatly” is admitting that what you see as a failure is merely a setback and that it does not make you a failure. Maybe you will dare greatly by admitting that you can’t do it by yourself—by getting help to overcome those demons in your head. Or maybe you will dare greatly simply by sharing your story with others.
Because, when it comes down to it, we feel most connected to people when we share our vulnerabilities with them—when we share grief, sadness, heartbreak, frustration, and failure. We connect because we can relate. And we draw strength from the fact that we are in this mutual thing called humanity, on this little planet called Earth, together. You see, everyone has a story. And everyone has walls and armor and masks. But behind them, we are all human. We are all people who are so tired of being “strong.” Our strength doesn’t come from denying the fact that we are human. Our strength comes to owning up to our stories, it comes from learning from them and from others, and it comes when we come together as equally weak, but strong, humans.
So let’s start. Like Reagan said, let’s “tear down [these walls]” and expose ourselves. Yes, it might hurt. It will definitely be scary, maybe the most terrifying thing we’ve ever done. But we can do it. We are built to do hard things. And this hard thing, though it might seem impossible, is what can bring us to true authenticity—rediscovering our true selves and not letting the world write a sad ending for our story. When we choose to break, we choose to be so strong that we write our own story. We choose the ending. And it will be happy.