Suffering. Trouble. Pain. These are emotions that we never really want to talk about.
The details of our heartaches and struggles are just messy and never fun to delve into. They’re tough to face on our own, but they’re even tougher to acknowledge in front of others. At times, we find ourselves in the midst of a tug-o-war: “Should I tell her/him/them that ____ is happening or not? …I don’t want to be burdensome (or annoying). Does it really matter that they know?” And even when we know that our friends and family care about us, why is it always harder to expose our hurt and sorrow with them?
I think that it’s because our trials don’t just make us feel weak, they uncover our weakness - the fragile state of our being - that we are vulnerable and need help. We have to face our realities, our imperfections, and the ugly within us. We don’t live in Utopia. We don’t possess magic spells that solve life’s problems with a swish and flick. We are not flawless… We are human, and we can only do and endure so much. But, let’s be honest, we usually don’t like to admit that we have real issues in life, that we are weak and in need.
As the oldest child in my family and a pretty independent individual, I hate finding myself in tough times and feeling weak. I despise not knowing what to do next and feeling like I’m stuck. I will constantly worry about, not just my most pressing problem, but about everything. Because I’ve usually found myself in a position where people would look up to me for answers, when I don’t have answers for myself or when I find myself in a miserable state, I’m really, really discouraged. In these moments, my independent spirit lends itself to pride easily, and in the past, I would always tell myself, Suck it up, Esther! You don’t have to tell anyone about this. Everyone else has there own stuff to worry about.
As I’ve opened up about some of my hardest times in life, I’ve found that other people have gone through some of the same or (freakishly) similar experiences and struggles, and it has always blown my mind! Because, before that, I would always think that I was a lone-ranger, that I had to go through my battles alone and fend for myself and simply survive it.
I’d carry on and try to carry the weight of my problems and my worries. But at some point, I would find myself at the brink of breaking and wonder if I could’ve ever “fixed it” earlier. And in the past couple of years, rather than learning to fix the situation, I’ve been learning to bare my heart, my life, and my battles with others, allowing them to encourage me, support me, and care for me. In turn, I get to do the same for and with them. We end up enduring the stuff life throws at us, together.
When we are able to share our insecurities and our lives with one another, we unlock moments for amazing things to happen, for us to really connect with each other. As I’ve opened up about some of my hardest times in life, I’ve found that other people have gone through some of the same or (freakishly) similar experiences and struggles, and it has always blown my mind! Because, before that, I would always think that I was a lone-ranger, that I had to go through my battles alone and fend for myself and simply survive it.
But that’s never, ever true. If you think that way, please hear me out:
You don’t have to “just survive” through a crisis or onslaughts of conflicting and confusing thoughts and worries. The opportunity for honesty and community is always present. If you would just look around, lay aside all fears of judgment or rejection, and be open, you’ll find that somebody around you has already experienced the same sort of hurt and struggle that you’ve been going through.
Authenticity is sincerity. It is us being real and raw. In an authentic life, I believe honesty is at the core of our living, our existing, our doing, and our relating. By being authentic, we don’t just gain a better understanding of who we are, but we also enable community. Our weakness lends itself to powerful consequences. You never really know what could happen from those moments of being vulnerable and weak before yourself and others. But more often than not, when we are open, we find common ground; common ground where we can walk and encourage one another and battle through our struggles side by side.
My journey in realizing and experiencing the power that lies within weakness has revealed these 3 steps that I try to make regularly:
- Pause + ask. Instead of complaining about your situation to yourself or just brushing off the anxiety that you feel, stop and ask yourself, “How are you? Are you really doing okay? What’s going on right here, right now in your situation and in your heart?” In the past (and even now), I’ve struggled with taking the time daily, weekly, and monthly (!) to check in with myself and see where I’m at – mentally, physically, and even spiritually. I get so wrapped up with life’s busy-ness, that I rarely make time to ask myself these questions. It could take a couple of minutes or even a good half hour to ask and answer yourself, but when you do, you’ll get such a better picture of your current state of being.
- Be the first. Remember how I said that people don’t know about the stuff we’re dealing with because we don’t tell them? Yeah. Once you’ve recognized the issues you’re dealing with, instead of bottling everything in or waiting for someone to ask how you’re really doing, why not call someone up and ask them to be a listening ear? This one has been an extremely hard lesson for me to learn – to be the first to make a move. I’m not perfect at it, but the more I approach others first and invite them into my life, the more love and support I receive.
- Embrace. Embrace the aftermath. After you’ve bared your worries and fears to another person, embrace what’s about to happen – tears (yours and/or theirs), silence, some advice, more questions about your situation, a simple hug, or the other person opening up. This is when your weakness is recognized and is powerful; moving things can take place. Continue to be open to what will unfold between you and the other person. It’s usually beautiful (and a bit magical).
As we tread deeper into authenticity, let us not forget being authentic, honest, and vulnerable in our most troubled times. For our weakness makes us powerful - powerful to receive help and to engage and deepen our relationships with others.
Photos by Karen Hernandez