“Showing your vulnerability is how we get stronger, right?”
I was at a library conference last week with loads of other Maine librarians. For me, it was one of the best Maine conferences I’ve attended due to a number of factors: I was on a panel with folks I consider my new friends and we discussed having community conversations (yup, we were talking about talking and I loved it), I got to hug and chat with some colleagues and friends I haven’t seen in person in some time, and I met new colleagues and did my best to welcome them into not only the library conference world but into librarianship and some of the beauty of it. (Which is kind of funny since I’ve been thinking about changing careers at some point. But that’s for a future blog post.)
The commonality among everything I loved about the conference, were the people. Meeting new people, getting reacquainted with others, talking about our libraries–both the successes and challenges, but also just talking about our lives–our interests, our children, our families. And in these conversations– sometimes in hallways or at a table before a session began or over a drink and a meal–many of us were vulnerable with one another.
Now, maybe this happened because this is me. When you “wear your heart on your sleeve,” it means you often advertise how vulnerable you are–you show your feelings even when you could be hurt. You’re willing to say “I love you” first, even if it feels like you’re stepping off a cliff. It’s scary shit, but my word, it can be exhilarating. And if you’ve read many of my blog posts or if we’ve been friends for a while, you know that I tend to put most of my feelings out there for the world to read about. But maybe people were willing to share more because we’re living in frightening times and we were willing to say, “Hey, my friend died of Covid last year and I really miss her,” or “Thank you for saying you don’t think you know what you’re doing as a librarian, because I think that every day” or if you were me, in front of a large group of people in a session that you were attending, you admitted that you cried in a meeting with another colleague because you felt overwhelmed and lost and needed help.
Because, you know, I REALLY put it ALL out there.
But after that session, the person leading it came to me to say, “Thank you for being so vulnerable. And showing your vulnerability is how we get stronger, right?”
I think I nodded my head and thanked them but then walked away thinking, “Really?!? Then emotionally, shouldn’t I be freaking She Hulk by now?”
I let the phrase “showing vulnerability begets strength” simmer in my brain this week. (And yes, I’ve read and/or listened to a LOT of Brene Brown, but for some reason it never quite clicked like this.) So, I tried it out. I shared some information with some people that I might not typically and was happy with the results. I felt more connected with them then I had in some time or ever. A few friends have also shared some deeply tough issues and emotions with me recently, and besides feeling that wonderful connection it has created, I feel so much gratitude towards them for trusting me, for letting me really see them.
I know this isn’t for everyone. And I’ll be honest, it hurts like eternal papercuts when you open yourself up to someone and they don’t want to hear what you have to say or see who you are. But my friends, when someone DOES finally see you? To me it’s like taking a bite of a pie that you’ve been dreading because it sounded awful but you knew you should because it’s supposedly healthy and recommended by a friend and it won’t kill you so just friggin’ do it already. So you take that bite…and it tastes like the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted. You’re so happy because it made your mouth and tongue sing and you’re relieved because you can tell your friend that you ate it and it was delicious.
Yeah, that was a stupid analogy, but I hope you get what I mean.
I know you see me. And I can see some of you.
Please know I’m glad you’re here.
Take care, my friends. ❤