Our greatest triumphs arise out of our greatest struggles. The struggles that you’ve faced throughout your lives, whether past or present, can be difficult to share, but choosing to open up about the challenges you’ve faced can become a defining moment, a moment of triumph. My life journey has been marked with struggles, but one of the most profound moments in my life occurred because I chose to remain completely honest and open about one of the most challenging periods in my life.
I stood at the back of the classroom, my slender figure nearly obscuring the poem I had written. “Come up front” said my professor, gently. “Share what you’ve written.” I was nervous, reluctant, afraid. This poem was the most personal piece I had written in my life. What would my class think? Would everyone judge me for writing something that proved I wasn’t always happy? I slowly removed my poem from the back wall and trudged to the front of the class.
If you were to tell me two years ago, when I was struggling to share a project with my counseling psychology class, that I’d now be openly sharing my life’s challenges with others, I don’t think I would have believed you. Why not?
The simple answer is that I have a drive for perfection and I used to have an overwhelming desire to avoid exposing any vulnerability. I have been a perfectionist for years. I’m constantly striving to achieve, and no one would accuse me of setting my personal standards too low. Two years ago, however, I realized one of the most detrimental consequences of perfectionism.
I fear showing weakness. I fear opening up. I fear letting others in. I fear vulnerability.
For my counseling psychology class, everyone had to create and present some kind of expressive art project on an assigned topic. I chose healing as my topic, because I wanted to push myself to speak on something vulnerable. I drew on one of the most difficult experiences of my time in college as inspiration, and I vowed to listen to my professor, who told us not to censor ourselves. As the words poured out of my soul and onto the paper, I felt a profound sense of freedom I had never experienced. I gradually felt lighter and lighter, as if the weight of life was removed from my body. The day I feared, however, loomed in my mind. I would actually have to share this. My thoughts, my feelings, my struggles.
I longed to hold the struggles and sadness inside, to keep all of my problems ensconced in the serene, protective chambers of my heart. But I strove to embrace the challenges I’ve faced, to grow as a person, to gain a new perspective on life. So I shared. The tremor in my voice dissipated as I realized that my class cared about my words. They understood. The class clapped after I finished the poem, and I realized then that I had succeeded in something that was very difficult for me. Towards the end of class, one of my classmates told me my poem was beautiful. I was surprised and touched by her words, but in that moment, a powerful thought struck me. I have the power to turn vulnerability into beauty.
You’ve had times in your life when you’ve felt burdened by the weight of your struggles. You’ve wondered if others will judge you for what you’ve been through. However, when you open up and invite people into your world, you will forge powerful connections with them, connections that can never be severed. You will feel the lightness of freedom, the freedom to be yourself. By embracing the vulnerable parts of your life, you’re embracing your story. Your story is valuable, and it deserves to be shared. Sharing your story provides you with the opportunity to encourage and inspire others. Don’t be afraid to take down the walls you’ve built up, brick by brick. It won’t happen overnight, and at times it will be difficult, but eventually, you’ll successfully embrace the challenges you’ve faced and gain a new perspective on life. You’ll disclose personal, seemingly imperfect parts of your life to others, you’ll find understanding and unconditional acceptance in return, and you’ll learn about yourself throughout your life journey. Most importantly, you’ll turn your vulnerability into beauty. Always remember that you are powerful. You have the power to turn vulnerability into beauty.