I consider myself a strong person, or at least I want to. As the oldest of five children, I’ve had to keep a tough act, taking responsibility and setting a good example for my siblings. I took pride in myself for being a person who could handle it, even through all the change that happened in my life. Whether it was moving for the eighth time, switching churches again, or starting public high school after six years of homeschooling, my strength pulled me through. Or so I thought.
Defining myself in three words, I’d say I’m an introvert, independent, and creative. This gave way to my definition of accomplishment: “If I don’t ask for help and therefore can do it myself, then today hasn’t been too shabby. I succeeded on my quirky way of doing things and my can-do attitude!” This got me places, a few being the top 10% of my class, captain of my school’s drumline, an artist at a local artisan co-op selling my work. The materialistic benefits from this mindset may seem great, but I’ve come to the realization that there’s something dark behind the curtain.
My personality and expectations make it hard to feel like I have true friends. In my mind, I’m a lone wolf. Somewhere along the way, I had blocked off the part inside where I was open. I was protecting the bottles and bottles of emotion I had stored on a shelf in the dim-lighted room in my heart from all of the hard circumstances in my life. I put on a tough-girl act and in turn, I closed myself off. In hard times, I held back my tears and swallowed the lump in my throat, adding another bottle to the shelf. I had to; it was my way of coping and making sure I still held on to my fabricated definition of accomplishment.
Recently I got thrown for a loop. After a long attempt of turning on the light to open myself up to someone, I was forced to cut the wire. Several of my bottles slipped from the shelf and I couldn’t catch them. I just sat in the dark and shut down; I couldn’t put on a mask of happiness. I was feeling the opposite of strength: vulnerability. All my life I abhorred the thought of it. Showing emotion was weakness, I couldn’t afford to be weak. I was scared to death that from this I’d lose someone I deeply care about, I wouldn’t have my previous motivation, and I’d be too hurt to ever try be open again. I never dreamt that I’d be on that low of a level.
But after awhile I realized something. All the things I was experiencing, change, hurt, vulnerability, they were all connected to the things I wanted: Growth. Contentment. Strength. I realized I had to have change to grow, I had to experience hurt before I found contentment, I had to be vulnerable to know true strength. I’m now on my way to thankfulness, though I know things won’t ever be the same. In all of this, I now believe there’s strength in vulnerability. And I know that will change the collection of bottles on my shelf for good.