My first instinct has always been to apologize, and after conversing with my therapist about this inclination of mine, I found that it is surprisingly normal. She noted that in everyday life, if a woman bumps into a man, she will often apologize. Whereas, if the roles are reversed, it is far less common for a man to apologize.
This, of course, is a very blanket statement and an example. It does not hold true for everyone, but it especially resonates with me.
In fact, when I started working on this article, I took an entirely different direction. I planned on focusing on the latter term in my title: vulnerability.
This is another quality I struggle with, and I think it can be more easily solved. You see, I am a very defensive person by nature. I feel the need to defend myself and my actions profusely. As a result, I struggle to project my authentic self because I am too busy trying to come off as strong or unexposed.
However, after investigating vulnerability, I learned that it does not have to mean weak or defenseless. In fact, I know now that vulnerability has more in common with its antonyms than it does its synonyms.
Thus, this realization ushered in a new mentality, and it served as the premise of this article. In an effort to empower myself, I strove to live more authentically by being vulnerable. For me, that looked like speaking my mind and expressing my emotions profusely.
You see, I have a nasty habit of allowing people to walk all over me – especially in romantic relationships. In an effort to not upset the other person, I remain quiet – even when I have so much to say.
As a result, I decided that this is the year I would confront those situations head on with honest, very vulnerable conversations.
I started with a peculiar relationship that had been weighing on me heavily for almost a year. Being vulnerable opened a floodgate in me, and once I started, I could not stop.
Suddenly, I was telling my friends, family and professors about my mental health – something that I often keep to myself. This decision led to my withdrawal from school, which would be unimaginable even three months ago. However, it was the single most liberating decision of my adult life thus far. So liberating that it deserves an article entirely of its own.
From there, I started reaching out to people in my past and making those buried-deep feelings known. All of these actions were so alleviating, but I still felt like there was something keeping me from being happy about them.
That is when I realized what was wrong. All of my conversations were riddled with one word: sorry.
Why did I need to apologize for myself, for my emotions, for simply being a human with thoughts and things to say? How could I develop an article with the words “unapologetic vulnerability” and completely neglect the first one?
My therapist left me with some advice that day: that I should only apologize when I cause harm. In these aforementioned situations, I had caused no harm. I was simply making myself vulnerable, and I still felt the need to apologize.
I’m still learning how to tackle my inclination to apologize, but I’m also still figuring out how rampant this theme is in my life. Perhaps we all have a predisposition to apologize and avoid vulnerability. Maybe those two things are coupled together.
Through all of my uncertainty, I can say this with confidence: you should never have to apologize for thinking, being or communicating.
This path will look different for everyone, but I encourage everyone to explore it this year. In 2019, we should reclaim our authentic selves, and in order to do so, we must become a little more unapologetic and vulnerable.