To coin a phrase from self-professed researcher/storyteller and TedTalks sensation Brené Brown, Ph. D., I suffered a major “vulnerability hangover” yesterday. I chose to share the story of my assault with someone; the whole story including the messy parts that I usually edit out. I chose to be vulnerable with this person, to allow myself to be seen by them and to be courageous enough to show them a real part of me. Halfway though my story, they had to leave to attend a meeting and promised to call me back later that evening.
The call never came.
I immediately blamed myself. I felt shameful. Why did I share so much? Did I run them off by telling the gritty parts of my story? Did they think badly of me and decided they didn’t want to talk to me any longer? Why did I feel that I could trust this person – this stranger? It continued to haunt me all evening. Memories of my past misplaced trust in people came flooding back to me.
As an acquaintance rape survivor, trust is something that is very hard for me to attain. I’ve changed the way I see people and the way I interact with them. As a result my circle of friends has become painfully small. I refrain from being vulnerable with people because of what happened when I allowed myself to be vulnerable with “him” – the person who I trusted, who then betrayed my trust.
According to Brené Brown’s research, human connection is essential to living a fulfilled life. It is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. But, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, truly deeply seen – to become vulnerable.
This is the problem I face, and I’m sure many sexual assault survivors face. For us to be truly happy, we need to be vulnerable and allow ourselves to “be seen” by people. This is very difficult for us, as we have had people take advantage of our vulnerability. Rebuilding my trust in people has become something I’ve had to become aware of and purposely work on.
To end with a great quote, Brené says “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”