Most people are afraid of exposing their weaknesses, when in fact they are physically exposing them everyday through their appearances – the look of stress in their face, their weight, the bags under their eyes from not sleeping, biting their nails, smoking cigarettes, a permanent frown on their face when in their not putting on their ‘people’ face… you know, the face you automatically put on when you’re in company to act professionally at work, to be social with the mums at school, to have your photo taken… No matter how we are in our ‘let’s show the world who we are today’ face, we will let our vulnerabilities be known through our ‘no one is watching’ face.
So, when someone does catch us losing our guard – biting our nails in public, smoking a cheeky cigarette after dropping the kids off at school, eating that Snickers bar between meals, constantly looking in the mirror because we don’t think we are good looking enough, crying in the car when you think no one else can see you.. should it make us less of a person?
Certainly not… it only makes us more human. What is more telling is how the person who caught us in the act reacts… will they do something to show you that they care about us, will they offer idle gossip to people who know us that we let our defences down, or will they ignore us completely because we didn’t have our ‘social/professional’ face up and they don’t know how to handle our emotions with us?
Showing our vulnerabilities only makes us more human. It is us reaching out for help, hoping someone will ask us what’s wrong, offer to help us or give us emotional support, but so many people just don’t want to know…
And that’s heartbreaking to me… I go inside the lives of many people, into the privacy of their own homes, and they expose to me – a stranger – some of their hardships and their worries, and all they want is someone to listen, possibly give them some advice, or someone to be compassionate and sympathetic to their plight. Most the time, I walk out of their homes and you can see a small weight has lifted off their shoulders because I’ve taken the time to help them through their concerns and a smile has emerged. Is it easier to talk to a stranger about your concerns, or is it becoming harder and harder to talk to friends and family about our concerns because they ‘know you too well’ and think that you’re stupid, naive, overly emotional, making things up in your head or simply don’t have enough time in their day for your antics?
And this is where the problem lies… if the people closest to us actually took the time to listen, support, appreciate and value all our vulnerabilities, highs and lows, worries and concerns, those characteristics that make up the person who we are, then maybe, those vulnerabilities, worries and concerns would actually lessen and we would be more open to smiling more, laughing more, enjoying ourselves and the people whoa are closest to us more, and stop hiding behind bitten fingernails, cigarettes and Snickers bars.
I must admit, and I’m sure many people who have travelled have experienced the same thing… but once you are out of your comfort zone, away from all the people who have negative things to say about you – your family, your work colleagues, your friends, etc, you actually step away from those vulnerabilities and discover the person you actually are. You fall in love with your confidence, your courage, your ability to actually be out on your own. You actually don’t ‘give a shit’ about anyone else except yourself and your fellow travellers who have also lost that big weight off their shoulders that they are carrying for everyone else. You swap Snickers bars for local produce, you swap biting your nails for being in awe of the landscape, and you smoke cigarettes because it’s trendy in Paris or Amsterdam, not because you’re stressed about getting through your day.
So next time you see someone who’s looking a little frazzled and struggling to keep their ‘public face’ together, take the time to actually ask them how they are… really ask them, and don’t accept the answer ‘I’m OK’ because you clearly can see that they aren’t. Don’t feel burdened if they let it all out in a whirlwind of hurts and emotional baggage, just be the sympathetic ear they need and show some genuine compassion, some human spirit and help them rediscover their smile.