Vulnerability is not a bad word
Show Some Skin | Tuesday, February 13, 2018
In a world where we are constantly interacting with and presenting ourselves to others, there is little room for vulnerability. We hide what makes us vulnerable, and sometimes it’s necessary in order to stay sane. Hiding physical and emotional weaknesses is a survival tactic; it has always been and probably always will be.
However, our society has gotten to the point where it is nearly impossible to be vulnerable with our loved ones. We hold each other at an arm’s length, often preferring to communicate through text message instead of face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong, I love that technology has helped us connect in ways that haven’t been possible before. But the distance that it creates between us is destroying us as individuals and a society.
Here at Notre Dame, we have a culture that precludes talking about our struggles. We’re supposed to be strong, smart and capable. We’re supposed to have internships, experience in research and jobs lined up for after graduation. We’ve been trained since we were very young that we’re supposed to be phenomenal. When asked how we are, we are expected to respond with an enthusiastic and vague “I’m good!” or “Fantastic!” instead of telling the truth about how we are doing, like this monologue from last year’s Show Some Skin performance points out.
At the same time, as young adults, we are at a critical time regarding our mental health. Our brains are not fully developed yet, and many mental illnesses develop at this time in our lives. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teenagers and young adults live with a mental health condition, with half of these cases developing by age 14. According to the University Counseling Center’s website, about 26 percent of each graduating class since 2015 has accessed its services for help with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, social relationships and many other reasons. We stay silent about our suffering because we believe that no one wants to hear how we truly are.
We are at a vulnerable time in our lives. We are choosing what to do for the rest of our lives, and our mental health hangs in the balance. We think that no one wants to hear about our daily challenges, whether that is a failing grade, having a fight with a friend or struggling to get out of bed. Speaking from my own experience, it’s so hard to admit that you’re having a bad day when everyone else seems to have their lives perfectly together. At the same time, we want our friends to open up to us, to let us share in their bad days and their good. But that is impossible without vulnerability. Relationships are reciprocal; they require a mutual sharing and understanding of personal experiences, which requires us sharing our bad days along with our good ones. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it hurts when the vulnerability is not reciprocated. But vulnerability is also freeing.
Peyton Davis is a sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]
Show Some Skin is a student-run initiative committed to giving voice to unspoken narratives about identity and difference. Using the art of storytelling as a catalyst for positive social change across campus, we seek to make Notre Dame a more open and welcoming place for all. If you are interested in breaking the silence and getting involved with Show Some Skin, email [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.