On Visibility and Vulnerability

VisibilityVulnerability“You’re not shy. You’re careful. Because there’s a fear that holds you back. Sometimes fear is a good thing because it’s what gets the adrenaline flowing. But too much of it and you don’t try because you’re avoiding mistakes.”

A few days ago I did something that took a lot of vulnerability for me: I shared my opinion on this blog. Now, it probably seems like no big deal, after all I constantly talk and write on this little corner of the net so what’s one little blog post?

Well, the truth is that I am very, very conservative about what I put up here, and despite appearances to the contrary, very private with my thoughts. Let me put it this way. I think a lot and write a lot everyday. And out of all of the stuff that occurs to me like “hey! That might be a good post” or that I think of,  I share less than 10% of. In particular, I’m very cautious when it comes to posts that veer into the territory of being political. And some people have noticed this, because I’ve had a few friends gently- and perhaps not specifically but still- call me out on the fact that, even on this blog, I’ve been holding off on being visible.

The comment that spawned the “On Women who Read” post received some feedback after I’d written it, and while not all of the feedback was positive, most of it was. Yet with all of the positive feedback I wasn’t too sure how I felt about the entire thing. It didn’t make me sing with joy; it just made me feel… exposed. And I found myself wondering whether I should have even said something. That’s a strange feeling to have.

Thing is, I’m terribly, terribly anxious about visibility. To be honest I’m often not sure about this blog as it is, wondering whether it’s a good idea to make myself so visible. Because with visibility comes vulnerability. Putting yourself out there means risking a lot of feedback and criticism: “rejoicing and ridicule” as Sharon Mundia puts it (Disclaimer: I know I keep linking back to this article but it’s just that this woman is really wise and shared some gems. And as a disclaimer: 1. She’s not my friend and 2. I’ve only interacted with her as a journalist, and 3. I have seriously considered changing my blog name because of the shared first word but I paid for this domain name already so oh well.)

Tara Mohr recently shared some thoughts on vulnerability that I found to be particularly poignant. And it made me realize that this fear or visibility is attached to a fear of vulnerability. And to face this fear requires confronting another “V”: of validation. The more we look for validation from outside sources, the more difficult it is to put ourselves out there. Because then instead of focusing on the work or the thing that we are creating or saying, we’re focusing on the way that people will respond to it. So to give ourselves permission to be vulnerable requires that we offer that validation to ourselves first and foremost, rather than expecting outside sources to fill us up. At the top of this post I share a quote by a mentor on this. Funnily enough I’d drafted this post and then talked to him, and he said something that really resonated with what I was thinking about.

If you’re reading this, what do you think? Do you ever struggle with visibility, and with sharing your opinion in public spaces?

P.S. I just switched to Disqus comments which means that, sadly, I’ve lost any comments that were up before the change. I’m still trying to figure out if a way to have both on, and would love to hear from you if you preferred the previous comments form or vice versa. Feel free to send me a note about this through the “connect” tab.

Originally published at www.thiskenyangirl.com/blog