Tru Life: I Dont Know How to be Vulnerable

I now wonder how many people I’ve run off because I came across as indifferent in how I felt about them. It’s a product of my iron-clad approach to dating, developed after a heartbreak or two early on. It’s extremely important to me to never let anyone see me sweat. And I swear, my former therapist at one time told me I was doing the same thing… to her. The one day I for real broke down in her office, she looked so worried, I was concerned for her. In that moment, I realized my “cool as a cucumber” mask was on way too tight. I also don’t get visibly or audibly angry. Annoyed maybe, but not angry. My expression of anger is usually just pettiness, but even petty is drenched in a coating of no sweat. My ability to be vulnerable is broken. (lol)

The “Too Emotional” Adolescent 

Because I know someone might wonder this while reading, I am a Sag. Apparently, this means I was born with a stony heart and a sword for a tongue. But I assure you I didn’t pop out of the womb this way. Early on in my life, I’ve always felt like no one would properly react to my emotions. My mother would specifically tell super young adolescent me that I was “too emotional” and that I pretty much needed to learn how not to be because it was highly unnecessary and unattractive. So, there’s that.

“I Want a ‘Manly’ Man”

Previously, I’ve attracted and tried to build with emotionally brick walled men because that’s what I thought was “manly” and desirable until the veil of masculinity was pulled to expose the real. Like when you couldn’t get dude to tell you that the reason he was acting distant is that he was mad you laughed at him for picking the Knicks in 2K and subsequently losing as horrifically as expected. Now you’re “like a dude” because now you’re getting dressed to leave at 2am rather than play sleepover. Woe is me because I prefer booty rubs to cuddling, and I wasn’t joking about needing to be made a sandwich now that the deed was done. But those rough times when I needed to be vulnerable, dating a guy with a broken emotional meter became way less hilarious.

NO excuses.

 Communication about my life’s woes would have saved me many a grade in college. Sometimes I’ve wished I could be vulnerable like others who can fall apart outside of the comfort of their bedrooms and receive necessary sympathy. My dad. He would always say that something is an excuse rather than an explanation for a series of unfortunate events.

Between “you’re too emotional” and “no excuses!” I was not on the fast track to becoming a sugar plum fairy.

Oh to be a Black woman… you gotta be a man too.

 Told to be ladies, yet also told to man up. We watched our mothers man up all our lives. When shit wasn’t acting right, when she was tired, when ya daddy lost his damn mind doing something stupid, AGAIN, Mom was holding it down. Sometimes broken and bewildered, she held it down. Then she passed it down to you. Why don’t we stop? At this point, we’re aware that all the holding it down in the world won’t get us what we want, how we want it. Coretta Scott King was the ride or die of the century and that still didn’t stop her relationship woes. We go through too much yall. At some point, we’ve gotta take care of us first. Can’t take care of anybody if we all messed up anyway.

My question to myself now is, how do I unlearn all this and allow myself to be vulnerable? Or… is nothing wrong with me and my bf just gonna have to deal with me?


The Trouble with being vulnerable



20 thoughts on “Tru Life: I Dont Know How to be Vulnerable

  1. I can relate, I am very indifferent towards people. Sometimes I am so guarded I feel I come off awkward. I have learned to open up on my marriage, but the outside world still gets the tough girl even on days I’m not doing so well. I question why we pass this down also. We need to be vulnerable!

    • Such truth! I didn’t realize just how bad until my current relationship. He literally has to ask if I feel certain negative emotions and I’m like uhh… that’s not what my face said? Or… You don’t realize you’re doing it until it’s out of control or someone turns the mirror on you heavy

  2. This was a great read and I completely understand. I can say from experience that there has to come a time when we shed the wounds of our past and recognize that if we shut everyone out then we’re keeping ourselves from love, kindness, and care. And you’re worth that. You’re worth feeling that goodness. I pray you continue to self-assess and grow, it’s a wonderful thing!

    Leslie / @hautemommie /

  3. I feel this!! Especially the no excuses, I’ve been so against asking for extensions when it comes to school work but finally this semester I wrote an email explaining my schedule and the prof totally understood. It honestly felt weird, like I was being too soft, but in the end, it worked out.

  4. I am, for the most part at least, the complete opposite. I wear my heart on my sleeve and i let it be known when i’m hurt or upset usually, leaving me vulnerable. It’s only within the last few years I’ve learned to conceal better. But I have always been envious of women like you. Being raised by an iron clad jamaican woman who found my vulnerability very unsettling didn’t help. It’s funny because I spend my time trying to develop the traits you wish to shed.

    • Lol my iron clad Jamaican mother was definitely not with the show of emotion. I remember the first time I ever saw my mother really cry I nearly turned a ghost. When her mother died she shed obligatory tears yes, but meanwhile I was straight bawling like a child. For some reason I’ve found it more freeing when I could just express my emotions as they occurred to me because I feel that filter becomes exhausting. It’s certainly interesting though to hear your POV being that you are the complete opposite. Something to think about! Thanks for commenting!

  5. I can totally relate.
    I come from a household where emotional display was not a thing. Women in my family are strong and independent I get the “Oh to be a Black woman… you gotta be a man too.” Even with close friends, I’m that one with the therapist role who never express his own feeling. But I’m working on it 🙂

  6. I have now read about 5-6 of your posts in succession and love your writing style, your pure truth, and identify with a lot of you: I’m a Sag, from NYC, in a PhD program (in NYS) and have had many gripes with it on a social justice level and as Black woman, now living in ATL, and am a lover of Brunch and long to return to it. I was also shamed by my mom for being a crybaby/too emotional.. I was (and still am) a sensitive person… and learned that being me, vulnerable and all, wasnt acceptable… so I guess, it meant to learn not to expect too much from anyone, both to not meet my emotional needs and to protect myself from being “too” reactive from unmet expectations. I have been through many a failed relationship with men who could not give me what I need, and part of that was due to my own discomfort with needing anything from anyone (both as a ‘strong black woman’ and also as an detrimentally humble person who felt like it was asking too much for someone to help take care of me). I have sometimes wondered how much I have also created barriers and circumstances in which my needs as a human and a woman would not get met or acknowledged (e.g., PhD program)… anyway, you asked how to change. I think the first step is insight. The second, longer step is behavioral onus. For example, I had to learn that there WAS a such thing as a valid excuse. And that I had to give myself permission to it… Health was one of them. (If it helps to intellectualize it some)– you cannot point the finger at others/society for expecting you to be this strong black woman, and yet not also point the finger at yourself as a self-aware adult for perpetuating the expectations by neglecting your own humanity. I had to learn that vulnerability was where my humanity was hiding. And I had to accept choking on my own heartburn and ego vomit when I finally told my professor what was really going on with me. I also had to accept that I might not get a human response from everyone, and that I would need to not give af because I actually have a human barometer (and at some point perhaps they lost theirs).
    I had to learn that it was okay to accept that I had needs. And that there were quite a few of them that I could not nor, in truth, wanted to fulfill on my own. I had to (and still) work on expecting and expressing what I need and demanding that of my relationships for me to stick around and be happy. I got tired of people not knowing all of me. Not knowing my dimensions. Not knowing how to even get me a damn gift because I never expressed a need for anything that I wasn’t getting myself. I had to let myself get uncomfortable feeling weak and naked and therefore anxious, but also relieved that I stopped pretending that this hardcore, world-carrying, solid exterior was really who I was. I am fragile and delicate af. But that’s because I’m human.. and it doesn’t make any less of a boss in my domain and a master at life. I am thankful for the armor because life ISN’T all roses, sunflowers and daffodils… but it’s something I need to be able to take off as often as I put it on. (I should make this a blog post lol). Therapy has helped me ,too. It’s the first place where I learned to let go of taking care of someone who was having to carry my emotions. They can handle it. (I know as I’m a training therapist and psychologist-to-be myself). BUT I had to let go of the discomfort of not taking care of someone who was taking care of me there. Turns out, it feels good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *