Vulnerability is this weird stereotype that I never wanted to fit into. Within it, people were weak, easily manipulated and taken advantage of. To society, these people needed to be helped, cared for, and watched over. I didn’t want that—I wanted independence and freedom. For some reason, I believed that vulnerability meant something shameful. Perhaps it was the constant reminder to “stop crying” as a kid, to suck it up. Or maybe it was the idea that strong people weren’t weak, and weak people cried. Or maybe it was followed with the need to always be this happy, go-lucky person—and those people aren’t seen with boxes of tissues and puffy eyes.
Whatever this idea or this multitude of ideas was, it was stuck and I hadn’t let it go until now.
A particularly loaded week hit early on in my college career. I had two exams and a paper due. For some college students, this may be a walk in the park.… or so they make it seem. As a new freshman, I entered school with no idea how to prepare for what lay ahead of me. I quickly stressed over my deadlines and course load. It was supposed to be easy, right? If 16 credit hours was a normal amount to take on, then why could I not handle these assignments?
As I began to study or write, my thoughts became blank and empty. I found it extremely difficult to focus on schoolwork, overcome with stress anytime I tried. Though I would push myself to continue, I found myself tearing up trying to get through my flashcards. No matter how often I tried to review them, my flashcards left me feeling frustrated, confused and stressed. Instead of feeling confident in myself, I felt ashamed and pathetic.
In an attempt to redeem and distract myself, I brought my study materials with me to watch a football game with my boyfriend. Once I arrived, I took a seat on his dorm room floor and surrounded myself with my flashcards, laptop and syllabi. Though this set-up should have guaranteed some sort of success or motivation, I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t learn this material in time, do well on everything and keep up with other work. My thoughts spiraled: What was I doing wrong? I broke down, and my emotions released themselves without my consent. I started shaking and crying. I couldn’t pull myself together before my boyfriend noticed what happened. In short, I became vulnerable.
After calming down, I noticed how much I had been hiding away or ignoring emotions that I hadn’t been thinking twice about for who knows how many years. By knocking away this armor, I realized how good it felt to admit to somebody that I needed help. Though it is still difficult for me to do, I am more inclined to tell someone when I am hurt. Though this problem may seem minuscule and ridiculous, it was a large accomplishment for me. Think about it: What if you never ask for help, tell somebody you’re hurting or admit to yourself that you can rely on other people? I wasn’t used to these ideas and while I struggled to believe it at first, it has made a large difference in my mental health. Yes, crying doesn’t deserve a gold star. But hey, we all have our small miracles and achievements in life. I’m sure you can think of something insanely minuscule that you did that you’re proud of. And though it took a while to realize, learning to cry in college was my small achievement that has made all the difference.