I can't count the times where an argument has ended with me being told to "get some feelings." No, seriously, it's as if people expect you to crumble at the drop of a hat. I'm not the kind of girl that would have ever acknowledged any emotion. To say I wore a suit of armor would have been an understatement, yet here we are.
Let's take it back a bit.
Everyone's emotional responses are grounded in experiences, a combination of biological and environmental and sociological factors which merge to give us this thing called "character." I'm a relatively closed person, getting emotion out of me that weren't the extremes of anger or happiness simply was not going to happen — until I started dating.
My first serious relationship started at 18. I come from an interesting background (don't we all) to say the least. These events and experiences that at the time caused me to react in such a definitive way that I was convinced I was going to be this way forever, but even after certain events, for me the suit of armour (like any cocktail dress), was designed, tailored and worn with pride.
After meeting my then-boyfriend, the challenge had presented itself, but by no means had I accepted. I remember the moment he said, "I love you," clear as day. For most girls, to have these words said to you is what we're most looking forward to, yet I responded with a casual "thanks" and continued on as if he had just passed me a roll of toilet paper. In hindsight, I would have given the poor guy a bit more to work with, but quite honestly the tools in my toolbox where nowhere near ready for this construction site.
At first, I thought that it was just the overall lack of dating experience. I was wrong. The fear of being seen as anything other than a "replicant-like" creature was something I was not willing to accept.
Since breaking up with that boyfriend, moving on to date others, the casual fling and of course the budding crushes, I find myself in a place much further from then. While I catch myself acknowledging that I don't do "vulnerable," it usually comes as a quick character judgment rather than a simple lack of willingness to open up or fear of rejection.
The friends who surround me now wouldn't let me get away with locking myself away to avoid asking for help — although they all seem to discuss a game plan before finally approaching me.
I have always been seen as the "tough one," the one who has, without doubt, mastered the art of looking like a duck on the surface while paddling furiously for underwater. The reality is that I mistakenly thought that this is how I wanted to be seen. Oh, how wrong I was.
Everyone loves to be admired, complimented and envied — human nature in a nutshell. For me, the thought of cruising through life as the "Iron Lady" seemed perfect, until I realised what you miss. There are many clichés associated with being black-and-white. By all means, I love that my friends know that they can come to me for an honest opinion or the hard word (if necessary), but now I realise that something that is even more valuable is the ability for them to come to me when they need someone to listen with empathy.
It was not until recently that I realised the importance of opening up. The reality is your friends will have opinions of you and your character regardless of how hard you try to mask your feelings. For me I will always turn inward to confront challenges, there is nothing wrong with that.
However, what I am now more aware of than ever is the vast array of tools, which I am yet to be equipped with. The beauty of friendships and relationships is that they symbolize interdependence. How can I expect anyone to come to me if I have already ruled out ever opening up to them.
Truth is, life isn't black-and-white. People grow out of their suits of armor, and you know what, that's OK. Being vulnerable is not necessarily about wearing your heart on your sleeve, or crying during every chick flick, but more so being open enough to have the discussions that encompass all the shades of gray that life throws in our direction.
Long story short, you win some and you lose some. We make the wrong investments in people, we lose friends and our relationships end. But would I recommend internalizing everything for the sake of feeling tough? Absolutely not. It is in the moments of vulnerability that our real personalities and potential can be seen, where relationships develop and friendships strengthen. It's not about being black, white or any one shade in between.