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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart

Vulnerability

I didn’t mean to become a writer. I’ve always enjoyed writing but never felt like I had anything to say. Who am I to write about life? Who am I to tell anyone how to live? How egotistical of me to think that the words I put on paper can make a difference in people’s lives. I started and deleted at least three blogs and two books over the last decade. It was too vulnerable, baring my soul to readers who may judge me, so I rarely shared. This article is about the genesis of this blog and how being vulnerable with my writing has changed my life.

 

My late fiancee, Karina, loved the way I wrote. She used to tell me it was one of the qualities about me that she loved most. She always encouraged me to share, but I couldn’t. I was my own worst critic. To be honest, I still am. For every article I post, I second-guess a hundred times before I publish. 


I click submit, and then I run out the door to the gym or the beach so I can forget about it while the first few hundred readers come through. “I hope no one reads it” is usually my first hour of thinking. But then I’ll be disappointed if I get home and fewer people read the article than expected. It is an odd feeling, wishing to be seen and unseen simultaneously. 


I start promoting the piece only once I’ve had enough distance from it; once enough people have read it and didn’t tell me I’m full of shit, then I become less self-conscious. This is my 42nd article, and I’ve only had one person tell me I’m full of shit. To all the others who thought the same, thank you for keeping it to yourself.


Despite the one negative review and the hundreds of positive ones, I assume the harshest judgments when I post an article attempting to articulate some of the deepest parts of me, the shadows in my life, and the fragility of my emotional state. It is hard to be vulnerable; I was programmed in a “real men don’t cry” society. For most of my life, I thought being vulnerable meant being weak. 


The truth, however, is the opposite: vulnerability is strength. It takes courage to feel, especially when those feelings are incredibly painful. I liken crying to “eye sweat,” the result of a strong workout for the emotional body. I consider vulnerability to be the ultimate form of strength, but I just wish I felt strong being vulnerable. 


Therein lies the irony. Vulnerability, especially for men, requires strength because it asks us to be in a non-natural state of softness. It takes courage to soften. It takes audacity to feel. 


No one ever taught this to me. I grew up an athlete, surrounded by men who valued strength and competition. “Don’t be a pussy,” was reinforced in any moment of weakness. While I very much appreciate the value of competition, brotherly bonding, and encouragement, there was never any space for softness. Softness was feminine. We were men. Men don’t cry.


I avoided my feelings after my mom died and paid the price with years of confusing triggers and subconscious avoidance of love. When my fiancee Karina died 8 years later, I did the opposite; I leaned in, felt it all, and cried more than I thought was humanly possible. It was torture; it took every ounce of strength to endure, but I knew it was what I had to do to avoid a decade of suffering.


There was a day during that period when I offered a very emotional interview with a social media philanthropist named Charlie. He asked about Karina, how I was feeling, and what my experience was like shortly after losing my fiancee. I sobbed as I shared my story and experience with her loss. 


I almost forgot about the video they filmed until it was posted a month later. The video, linked on my page HERE, reached over 8 million people across platforms. The response to the things I said was incredible. I received hundreds of messages from people thanking me for sharing and telling me they had lost someone special, and my words gave them some comfort. 


I joked amongst my close friends and family that I had become famous for crying. 8 million was an unfathomable number of people watching me cry. One day, I shared this with one of my close friends, to which she responded, “Good! The world needs more examples of good men crying.” That response inspired this blog. 


The video was only a minute or so long, barely enough time for me to say all that much. If that simple message could inspire so many people, I might finally have something to say. If I could inspire other people, especially men, to be vulnerable, to feel what they feel, to appreciate the link between love and pain, it would be worth the effort. It would make Karina proud, a way I could carry forward the lessons of love she inspired in me.  


I started a mission to be vulnerable in public, to invite people who were suffering to feel into their pain. Every article I wrote received responses that inspired me to keep going. I didn’t realize then how impactful this process was for me and my expansion as a man. 


Now, two years on, my writing has evolved into uncovering deeper, more complex issues within myself and my observations of the world. Staying in that seat of vulnerability has become remarkably more challenging the farther away from Karina’s death we’ve gone. In my perception, the world doesn’t judge the man who just lost his fiancee but is much less understanding as time carries us farther from the event.


A year ago, I shared a secret with my partner Paige that I had never told anyone. Last month, I shared that secret with the world. That was no small feat for me. I struggled for months posting that article. I was afraid. I know who reads my articles: My family, Karina’s family, my current partner’s family, my friends, my employees, my community, and thousands of strangers. 


Sharing something deeply vulnerable that might change how someone I care about sees me is challenging. Not only am afraid of how they might see me, I’m afraid of how they might judge the people around me that have no involvement in my writing. I’m afraid of how they might see Paige for being my partner. I’m afraid of how they might judge my dad for raising me. I’m afraid that the people who don’t agree with me might look down upon what I’ve created at my business. 


I have a lot more to share, several books' worth, but fear has been slowing my pace of getting it done. It took a comment from my therapist to unlock what was needed: “Have you considered the cost if you don’t share?”


No, I hadn’t. What would be worse? Other people judging me for the things I write, or living a life with unreleased tension because I was too scared to share? The answer was obvious, and I’m blessed with the encouragement to keep going from those close to me. My last article was a big deal for me to write about. My next one digs into that topic even deeper. 


The most ridiculous part of all of this is that the fear of judgment is only in my head. I judge others by assuming they will judge me. It is exhausting, and I’m done. People will think what they think; what matters is that I am sharing my truth and following my purpose. I’ll let the cards fall as they will. 


More articles will come on death, grief, love, sex, relationships, energy, and whatever else I may be feeling as time moves on. As my writing evolves, I am certain someone will criticize me again at some point, and that’s okay. I didn't handle it well before; I wasn’t sure of myself enough yet. But now I feel ready for the next step. As I continue to share, one article at a time, I am stressing less and less about what other people think, and I feel so free. 


I want to share a sincere thank you to everyone who has read and encouraged my writing over the last two years. In the hardest of times, it really was your feedback that kept me going. I couldn’t have done this without you. You inspired me to keep writing, and that writing has healed me tremendously. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Onwards and Upwards we go.

 

Thank you for reading my article. If you feel called to support my writing, please click the link below to make a donation, or please share this article with someone who may need to read it. I appreciate you!

Please be sure to subscribe to this blog to receive my articles and follow me as a writer as I continue to work on my first book.


1 Comment


Avi Schraer
Avi Schraer
3 days ago

Yo Steve, sharing this in case it helps… for me a big part of being vulnerable means being open to criticism…


Truth and authenticity are polarizing. Public figures have haters and trolls…


The people who see me and love me will never say things to hurt me, only to help me grow. But the haters gonna hate. That’s inevitable as death and taxes, and a crucial measure of publicly sharing my life and thoughts is I am giving ammunition to people who have already decided they hate what i stand for.


The people with whom I have mutual trust and love, they are helping me find my blind spots. For the haters, they are trying to tear me down out…

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