As much as we’d like to believe that 4-6 hours with us is sufficient to teach healthy vulnerability, we are not that deluded. We are a part of your personal narrative – for which we are honored – however, your immediate circle of friends and family are far more substantial. And what we find is that this group presents both the biggest opportunity for embracing a vulnerable, dynamic of self-love, as well as the biggest risk for undermining vulnerability.
Today’s post is not going to be focused on the interpersonal interactions with this tier one group: it will further the previous discussion on self-talk, what is directly within our control. We hope – and believe – this will contribute to healthier interpersonal interactions, but it is not the super objective of this entry. The next post of this series will turn toward giving back.
We’re going to tie this to our sessions a little, yet the bulk of the emphasis will be on what happens at the Reveal Session.
Vulnerability and Scars
Baggage. Scars. Maintenance. We have an entire vernacular dedicated to describing the historical complexity we all carry from relationships. And it is predominantly negative. What a shame.
We think it is a shame because our past is used to shame. And we’re not talking about the overt ways that people guilt or shame – while painful, the glaringly obvious is easy to spot. It is the covert ways of shame which concerns us the most, not only because it can be so subversive from others, but because we are often the culprits of shame.
We talk about our baggage. Our hang-ups. Our history. We talk about them from an apologetic stance. We apologize for the fact that we bring those things into the room with us without acknowledging that we all bring other stuff into the room, healthy and unhealthy.
We have an expectation when we are with people that we need to check our baggage at the door. What does this mean? How does this manifest?
There is a scene in the 1997 film As Good as it Gets where Helen Hunts character returns from a date which transitions to the couch. Her son interrupts the evening, putting Hunt’s date on hold. When she returns her date collects his things and leaves stating: “Just a little too much reality for a Friday night.”
We groan at this jackass’s statement, but we all know that is the case. We know that people are put off by too much reality. They use it to make us feel bad about ourselves, to make us feel like we’re responsible for their happiness. And we let them!
Vulnerability & Affirmation
Why do we do this? Because we are subject – some of us more than others – to the affirmations and encouragements of those around us, most importantly, the people closest to us.
A slight sidebar: Our appeal through this series is not that we steel ourselves against emotional or psychological injury. Adopting a laissez faire, “I don’t care” attitude is the antithesis of vulnerability. But it is also an easy and understandable strategy to rely on. Because we don’t want to hurt. We don’t want to feel the acute pain of a caustic barb. Seeking affirmation is a form of vulnerability because we are opening ourselves up to positive and negative encouragement.
We sometimes close ourselves off to these affirmations, or learn to dismiss them, because we have been hurt too often to warrant staying open to affirmation any longer. It becomes a coping mechanism. We believe it makes us less vulnerable, but at what cost?
The bulk of what Tiffany and I stand for with our studio is providing a venue for our clients to reconnect with who they are and who they can be. The art we create is a memento, a souvenir of that experience. So protecting that experience and the truth about yourself that emerges from the experience is one of our biggest priorities. And we have identified multiple points during our interactions where there are opportunities to either reinforce our self-image or further undermine it.
Vulnerability & the Reveal Session
The Reveal Session is one of those moments of opportunity.
We are often asked, “Is it all right if I bring my friend/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/etc. to the Reveal Session?” We see these questions as opportunities to educate and reground in what vulnerability looks like.
During the session, the vulnerability is clear: you are in front of camera, expressing, emoting, feeling, having fun the way you might when no one else is watching. But you are not watching yourself. And that is great! It leads to a healthy dose of abandon and a destruction of inhibition. We love it.
The Reveal Session is a different kind of vulnerability. You are seeing yourself expressing. You are seeing yourself emoting. You are seeing yourself feeling. It is eye opening for many of our clients. It is a reset of many lies we tell ourselves. “I’m not attractive” is met head-on with “Damn! I’m dead sexy!” “I am reserved and hard to approach” is contradicted with “Who is that powerhouse?! It’s me!” The Reveal is still a focus on you and reclaiming the truths we discussed in the previous post.
But this can disappear in an instant. We’ve seen it happen. And it crushes us. Because it can crush our client.
We had one client that brought a girlfriend into the Reveal Session and rather than it be a celebration of our client, it turned in to a critique. Why? In this case it happened to be a bout of jealousy on the part of the friend. In other cases it has had no ill-intents. The significant other or friend was just solving for different things.
At its core we find that when other people come in for a reveal, they don’t have a full appreciation for why our clients have elected to invest in themselves this way. They apply their own values, the way they would do things and make decisions, to our clients. And isn’t that the bitch about being vulnerable in general?
We live in a world that believe they “need to understand” in order to accept. Because we do not understand why someone might invest in a new, expensive dress, or we wouldn’t do that, we judge. We use “I don’t understand” as an excuse, putting people on the defensive to justify why they feel or why they make certain choices, without first accepting that others make decisions because they are solving for different things! We don’t need to understand why you want to schedule a session. Regardless of the reason, we accept that our world is big enough to accept multiple reasons. We accept your reasons, whatever they may be, and we will advocate for you achieving those reasons.
This model of acceptance as a prerequisite for vulnerability is one we champion in our studio. And we want you to champion it first and foremost, by accepting yourself first.