Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Vulnerability v Coolness: Keeping an Open Heart in an Unpredictable World

My 6-year-old daughter, Bo, had a tough time this afternoon.

We have a new neighbour and, very often, Bo stands outside for as long as she can manage, calling her name, hoping that she will come to the window and agree to play.

Often, when she does this, they end up spending time together happily.

But today was different. Her new friend was having a playdate and wasn't interested in playing. Not only that, she and her friend laughed and whispered at the window as Bo stood with her heart on her sleeve, waiting to see if they would both come and play.

I spent the next half an hour with a very, very sad girl snuggled into my lap. She was able to tell me how bad it felt to feel someone whispering about her and making fun of her. And she was able to sob her way through all the other things that had been upsetting her recently too. Friends who had criticised her drawings, people who had said unkind things.

We had a chat about times when I had been through similar experiences. Usually this is what she wants to hear about. Really, of course, she wants to hear any version of 'I have been through this and I am here and I am strong and you'll get through it too' - so Robert and I tell stories of hard times with friends that we overcame.

After about half an hour, she began to come back to herself and within a few moments she was outside on the wall trying to get the girl who lives on the other side to come and play! So she definitely got through most of the feeling.

And all this got me thinking. Of course, it is uncomfortable when someone is unkind to someone we love. AND I have to say, I love how these things give us all a chance to join together, to really stop and be present to each other and to reaffirm what we think is important.

Because, actually, what is important to me is that Bo knows her worth from the inside as much as possible. It is important to me that she knows how to be vulnerable. That she takes risks. That she tells people she loves them after spending one afternoon with them. That she is willing to stand outside the house for half an hour calling someone's name.

Because that is what we get talked out of, so that we don't get hurt - so that we keep ourselves protected and our hearts under wraps.

We are supposed to be 'cool' about these things. Coolness is the armour we are taught to wear and it makes us unkind and stand-offish and aloof.

I know because I survived much of my school life by disguising myself as one of the 'cool' people in an attempt to escape the ridicule and whispers. But I ended up feeling very empty and had to fight to get my heart back.

We need to stay vulnerable and keep our hearts on our sleeves. And we need to help our children do the same. And we need to support them when they get hurt and affirm their strength and wonderful-ness when others are being cool and unkind.

Because the 'cool' people are just vulnerable people with their armour on. And they need to see the other path that is available too.


  1. Beautiful....

    You are aware of Brene Brown's talk on TED, where she discusses her discovery of vulnerability being the trait of those happiest?

    I'm trying to get it to the simplest expression, so I don't keep loosing it in the complexity. Bo, or any of us, get sad, cool, armoured, when we believe a thought that takes us away from our innocence. You helped Bo question that thought(s), and she dropped it, and was vulnerable (open, innocent) once again.

    I guess the coolness is when we believe the limiting concepts about ourselves, and are certain others will discover them also if we expose too much of ourselves.

    It's all a return to innocence isn't it?

    Thanks again, Hollie, for broaching these topics.


    1. Hi Lisa, yes I love Brene Brown - so powerful. And yes to questioning the thoughts. I always have to balance a bit of Byron Katie thinking with allowing the feelings in the moment.

      It really is a return to innocence for all of us, yes - and that is another part of the balance - not making the unkind person wrong because we all have everything in us and we are all brothers and sisters to each other on the journey of self-discovery...

      Thanks for reading and commenting x

  2. Hi Hollie,

    The feelings are the thoughts in the body. Lots of times, I travel upwards, from the feeling to the thought. It's easier that trying to find the disturbing thought most times.

    It's really hard not to make the other person wrong, until you can find your own innocence. I think it's so easy to make them wrong, that Katie has you use them in your worksheets. Smart lady! ;)

    Hope you guys have a great day. I wanted to say that I can see in your children's eyes just how open and loving they are. You're doing a fantastic job keeping them as innocent (different from naive) as possible.

    Lisa XO

  3. Hi Hollie, I love this post. The way you write is wonderfully vulnerable and open. I like the story too, particularly how you sat and talked of your own difficulties in friendships. When my daughter has experienced such things I've wanted to run and hold her and protect her - probably trying to protect myself, sometimes behind a wall of indignation. So hard at such times to feel your own pain, to hold yourself back, stay open and loving. I had to realise my own hurt, which underneath was a sort of sadness and disappointment. I've told my daughter stories, but never made it this conscious. I'll hold your example as a reminder! Also, I'd like to share how my daughter, Mayla, and I have something called 'Golden Memories'. When Mayla was little she wanted to hear stories from my life. I would share some of the most wonderful, heart opening moments. Sometimes I told her stories of facing and overcoming difficulties in which love prevailed. I'm so excited because Mayla is now 12 years old and she has started to share her own Golden Memories with me. Jo River