Lost in Translation: How Embracing Vulnerability Saved Me

For as long as I can remember, my thoughts have been trapped in my head. An ineffectual communicator, I always listened to others and took to heart the words they said. I never responded. I was silent.

Childhood for me was silence. I never exposed a pure thought or emotion that I was feeling. I could not find the courage, or the right words to say what I felt. As a young adult, I found myself plopped in the middle of the high stakes world of the international fashion scene. My words were a mirage. I released brilliant one-liners. Considered wildly out of control, the persona I presented was an in your face, Go f*ck yourself if you don’t like it bad girl.

It was all made up. It was a mask. It was my costume. I cared deeply about what others thought of me. I took to heart their criticisms. I believed them when they said that my opinion did not matter.

When it all became too much, I went silent again. I decided to hide, in broad daylight. My mind raged on. Feelings of wonder, hurt, confusion and lust hidden behind my clear, blue eyes. I became what was considered a cold-hearted bitch. Yes, it is true. People, some of whom I cared deeply for, actually said that to me.

What nobody understood was that I always hated my thoughts and my words. Because it always seemed to me that I could never deliver them in what was considered an acceptable way. To make matters worse, the words I chose to articulate my thoughts did not express what I was trying to convey. Filled with anxiety of exposure, I could not share my ideas without worrying about how they might be perceived.

I have lived many lives. I have lived in many countries. I have met many different types of people. The people who always resonated with me were the ones brave enough to let it rip. Even if I was the recipient of a convoluted barb, that cut me to the core, I always thought the messenger was brave. Brave, because they owned their truth. Brave, because they did not give a damn. Brave, because they said what they were feeling.

Holding onto my thoughts and my words with an iron fist has only brought me pain and groomed the demon of depression that has sat by my side every day of my life. My demon likes to tell me things. What this demon has to say is painful—taunting, tricking and blinding me. I swear this demon is trying to kill me. This demon of mine scares the shit out of me. I hate him. He … yes, he is a he. He makes me nervous. He makes me want to give up on myself. He makes me want to stay silent. My intellect knows better. Intellectually, I know that this demon is a figment of my overactive imagination, as well as my predisposition. My mind tells me to run from him.

Run fast, run far, just R U N.

Despite what my public face displays, my emotions run deep. The love that I feel is painful. Hearts that I have broken and people that I have let down haunt me. I have made many mistakes. All of those mistakes were born because of my faulty communication skills. The voice that I choked off, the one that never would squeak out that should have made an appearance. So many times, it should have spoken up and out.

Having the courage to say, “I won’t accept being treated like this or spoken to in this way”  an abnormal reflex for me. My default position is to take the easy way out. Throw in the towel, raise the white flag and accept blame and the labels that others like to bestow on me. I am the first to say you are right, or I am sorry even if I don’t agree or feel the slightest bit of sorrow. I do that because of my past, because of the mistakes and my bag of guilt. It seems to be the best solution, the path of least resistance. Say sorry and then stay silent and hide my truth.

Words are weapons that have cut me thousands of times; I take other’s words as truth. I give other’s thoughts more validity than my own. When that happens, my inner demon gets stronger.

I prefer to quote some verbose prose or lyric that expresses what my heart feels. But when I try to use my words, they are lost in translation. Their meaning misconstrued, my tongue twisted in knots, and I give up. I hate the fact that I still can’t say what my heart is screaming the right way, in a way where the listener will receive my message loud and clear. Being scared to offend, too weak to fight, and utterly confounded I consistently curl up in a ball and try to protect my vulnerable heart. Isolating myself from my truth only makes the pull of that demon of depression more determined to take over.

Isolation, disconnection and not being able to express inner feelings is not my problem alone. There are 40 million Americans over the age of 18 that have one or more mental health symptoms.  Roughly 80% of all health issues are exasperated by holding in and on to our feelings. Without release, we can become debilitated by depression, stressed out and even up the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The art of effective communication is a skill that we are not born with. Being cut off from our emotions and thoughts, being rendered voiceless in most cases means at some point in our childhood we were stunted.

We were programmed by our caregivers to stop responding to our feelings. Being told to “stop crying” or to “get over it” by a well-meaning (but oh so wrong) teacher, or family member, taught us to cut the communication lines between our mind and heart. As adults, we grapple to find those unintentionally lost, core feelings. We may be verbally mute, but we did learn some stealth survival skills. The lack of connection to our inner and outer world has enabled us to cope during difficult times with family members, friends, peers and those that are in authority. Sadly, those coping skills usher in a whole range of dysfunctional behavior that can lead to addiction, breakdowns, suicide attempts, and violence.

Let’s face it the risks of exposure are great. By being vulnerable and letting go of our feelings and thoughts, we run the risk of experiencing one or all of the following side effects:

Conflict:  What you have to say might trigger an argument. Who wants to fight?

Being perceived as irrational:  Anger, jealousy, anxiety and the rest of the messy, emotional gang will only make those who you love reject you. Right?

Disapproval:  Isolated to begin with, why on earth would you express your feelings and risk not meeting the expectations of others?

Sometimes we prefer to play one of these stereotypical roles:

Hanging on to Hopelessness: Time and time again, you have perceived that your actions have not improved your station in life or your relationship. To hell with it. Self-fulfilling your predicted prophecy is easier than breaking out of the chains that bind you.

Lacking self-esteem:  Why? Because you choose to value other people’s  feelings above your own.

Being a martyr: Yes, you do like to be a martyr. If you did not, you would express your sense of hurt and resentment, up front, in vivid color.

How can I, How can you change this tedious and dangerous pattern of behavior?

Recently, I came across a passage written by Dr. Brené Brown. It was about how courage comes from being authentically vulnerable. Courage. I would not mind having some of that. As far as being vulnerable is concerned, I consider myself a mascot.

Vulnerable: Capable of or susceptible to being hurt. Open to moral attack, criticism or temptation. Open to assault.

How, I wondered is being a walking target, actually an act of courage?

Courage: The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain without fear.

“To feel is to be vulnerable.” – Dr. Brené Brown

The wheels in my mind switched gears after I read those words, and I started walking down a different path, a verbal one. So what if I wear my heart on my sleeve? I actually tapped into the core of what it is to have a meaningful, human experience. I have decided that it is time to release my capricious, provocative thoughts and emotions.

Yes, I am flawed. I am complicated, confused, prone to fantasy, up one day and down another. But most importantly, I am full of feeling. I am a work in progress. An awkward geek of a human that is just learning how to be. Most people are doing the same. It ‘s hard, painful, and embarrassing but it’s also utterly liberating to just let go, open your heart and embrace vulnerability. By owning up and embracing my vulnerability and releasing my truth, even if the words might not be quite right, I am courageous. This newfound liberation has surprised me. My voice no longer squeaks, sometimes it is a roar. I am still working on expressing myself in an efficient manner, and the benefits have already shown themselves. My demon is at bay. My chest no longer is tight, and I do believe I have gained an inch in stature. The more adroit I become at conveying my thoughts and feelings, the healthier I will be. The same can be said about you if you choose to be vulnerable, courageous and speak your truth.

Dr. Brené Brown most likely will never know this, but her words not only changed my life, but they also made my life worth living.

Like the sea, life is turbulent, calm, soothing, beautiful and dangerous all at once. I have finally found the courage to take the plunge, without fear or donning my life vest of silence.

I speak up, speak out, and I don’t get discouraged. It is hard, sometimes frustrating, but it is worth the effort. When I show up and give a voice to my feelings, I become free.

“… I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” —Dr. Brené Brown


Photo Credit: bixentro via Compfight cc

  1. Mary,
    Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I appreciate your thoughts, and I love the fact that you used the word “eloquence” to describe my translation. Funny thing, I still have so much locked inside my mind.


  2. Julie, I’m just reading this now–always a few months behind!–and am so moved by your words. You discuss difficult things with so much eloquence, and by sharing your empowerment, you help others–like me–feel more empowered too. Thank you for this.

  3. Janine-

    Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 I appreciate the encouragement. I never really know if what I have to say is of value. Old patterns are hard to break.

    xx J

  4. Julie,
    Thank you for your raw honesty. Your courage to write this is healing for all who read it. Very moving and filled with so much heart and strength. Loved it.

  5. Hi Julie 🙂

    I’m sorry for the late Write back
    I didn’t check back after I Wrote that

    Julie….I read Your response…. You’re so Beautiful Soft Angel…but so much pain I see in Your heavy Pretty eyes…..You’ve been through so much abuse of many different kinds………

    You’re an Angel Beautiful Soft Julie…..
    We have never met….but looking into Your Beautiful Photos….I see all of You Pretty Julie 🙂

    I am always here for You Julie if You would like to talk 🙂
    You’re all things Good and Love… 🙂

    Stay well my Angel Friend… 🙂
    It is Your Freedom……

  6. Dear John,

    I am speechless.
    You are a poet. Thank you for the lovely, beatuiful and endearing comment. “Become the River” I heard that one, just the other day.
    Flowing … onward.


  7. Rachel,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my post. Yes, I agree minimization is a killer. We always have to remember that everyone has their own take on life, their own demons and feelings. You are a FIERCE everything by the way. I am humbled to have you in my orbit. Grateful and in awe.

    As per writing something that I would never show my mother or father, well, I am not that covert. Never have been. It is all or nothing with me. #workingonit

    xoxoxox J

  8. So proud of you, my friend. It is scary to voice those feelings, and to stand up to those bullies — both internal and external. Minimization is one of the most damaging actions we thrust upon ourselves and others — the ‘get over it’ mentality people give survivors is one of the reasons I am a fierce protector of survivor voices (and Brene Brown is a beautiful, strong hero of mine as well!).

    We all have a right to tell our story, feel our feels, own our vulnerability as you so eloquently say above without having to defend our right to do so. On the flip side, we also have to give ourselves permission.

    “Write something you’d never show your mother or father”
    ~ Lorrie Moore

  9. Hi Julie 🙂

    You have very Beautiful….very Soft….Magic…. 🙂

    Your journey is one that Gives Hope to the World of Light and Love… 🙂
    You’re a very Beautiful Angel Julie:)

    Keep Your Light burning….show the lost…the way….. 🙂

    Just a little something….. 🙂

    Are You angry
    Feel hateful over some wrong doing
    Are You afraid
    Are You scared

    Doesn’t matter…they’re all the same thing…

    Do You Feel justified for Your actions….the ones You did that are not You…..

    Find what is Truly important to You…keep it…there…near Your Heart…always…

    Be True to Yourself…for that is where the key to True Happiness lives…

    Don’t argue or fight…become the river…the warm clear fresh running river…flow over and under obstacles…

    Be Yourself
    always and forever…
    Be Yourself


    You’ll be fine

    Beautiful Julie 🙂

  10. Dear Margret-

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Raw yes. Brave no. Inspiring? I hope so.
    You are so kind and good to me. I am gratful to have you as one of my “angel” guides 🙂

  11. Thank you, Julie.
    It is sadly true that silence has too often the tendency to resonate endlessly … but the comments that you receive about your testimonials are no less than the echoes of your very own voice. And the underlying beauty of making your voice be heard is that you actually don’t realize how powerful your voice is and how far it echoes and reaches out. It is more powerful than you know because you do it with grace, simplicity and honesty. A lot of women, it seems, in all walks of life, are pushed into a corner where they think they have to be vindicative and forceful in order to be heard and accounted for. But you know better … and your gentleness and humility give your voice even wider range. Thanks God for that for it is a precious thing.
    I would be very happy to submit a piece and make a small contribution to Feminine Collective. We had discussed this some time ago and maybe the timing is appropriate now. Let me know how we should proceed about it. You know how to contact me.
    Kind regards,

  12. Julie,
    This is raw emotion, bravery and inspiration all rolled up together as only you can write and share for others to embrace. Many may be going through the same thing as you have experienced, and in reading this will feel aloneness obliterated, depression a distant relative, and feeling good about oneself a viable option.
    sending love to you,

  13. Dear Xavier,

    Thank you for caring enough about what I have to say, to write such a beautiful comment. Thank you for “listening” to me. Silence,echoes endlessly, one never knows if thier words resonate or reverberate.
    I think you should put your thoughful words to use and submit a piece to Feminine Collective! Obviously you “get it.”
    It would be wonderful to have you join in as we celebrate what is divine about our feminine side.
    Thank you again, friend 🙂

  14. Jackie’s spot on. Nothing to add to that.
    You’ve come a long way, Julie. But what an incredible journey you’ve had … and the journey is not over yet … but some of its rewards come in your ability and desire to share it with us. The most important thing to retain about your personal testimonial here is that courage/strength and vulnerability are the two sides of the same coin. Part of the journey is discovering how to embrace and welcome both sides equally. And you are right to observe that most physical illnesses come from one mental/ emotional block or the other. It usually stems from the simple fact that you are not letting higher energy flow! In many instances, the solution is much simpler than we think: Let Go, Let God.
    Again, thank you for baring your soul and letting us profit from your experience and insight. You tell it as it is, and as a man, it is so refreshing and endearing to gain further understanding into womanhood and appreciation of the feminine divine.
    Renewed blessings & gratitude,

  15. What a beautiful open revealing piece. Depression and anxiety is difficult to talk about or admit. I found your piece insightful heartbreaking and finally liberating! The world needs more vulnerable powerful women like you!!

  16. Dear Julie,

    To take ownership of one’s fears and vulnerability is both terrifying and liberating, but to speak from the heart is always brave and true.
    Your are a uniquely beautiful soul, and whirlwind of emotions.

    Thank you for sharing your words, giving others the courage to do the same.

    Xx Jackie

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