To be vulnerable is to experience our own humanity. It is a place we reside, where we are tenderly cradled and touched by our very essence. In an age of tweets, updates, blogs and other portals of instant digital exposure, we are encouraged and seduced into sharing details of our lives. Our vulnerability stands at the threshold of our inner deep desire for acceptance and affirmation and the outer, shallows of exposure.
Creativity is the metamorphosis of our inner world to the outer. Our vulnerability is on display along with our words, paintings, sculptures and photographs. Ideas originate in the depths of our being, inhabiting a private nurturing world before eventually the desire to transform the nebulous into something physical inspires action and the artwork is born. Projected into the daylight, we are not simply exposing our physical being but that delicate, unprotected and naked vulnerability which shies the limelight and seeks shadowy refuge at the merest hint of criticism or indifference.
I recently spent five days on a sculpture course at Stanton Group Studios. It was my first experience as a life model and what I thought would leave me vulnerable and exposed quickly began to feel entirely natural. It is only in the crossing of the threshold from the comfort of familiarity into the unknown that we experience vulnerability. We can step back in fear or stride into a new horizon just waiting to be explored. For me this experience was far less exposing than when I publish an article or enter a painting in an exhibition. Modelling shares only the outer self whereas the others come from a place deep within, revealing something of the vast, private interior, offering up tender shoots easily crushed by rejection, ridicule, judgement and jealousy. It is tempting to recoil but in so doing we also close the facilitating portal to appreciation, admiration, respect and regard.
To seek vulnerability is liberating; it faces the biggest fear of all – that if others knew what we inwardly harbour, what we are really like, they would avoid us. And yet the most attractive and interesting people are not those who look amazing or produce the greatest work – they are the ones who are confident in spite of their imperfections. They are the ones who are willing to face rather than fear vulnerability knowing through experience how freeing and empowering it can be.
Many of us resist risk and change be it of ourselves or in others. An attempt to be invulnerable is a vain one; it is part of our intrinsic nature and encompasses courage and compassion. The choice we have is not whether we are vulnerable but to live with it bravely and with courage step fully across the threshold.