I love to debate. I truly do.

My favourite debate partner is my dad. Because it’s always safe. Meaning, I know that we’re both going to walk away from the conversation with more expanded perspectives and a healthy readjustment to our mental reflexes – and not with sore spots, resentment and emotional wounds. 

I can be a pretty passionate debater. A lot of people are threatened by my enthusiasm and misinterpret it for defensiveness, an elevated emotional state, or anger. Which isn’t the case at all! I just figure, if you’re going to argue for what you believe, then you better put skin in the game.  

Another reason my dad is my favourite debate partner is because he’s always truly interested in my point of view. He asks stimulating questions with the intention of truly listening to my answer before processing it and making his retort. I feel I (really try to) reciprocate that.

The worst debates are ones in which the opposing party has no intention or interest in the other side of the debate and simply wishes to reiterate their own belief. The whole reason debates are fun is because you still can walk away with your initial belief – but through the debate, you’ve had a healthy dose of banter to expand even your own opinions on why you hold that belief. If you’re not willing to explore the other side, then I kind of think your faith in that belief must be sort of limited if you’re avoiding the exposure to some inquiry.

When I’m not debating with my dad, I have to cool my jets a little. Most people aren’t prepared to take a heartily enthusiastic (too enthusiastic) jump into contrasting opinions. And it’s a semi-bummer. But I get over it. Because some people just aren’t ready to be as excited as I am, and that’s okay.  

However, the one debate I have had a number of times with various ‘opponents’ – I feel needs to be addressed in full-on Tanya-Ryan-debate-mode.

I have had a handful of people try to tell me that vulnerability is synonymous with weakness; and I couldn’t disagree more. Naturally, in each particular circumstance I retorted in debate and it wasn’t very well received, which is totally cool! But I really feel the need to get into this.

The argument that I’ve heard is that exposing your self in such a way that makes you vulnerable, is to appear weak; and perhaps that’s the case if you’re solely considering this from the perspective that would indicate your extensive participation in war-strategizing themed video games. But if we’re looking at vulnerability from the whole day-to-day experience perspective. Vulnerability is an absolute indication of strength, integrity, honesty and humility.

If you were someone who decided consciously or unconsciously that you would never be vulnerable, it’s sort of a ticket down easy street. It means you will never have to put yourself on the line. You never have to face the unknown. You don’t have to develop a relationship with courage or bravery. Being invulnerable is easy. It’s impersonal and safe. It means never having to face rejection or criticism. You’d never ask someone on a date. Or say I love you. You wouldn’t do any form of public-speaking; or share any kind of personal information or art. You wouldn’t share your beliefs, opinions and personal expressions. You wouldn’t ever have to apologize or admit you’re wrong.

I mean, technically some of the listed examples would vary from person to person on how vulnerable each item was perceived by that unique individual. But essentially, I’m aiming to conclude that vulnerability is a form of facing fear. I’ll use my own examples.

I have never said I love you first (except ONE time). Because it was safer to wait for someone else to say it first. Then the ball was in my court. I could decide what’s what and I’d be safe not having to deal with the crippling rejection that comes from an empty “You’re okay too.” (That’s a slight inside joke for my dad, but it doesn’t impact the understanding of this story without knowing the joke. So we’re good.) The time I did say I Love You first hardly even counts because I knew my words would be reciprocated. The day prior to my confession of love, I had basically cornered him when he was drunk and skillfully and not-so-subtly beat around the bush to the point that I had enough evidence to conclude that my feelings would be returned. So I totally dodged vulnerability in this particular case. (BUT HE STILL MARRIED ME. WIN.)

I remember the first time I went to publicly perform a song that I had written based on very intimate and personal experience. I was mortified at the idea of singing this diary entry in front of people. WTF. I can’t do that! To get myself to do it, I pretended in my mind that it wasn’t about me. It was about someone else. It was like reciting fiction. No problem.

I am an expert vulnerability dodger.

I have hidden my opinions, experiences, beliefs – because I don’t want to face the potential criticism that might come with outing them. (Slowly coming out of the proverbial closet here, one blog at a time.) I have hidden tears, defeat, and struggle. I have avoided conversations, been passive aggressive and found my way around undesirable subject matter. And boy oh boy have I been effective in my ability to wiggle myself out of some conflicts I didn’t want to have.

And sure, I sing on stage. And that’s pretty vulnerable … but it has taken me years (and years) to practice NOT pretending my songs are about someone else. To own them as mine. My own story. That might actually have been one of my major movements forward in vulnerability – and it’s only been happening in the last 3 years. It’s probably unrealistic to think you can get through life without everhaving to be vulnerable. But I definitely think living with intentional vulnerability on a regular basis is a really powerful experience.

That’s the thing about being an expert vulnerability-dodger… you start to see how you’re really limiting your depth. The deepest human connections happen through vulnerability. Some of the most amazing performances, speeches, relationships, and acts of bravery came from an individuals ability to be entirely and unequivocally vulnerable. Anytime something or someone has truly moved you, I guarantee vulnerability was apart of the equation. That person let you into their story, their heart and their life for a period of time. That’s some seriously powerful shit.

You can try to convince me all the live long day that holding it together and toughing it out is braver – and I will simply not agree with you because I’ve BEEN the person that toughs it out. I’ve ‘held it together’. And all it is, is a form of hiding. It’s the ability to avoid appearing helpless or needing help. It’s entirely egocentric. It’s not even real. You are simply wanting people to believe this is who you are. But it’s not. You are hiding. And that is so not brave.

Hey man. I’m not criticizing you. I AM you. Takes an invulnerable to know one.  

I’m just saying I know that if I’m being truly brave – and any time I’ve been truly brave – I’ve exposed something. I have opened myself up in a new way.  Which is terrifying. And when you intentionally do something terrifying. You chose to pursue an action that honours your heart and your soul – knowing potential consequences of this action – and you do it anyway? That is BRAVE AF.

So if you want another word for vulnerability, I’m afraid that ‘weakness’ just won’t cut it.

It’s seriously brave.

@ me. I dare you.