My Comfort in Discomfort: The Effects of Embracing Vulnerability
Copyright 2020 by Genevieve Jaser
As I prepare to enter into my senior year of college, I
was struck with a realization: upon my entry into college, I was
happy and excited, but I was met with struggling students, worried
peers, and unhappy people. When I arrived at my first-ever college
class, I noticed 20 students, like zombies propped up in chairs. Is
college really as boring as their faces led me to believe? Over the
past three years, I have grown increasingly more consumed by my daily
interactions with friends, academic peers, and strangers: no one
seems truly happy. In an effort to figure out why, I reflected on my
experience as a first-year college student, and conducted my own
study, all while compiling national research and studies that
indicate a lack of contentment in the average American citizen.
Knowing this, I felt it was necessary to examine how we got to be a
society of such disheartened individuals – thus, came the birth
of “My Comfort in Discomfort: The Effects of Embracing
up. I never had an issue doing so, until I realized that “opening
up” doesn’t mean be more comfortable. It means, be more
into the eyes of my new professor at a new school in a new town, I
took a breath, and then I spoke, “I’m Genevieve, and I
took this class to learn more about well-being and how to nurture our
bodies and minds.” It sounded like a staged opening line to a
had signed myself up for a wellness class my first semester in
college, but despite my excitement, I started to realize what was
around me. I looked around and saw people, all my own age, slumped in
chairs like ragdolls. Most of their eyes were half-shut and I saw
yawns around the room. They probably got placed here by chance and
now we are all in this big room with small windows telling the
professor why we're stoked to be here.
truth was I had been looking forward to this class. And, I liked that
there were windows, even if they were a little small. Everyone looked
bored and unengaged. So, slouching down into my seat, I began to
consciously change the emotions I wore on my face, because I felt
embarrassed showing my real feelings. Instead, I
would end up being my favorite class and by the end of that semester,
I had made a final video about choosing your attitude towards others
and ultimately, towards life. But, due to my own self-consciousness,
I felt the need to act as if I didn’t care in the classroom in
order to avoid feeling vulnerable. If I was happy and engaged, I
would stand out as being different from everyone else. And, I didn’t
want that. So, I started to act the way I saw other people acting. I
acted “normal”. And by “normal”, I mean
uninterested and unaware.
instance is like one of the many that we’ve had and have every
day. We all do it. No one wants to look like the odd-man-out. We want
to belong. When we pretend together, we feel cool.
most of the time, when we look around, everyone looks miserable. So,
we do the same.
what’s the point in this? Fitting in to be unhappy? I don’t
to Shana Lebowitz, each new generation is happier than the ones that
came before it. There are numerous that studies claim people
happier than ever, boasting that global happiness is on the rise.
Yet, in the nine-year history of the happiness poll, the world
happiness report shows that the highest happiness index was 35%. This
means that at our best, only 35% of Americans reported being happy,
so even if we are getting happier little by little, well over half of
us simply are not there yet.
this mean we don’t value happiness?
a study I conducted, 80% of people said happiness was very important
to them. We want to be happy, but when we aren’t, we settle for
unhappiness. Perhaps we don’t know how to reach the golden
state of mind.
happiness we do feel is often superficial. We feel happy after
someone compliments our hair, or if we feel welcomed into a new group
of friends. Not only are these only temporary moments of happiness,
but they are instances where we feel liked and noticed by others, and
that’s what allows us to feel as though we deserve a pat on the
moments feel so good that we’ve become a society almost
completely reliant on happiness that is supplied from others. We
don’t do things for ourselves, even when we tell ourselves we
are. Oftentimes, we do things like take a job offer that pays well,
or buy an expensive car, or even buy brand named clothes, for the
status we will have once we own such things.
want the jealous looks and we have learned to crave this fake
affection from others because it feels good to look like a
caricaturized version of ourselves to others. Really, we just look
it all, we often aren’t truly confident with certain attributes
that we possess, whether it be our nervousness, the size of our ears,
or our low-paying job. So, instead of embracing these things, we
cover them up, and ignore them, instead focusing on the parts of
ourselves that we do like, and we work to make these superficial
parts of ourselves even better.
façade creates a bad kind of vulnerable. We are
uncomfortable with certain parts of our self, so we run as far as we
can from them. We then define vulnerability as this embarrassing
weakness, which over 40% of participants in my study thought it
survey participant defined vulnerability as this: “You’re
not a weak person but you’re in a weak position”. True.
The state of being vulnerable feels like weakness. In fact, a
temporary discomfort in feeling raw and open, you’re not
supposed to love it.
challenge comes in knowing the discomfort is necessary in order to be
have to make the choice to be a good kind of vulnerable. It may feel
like weakness, but it doesn’t mean to be weak. Instead, it is
where we are aware of our fears: rejection, judgements,
misunderstandings—and yet we choose to put ourselves out there,
without any mask.
must rid of our barriers and allow ourselves to live as ourselves,
not just the muted and morphed parts that we feel fit better with the
rest. We’re become good at hiding our real selves. People
can’t hurt you if they don’t know you. And, we’re
don’t like feeling out of place. The truth is that it’s
become unfamiliar and weird to act honestly.
we’re not understanding is simple: it’s time to
start redefining vulnerability. The most difficult part: we’re
losing our soul, and it’s time to get it back.
Genevieve Jaser is a Junior at Southern
Connecticut State University,
studying English and Communication. Throughout her academic
experience, she has taken on numerous creative projects centered
around the human experience, hoping to evoke emotional response and
universal feelings through film, writing, and art. She hopes that
others, like herself, may continue to expand their self-awareness,
and channel uncomfortable emotions through different mediums in order
to find connection and understanding with others.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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