The other day I had someone greet me with a gentle hello. Then he put his hand on my arm, leaned in, made eye contact and whispered earnestly, “How are you doing? Are you doing ok?”
I could have been reading into it, but the question seemed weightier than a casual “Hey, how are you doing?” This person, who I don’t know very well and have never talked to at any great length, seemed genuinely concerned about me.
He was sincere and it was sweet, but it triggered something in me.
It made me realize that because I have shared my struggles with depression openly there are going to be people, for whom, it is their first thought when they see me. It’s only natural. If their only frame of reference for me is through my blogs or what I have shared in a talk then it makes perfect sense.
But it bothers me. It bothers me that they may not have the whole picture of who I am. I worry that they may define me by my depression.
But it only bothers me for a moment because I have come a long way in letting go of what someone thinks of me. If I could completely let go then it wouldn’t bother me at all even for a moment.
Life is a series of crossroads. There are forks in the road.
Some time ago I came to one where the signpost pointing in one direction had a warning sign next to it that said “Vulnerability Ahead.” The signpost pointing in the other direction had no warning sign, assuring me that it was probably the emotionally safer route to choose.
I chose the path laden with vulnerability. As a result, others may form a perception of who I am based on some of the things I share publicly.
Vulnerability is the uncomfortable byproduct of being open with your life. I have allowed people a window into what was previously a very private struggle, not to gain pity, but in an effort to help someone else not feel alone.
That is my payoff ~ knowing that sharing helps someone else. It’s not really as noble as it may seem. I get something out of it too: a sense of purpose.
How about you? Are you afraid that by sharing part of yourself, others will look at you differently? In the big picture, does it matter?