I don’t think I need to harp on about this much longer, but here’s the thing. Low Self-Esteem may not be the cause of BPD, but it’s definitely a symptom. It can also contribute to the sense of unstable sense of self that we often suffer from. When you have low-esteem it’s almost natural to crave the acceptance of the people around you. One of the easiest ways to guarantee that is subconscious for us, because mirroring is so easy, and people like to see themselves reflected back at themselves (it’s validating).
Here’s the thing though. The women I know with Borderline Personality Disorder, myself included, come across as exactly the opposite of having low self-esteem. In fact we usually come across as supremely self-assured and as having it all together, needing the approval of no one. Brash, confident, maybe even a little cocky… though I like to think of it as endearingly flippant… is a very conscious effort to mask our low self-perception and inner turmoil. It’s also probably why a lot of people get very confused when we’re “all of a sudden” having such a hard time. They don’t see it, so they don’t realize it’s real.
The thing is, it’s not just a mask, it’s the way I wish I was. I hate feeling this way. I hate that I don’t love myself. I want to love myself. I want to be the happy, confident woman that everyone perceives me to be. The only people that see that this persona isn’t all it’s cracked up to be are the people that are very, very close to me. Everyone else, rarely has a clue.
Part of the problem with this is also, that when this is the visage that everyone around you sees of you, they have zero clue that there is actually a darker well of trauma and turmoil running beneath the surface.
The idea of being vulnerable and exposed in the face of people that might not have your best intentions in mind is a hugely unnecessary risk though. We’ve dealt with enough failed risk, with the opposite of reward… more like huge debts of penalty fines, that there’s not benefit to being our authentic selves.
Because “vulnerability” is a bad word.
…. Except it’s really not. Something I’ve learned in the last year, is that it’s absolutely possible to be both vulnerable and strong. Allowing someone else to see an aspect of me, that in the past I might have been ashamed of because it was “weak, really only allows them to see the complete woman I am. That I have been through all those trials and tribulations doesn’t make me less of a person, it makes me more. It makes me whole. I may not have had a pleasant life, but I’ve had my life, and I’ve grown stronger because of the experiences I’ve been dealt. Allowing other people to see that that wasn’t easy to deal with, and also see that I am capable of continuing forward… that’s a testament to my inner strength. That I have been vulnerable, that I am human, with a human heart, with human feelings that wants to love and be loved (but in the process of opening up myself to love, I must open myself up to the possibility of pain), that I AM vulnerable, at times, is not shameful. That I am willing to open myself up like that, even after all of the emotional warzones I’ve battled through, and not lost my will to keep fighting… that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It takes strength to willingly allow someone to see your vulnerability when you’ve been through that much. It takes strength in yourself, and in you relationship, to trust another person with that responsibility to not wound you further.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot. Because my entire life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. I internalize the idea that to be vulnerable is to be weak. To be vulnerable is to allow another person to take advantage of you. To be vulnerable is give away your power.
It’s not true though. When you don’t have strong sense of who you are, to allow someone else to see you in your most malleable form, it feels very exposed. The more you work on yourself though, the more time you put into getting to know who you really are, apart from other people… the stronger you become. The more solid you become. Those antiquated ideas of hyper-masculinity and what is ‘strong’ and what is ‘weak’ become no longer relevant. When you begin to reach a point where you know who you are, even if you’re still working on it… all that being vulnerable means… is that you’re human, and that you’re not afraid to be human.
Our society likes to tell us that it’s not okay to show that human-ness, but I have a secret for you. Society is often full of crap. There is no one-way to be. There is no way you “should” be. The only thing you should do, is be honest to who you are. Regardless of what society tells you.
I don’t mean that in an avoid responsibility for yourself, act out, act in, be a jerk, and generally destructive kind of way either. We’re still responsible for ourselves and our actions.
To be vulnerable is to allow another person to love you for all of you, and to allow yourself to truly be loved and accepted by another person.
That doesn’t mean to throw yourself to the whims of another person completely. It means keep your eyes open, be mindful of yourself, and accept yourself. Use your wise mind when deciding who and when it’s okay to show that vulnerability to someone. Because let’s face it, some people are jerks and just don’t deserve to get to know all of you.