To the girl who views vulnerability as weakness

For one of my classes this week, I had to take my Myers Briggs personality test. I took this test when I was a senior in high school and haven’t taken it since then. Four years ago, I got ESFJ (extraverted, observant, feeling, and judging), and honestly I think a lot can be learned from little tests like this. So, when I was instructed to take the test again, I expected to get the same four letters I had, but I didn’t. 

While my letters only differed by one change, it still interested me because I felt as though I’ve mostly been the same person for the past four years. But, now I am an ESTJ: still extraverted and observant, but now more thinking than feeling, yet still judging. Each set of letters has a personality name attached to it, and my new one is “The Executive”, which honestly doesn’t surprise me much. But as my letters shifted, I decided I wanted to learn as much as I could about this new part of my personality. 

*Let me preface all this by saying I do not by any means think that the Myers Briggs or the Enneagram can perfectly describe someone’s personality and you should not base your whole life off 4 letters or a number, but I do think it can shed some light on parts of yourself you may not recognize.*

With all that said, let me give you a little insight into my personality as according to 16Personalities. People with the Executive personality utilize tradition and order, their own moral compass, and value honesty and dedication. They happily take the lead in projects and take pride on bringing people together. Executives lead by example and believe authority must be earned, they are hyper aware of their surroundings and expect team members to have the same strong work-ethic that they hold. 

Reading through the strengths of the Executive, I felt very connected to almost all of them: dedicated, strong-willed, direct, honest, organized, loyal, and reliable. But there is always something that stings a little bit when you have to read weaknesses you hold, especially when internally you agree that you hold these weaknesses. Some include stubborn, inflexible, judgmental, and having difficulty relaxing. But the one that is the biggest weakness for Executives across the board is difficulty expressing emotion. When I tell you this one did not shock me in the slightest, I mean it did not even phase me at all. 

I grew up as the second child, the one girl with all the boys, an independent “mom” of every group, taking charge and rolling through life not taking into account emotions because I would consider myself a realist. I was taught from a young age, “if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” So that’s exactly what I did, I learned to run with the big dogs because I wasn’t going to be the only one sitting on the porch waiting for everyone to get home. Pushing emotions aside, I pushed myself in academics, extra curriculars, and friendships in order to prove to be the best. Because, when I thought about it, emotions don’t really come into play in the so called “real world”, or at least that is what I thought. I thought being strong and a leader meant you don’t show emotion, so until I was a freshman in college, I had only cried in front of my mom, dad, and sister.

Somehow I convinced myself that expressing emotions and being vulnerable with others made you weak. I felt that if I let people into my pain and troubles, they would either use it against me, or they wouldn’t trust me with important things because maybe they would think I couldn’t handle it. And looking back, this obviously was such a twisted way of thinking, but now I see that as one of the weaknesses of an ESTJ is being too focused on social status. I was so worried people were going to think I was weak if I showed any emotion, so I pushed anything involving emotions out of the frame.

As I have grown up more, learned more about myself, I am learning that emotions do not make you weak, asking for help does not make you weak, being vulnerable does not make you weak. In fact, as my roommate told me this week, “expressing the fact that you are hurt makes you strong.” 

Maybe it was growing up with boys who I felt like I had to prove myself to, maybe it was the independent within me focusing so much on what was happening around that I couldn’t look within, or maybe it was the fact that I was quickly growing up in the footsteps of my older sister and I wanted to be different than her. Maybe it was a combination of all of this, or maybe it was none of this at all. I’m not really sure to be honest. All I know is as I sat on a church balcony in Florida in 2019, hearing the testimony of a man I had met a few days before, I began to realize that vulnerability does not make you weak, but it makes you strong. 

So, to the girl who views vulnerability as weakness, understand you are strong. You are strong to share your story with others, whether that be one person or one hundred. You are strong for feeling, because it means you are human. You are strong for acknowledging you are hurting, because that is the first step to working through it. You are so strong, and sometimes it may take someone else telling you it’s okay to be sad or upset about things in your life in order for you to actually want to work through it. As someone who would much rather stuff every single feeling down than actually work on it, let me be the one to say it is okay. It is okay to be upset about a friendship ending, it is okay to be angry and sad about a breakup, it is okay to feel all the ways you do. Your feelings are valid. But also know that you aren’t going to magically be fixed automatically because you are allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It is still going to be hard as you walk through the pain and the heartache, but I can promise you that the person you will meet on the other end of that walk is itchy to be seen. So here I am, opening myself up to you, because I am also alongside you on this walk towards emotionally vulnerability. But, as long as we take each day at a time, allow ourselves to sit in the hurt, and acknowledge the past but continue to look forward to the future, I think we will see how strong we really are.