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Safer to be Superficial, Greater to be Vulnerable

Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener

One of my favourite humans/idols Judah Smith said in his book How’s Your Soul that it “feels safer to be superficial”. What that mean? Well in this context, Judah was referring to when people ask how you are and you reply with a superficial answer such as “I’m fine. I’ve got lots of money in the bank, I have a nice car, a nice house – so I’m good” instead of telling people how you really feel on the inside. That superficial answer deals with how your life looks to others on the outside – it avoids you being vulnerable – it feels safer for you to give that answer.

In providing this answer however, you’re also providing a huge blockade and hindering yourself massively in the process. By withholding this information of how you’re actually feeling within yourself with a superficial front, you’re depriving yourself of essential human connection on a deeper and more profound level; you’re stopping yourself from receiving the assistance and advice that you need; and you’re also preventing yourself from helping someone else who is going through the exact same thing as you are just because it’s safer for you.

black and white image of man

Whilst, I was reading this it got me thinking – “Do I do this? Am I superficial when people ask me probing questions? Do I put up a front so I don’t have to be vulnerable”. The answer? Yes. Absolutely. We all do. I mean, I definitely do it a lot less now, but I have done it a lot in the past - especially when asked about my disability (Spina Bifida). I know those of you who know or have known me may be thinking “But you’re quite upfront about your disability? I know about your disability? You talk about it openly, you don’t shy away from questions and you make A LOT of jokes”.

Well – yes I do and I have talked about my disability openly – but it’s normally just about what it is, how it affects me physically and how many surgeries I have had. But in asking myself if I provide superficial answers to peoples questions and upon realising I, as a matter fact, do indeed do that – I also realised that I don’t talk openly and honestly about how my disability makes me feel – and that I could disclose a lot more.

Why? Like Judah said, it feels safer to be superficial – being vulnerable is terrifying. Let me tell you a little secret – surprisingly, despite me being absolutely awesome, seriously good looking, endearing and talented – it’s not all about me. I realise this. I also realised that if I’m more vulnerable and disclose more about my disability, my struggles, my triumphs and how I feel about my disability – I’ll make deeper and more profound human connections; I’ll receive the advice and assistance that I need; I’ll help someone else or many someone else’s who have a disability or those who have a loved one with a disability.

I wanted to do all of that – but on a large scale. And I didn’t just want it for me, I wanted it for every person who has a disability, or who has a loved one with disabilities or someone who has encountered disability and wants to be more informed on disability. I wanted to create a community that could create deep connections; a community that could provide advice, assistance, wisdom and inspiration; an environment that could educate and provide help – all through disability - but how?

In April, i started my own blog – Let’s Discuss Disability. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. It acts as an open space for people to just discuss anything and everything disability. I started by sharing my own story - my experience and my life living with a physical disability. It was a massive leap into the unknown – I was completed naked (emotionally not physically, get that out of your head!), bearing my scars and allowing myself to be vulnerable to the entire world. Some of my thoughts and feelings, I hadn’t even shared with those closest to me.

The blog received 5,000 views in one week in around about 40 countries. Something I absolutely was not expecting! I was commended for my bravery, told how good of a writer I was and Scope (as you can see) got in touch with me about doing a guest post – but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was the other disabled people contacting me about sharing their story; the best part was the connections I made from that; the best part was people seeking my advice and help; the best part was able bodied people telling me how much they had learnt from reading my story. It was beautiful and overwhelming. I made so many deep, profound connections.

How did I do it? I was vulnerable. Yes, it was scary and it definitely would have felt safer to be superficial. But if I didn’t take that leap and if I had of sat in my safety, superficial, selfish seat of super comfortability – I wouldn’t of made so many beautiful connections; I wouldn’t have reached so many countries; I wouldn’t have been able to provide this space for people to share; I wouldn’t have been able to help; and I would’ve regretted it.

So – my name is Drew White. I have Spina Bifida that affects my back and my right leg. I have had 21 procedures and have a lot of sexy scars. I love writing, music, pretty girls, Jesus (he’s number one on the list) and cricket - just like any 21-year-old male. I’ve actually represented the England Physically Disabled Cricket Team in Bangladesh. I have struggles and successes in disability – but it’s definitely a blessing and not a burden. Disability does not define me, but it has molded me into this person. And I’m grateful for that.

 

Who are You? What’s Your Story? Let us know now 

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Member Disability Gamechanger
    I LOVE this post @Drew_White_95 thank you so much.

    I totally get where you are coming from, I live in the superficial land of 'Im fine' so often in the real world.  Yet online on my own blog about disability, I am the most vulnerable and open I could possibly be.  I think the written word is so powerful because it not only can help, effect and support but it can be so much easier for the person writing it to let out their inner feelings.

    I have just bought the book you recommended too, so thanks!
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Martin64Martin64 Posts: 3Member Listener
    A brilliant piece and it pretty much sums me up in a nutshell. I can fool most of the people most of the time but those who are close to me see straight through it. 
    In truth most people who ask how you are do it just to start a conversation and if you say that you are not too good you can see a glazed look come over them and they suddenly have to go. 
    I really wish I had a go to person who I could be completely myself and honest with but until that time I am fine. 
  • 1BentSpine1BentSpine Posts: 12Member Connected
    I can identify with so much of what has been said here too.   Like Drew I have Spina Bifida. Since I grew up in a family where I was abused, and was also shunned  at school because of my disability, it definitely was safer both physically and emotionally to keep things inside. To this day I am still very leery about being vulnerable with people, and find it difficult to trust people with really personal aspects of who I am.  The only time I have allowed my self to be totally vulnerable is when I was in counselling.  I think that because I have kept to myself emotionally for so long, it would be very difficult to let my guard down with people if I was talking to them face to face.  Like Martin, I wish I had a go to person that I could feel safe talking to Anything and Everything. 

    P.S.  since everyone here is giving their real name....mine is Valerie
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Member Disability Gamechanger
  • izaiza Posts: 455Member Pioneering
    Hi @Drew_White_95, Thank you for sharing your stories. 15 years ago I come to leave in UK. At that time I found out that wherever you ask people how are you? They always say I am fine.... For most of the 13 years I worked only for English Companies and always received the same answers no matter who you ask. In my country I come from people are more open. When you meet neighbours, colleges and even strangers when you start conversation people tend to tell you their all life stories. Some of them are based on daily life some are so deep and stay in memory for long. I can assume English Culture and growing here make a difference. Indeed if you mention about your feelings, worries and so on. People seems to run away. It just surprise me that people chose better be "fake" than natural. Enjoy and make the best of growing connections.
  • Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener
    iza said:
    Hi @Drew_White_95, Thank you for sharing your stories. 15 years ago I come to leave in UK. At that time I found out that wherever you ask people how are you? They always say I am fine.... For most of the 13 years I worked only for English Companies and always received the same answers no matter who you ask. In my country I come from people are more open. When you meet neighbours, colleges and even strangers when you start conversation people tend to tell you their all life stories. Some of them are based on daily life some are so deep and stay in memory for long. I can assume English Culture and growing here make a difference. Indeed if you mention about your feelings, worries and so on. People seems to run away. It just surprise me that people chose better be "fake" than natural. Enjoy and make the best of growing connections.

    @iza I completely agree that culture has an influence. I went to Bangladesh two years ago and the way they treat/view disabled people is entirely different when compared to the UK. 

    It surprises me also... but that's probably because I'm someone who is more open and comfortable by nature. I'm fully aware that other people, because of past experiences, may not want to be open and vulnerable and that people may also not want to get involved in conversations about feelings because of their own experiences. Hopefully, we can be the people to encourage them to open up and share and in doing so, show them that it's okay to be vulnerable! 
  • Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener
    Sam_Scope said:
    I LOVE this post @Drew_White_95 thank you so much.

    I totally get where you are coming from, I live in the superficial land of 'Im fine' so often in the real world.  Yet online on my own blog about disability, I am the most vulnerable and open I could possibly be.  I think the written word is so powerful because it not only can help, effect and support but it can be so much easier for the person writing it to let out their inner feelings.

    I have just bought the book you recommended too, so thanks!
    Thank you @Sam_Scope for giving me the chance to do this! I've only been writing since my blog started and i couldn't agree more - it's such an expressive art form! 

    I'm nearly finished "How's Your Soul" now... it is amazing! Has your copy arrived yet?
  • Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener

    Martin64 said:
    A brilliant piece and it pretty much sums me up in a nutshell. I can fool most of the people most of the time but those who are close to me see straight through it. 
    In truth most people who ask how you are do it just to start a conversation and if you say that you are not too good you can see a glazed look come over them and they suddenly have to go. 
    I really wish I had a go to person who I could be completely myself and honest with but until that time I am fine. 
    @Martin64 Thank you very much! You're talking to a guy who's done the same thing many times and experienced the same response when i've tried to be vulnerable. 

    What i do think, however, is that you can't let responses like that discourage you. There are some people that find it a burden or an inconvenience to them when you try to tell them about something you're struggling with - it's just a matter of fact and i really wish it wasn't. But there are some people (like myself) who find it an honour (and a massive indirect compliment) that someone would share their struggles with them.

    That's very much the people i want to know - those who want to be real, raw and honest. It's what i try to be and try to encourage others to be; it's also what i want my blog to be like. I want realness, rawness and something that's actually connected like a community... like i mean... that people genuinely build strong, deeper founded connections. 

    I'm always up for a chat about those honest and difficult subjects, so if you want to get in contact with me through the blog that would be great! Would love to hear your story. Like - genuinely - don't hesitate! 

    https://letsdiscussdisability.wordpress.com


  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Member Disability Gamechanger
    Yes my book came at the weekend @Drew_White_95 - I will be completely honest, I am not a religious person at all, so I may take something different from it from you, but I do love reading about religion, so Ill see how I get on!
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener

    I can identify with so much of what has been said here too.   Like Drew I have Spina Bifida. Since I grew up in a family where I was abused, and was also shunned  at school because of my disability, it definitely was safer both physically and emotionally to keep things inside. To this day I am still very leery about being vulnerable with people, and find it difficult to trust people with really personal aspects of who I am.  The only time I have allowed my self to be totally vulnerable is when I was in counselling.  I think that because I have kept to myself emotionally for so long, it would be very difficult to let my guard down with people if I was talking to them face to face.  Like Martin, I wish I had a go to person that I could feel safe talking to Anything and Everything. 

    P.S.  since everyone here is giving their real name....mine is Valerie

    @1BentSpine Valerie - it's so nice to actually hear from someone else with Spina Bifida and thank you so much for sharing that little bit of your story with us and just from that little insight into your life, i can see that you're a strong, incredible human.

    Like i was saying to @Martin64 , because of people's circumstance and past experiences, it can be very difficult to open and be vulnerable and i think your story is very much evidence of that. 

    I would love to be someone that you could talk to about things, as i'm sure with us both having Spina Bifida, we can relate in our experiences. 

    I hope and pray that you will get people around you that you will be able to share your experiences with where you are geographically, but I very much would like to chat with you as well about anything you want and hopefully, provide you with some other connections.

    It's great to be vulnerable, but you have to obviously be vulnerable to the right people and do it at your own pace. I wouldn't be writing this article if i didn't have a community that encouraged/loved me and friends that just let me be real and honest. Would love to provide that for you. 


    https://letsdiscussdisability.wordpress.com

    My contact details are on the blog ^^
  • Drew_White_95Drew_White_95 Posts: 6Member Listener
    Sam_Scope said:
    Yes my book came at the weekend @Drew_White_95 - I will be completely honest, I am not a religious person at all, so I may take something different from it from you, but I do love reading about religion, so Ill see how I get on!
    I don't think Judah Smith is too Jesus heavy in the book - theres a lot of humour and it's still very readable for the non-christian. I'm sure you'll enjoy it! 
  • MikeBroderickMikeBroderick Posts: 234Member Courageous
    Thanks @Drew_White_95. Great piece. I can relate very much.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,567Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    I have Nystagmus and Ocular Albinism. One of the billion and one consequences of this is that I struggle with facial recognition. The other week I had just bought my lunch on the precinct local to my workplace when a colleague greeted me with "Hiya Mike!". I can't put a time on it but she was pretty much going past me as I responded with a "Sorry, I was miles away!"

    Unthinkingly this is my "go to" response. It's much quicker than "I'm really sorry. I know I've known you for years but I really don't usually recognise people until the precise moment between them going past and taking umbrage at my supposed ignorance."

    For whatever reason (I happen to be in a very good place at the moment in terms of my knowledge, understanding and management of my vision) I reflected on this and decided to go back to work and say something. Took a couple of days until I saw her again but felt good to overcome the superficiality and just say it as it is. I can't say for certain that she wholly "got it" but I felt a whole lot better and she certainly listened. It's a good thing to do.
  • SquiggSquigg Posts: 34Member Connected
    Well I'm in a better place myself accepting the disability I have, it took a while to figure out why I'm like this.... You can do whatever you want to be in life. The hardest thing I've done was climbing all.those stairs more like a hike...on hoilday I thought wow never thought I'll be able to do all that. Also was going to the gym too at the time. Since that's closed down I just do what I can I'm not letting it get worst of me it took alot of dertimination to get where I am now.
  • callumchilledcallumchilled Posts: 13Member Connected
    I do it all the time. Even when I'm at the doctors. He'll ask me how I've been this month, and I'll say "Everything's been fine." Then my friend butts in and says, "No, he hasn't been fine." And goes on to spill the beans of all the months problems. It's like I'm frightened of giving a negative view of myself, when it has taken me all this time to come to accept my disability.

    I was independent, had an ok job, was quite active, then I collapsed in a supermarket and have never been the same since. (My neurologist says I have an undiagnosed neurological condition.) Now I am very wobbly on my feet, keep falling over, feel dizzy all the time, have memory, concentration and cognitive problems, have weakness on my right side, get severe migraines, and occasionally, my brain just simply shuts down.

    I need to use a walking stick, wheelchair, and mobility scooter to get around, and someone has to do my medication for me as I've had problems remembering what to take and when and have ended up overdosing a few times. It took a lot of sessions with my psychologist to help me accept that this is how I am now, and to him I am extremely grateful. A lot it was admitting to myself that I wasn't fine, I wasn't ok, and that I needed help and aids to enable me to still have a full life.
  • GordonmrlnGordonmrln Posts: 35Member Courageous
     HI Drew, I have read what you have said with grate interest. But I have a problem with my feelings and that superficial feeling. The reason I feel better at the moment, telling people that I'm doing fine, is it boils down to sympathy. I recently lost my wife of 25 years, who like me was disabled. She sadly had a heart condition and to cut a long story short, she was refused a heart transplant on the grounds of weight, and we are not talking a huge amount just 12kgs. But that was enough to refuse her the chance of living. She died less than 24hrs after being discharged from hospital. Now I am fighting a medical negligence claim against the NHS. But going back to people asking me how I am, I have to say I'm doing fine, because my loss is so raw and hurting at the moment I find it hard to deal with. I'm even struggling writing this response to you. But I wanted you to know although I understand how it made you feel, but for me I have to hide behind a mask, because I can't face dealing with the empathy. And I know that it is going to be genuine, because I know the people that ask me how I am. I'ts a double edged sword though for me, on one side I don't want to show how emotionally vulnerable I am at this moment, and on the other side I don't what to put the burden of others having to deal with my fragile state of mind.
    I am in a dark place at the moment, I know. But asking other to deal with this darkness to me is unfair and something I wouldn't want placing on my shoulders. Some of us are just not as strong as we think we are, and it comes down to having to face a tragedy and deal with it head on. My life is like the hamster stuck on his wheel, just going around and around, and around and not getting any where, I'm just treading water. I know that my wife would not want me to be like this, but dealing with not having her at my side is so very hard to accept. Along with my disability as well, I am struggling. I know I am depressed, I can see that in the way I am, not that I'm not taking care of myself. That's not the depression I have, mine is the get up and go depression. The lack of umf is my concern I seem to have just stopped things we did together or things we had planned. For example, I had decided I needed a new shed in the garden and my wife agreed, so I planned on starting it in the springtime when the weather would be better and warmer for doing outside work. So I started to empty my current shed and stored the contents in our spare bedroom, which now resembles a junk yard. I was getting ready for the new shed, and then it happened I lost my wife in April of 2016. So the shed was not now going to happen. The other example I had in mind was our garden, we both enjoyed doing our garden. But since my wife's passing I've neglected it, to the point that weeds are very prominent in my garden, I don't feed the bird's as I used to do. And I miss sitting out on our bench at the front of our property and just admiring the view. All this is now the norm for me, and I know I have to get out of this cycle, but until I have gone as far as I can in seeking justice for my Soulmate. Then I will not be able to move things along and draw a line under the events around her death. This is my story of, in those immortal words of the song " why I hide behind a painted smile" I need to let the rawness of my grief, lessen to a point of acceptance and where I can deal with it, and face people with a genuine smile and mean it. As for my disability that is second nature for the moment, but again dealing with it openly is not as straight forward as it might seem, at least for me it's not. But I must deal with one issue at a time and my loss for me is the big issue. They say that when it comes to grief that time is a grate healer, so with that in mind I'm prepared to wait as long as it takes to allow me to move forward.
    Because of our life we shared together as a couple and the love we had for each other. I've decided to write a book as a fitting legacy to my late wife, also it will be one of my tick's on my bucket list. As I said to my wife for quite a number of years I wanted to write a book. It is a long ambition of mine was to write a novel. To the point I decided to go back to school, where I started to re-educate myself by starting an O U course in creative writing. However, things were not as straight forward as I first thought they would be. It was only after consulting with my tutor and my disabled student support team, that I found I might have a learning disability. So the O U paid for me to be assessed, and it was discovered I have a form of dyslexia, which is why I was struggling with my course work. Since then I have completed 3 years of a degree in Arts and Humanities and yet again I was in my final year when my tragedy struck. Throwing my studying right out the window, I asked for a suspension of my final exam on the grounds I had just lost my wife. Which the University was more than happy to oblige, but I knew that even putting it off till a later date, it would not change the outcome, and a "fail" was inevitable as I was not able to focus on my studies. However, I have been given the opportunity to resit my exam at a later date. I've even decided to take the whole final year again, and in doing this it means I can take a whole year out if I want, before I start the course again. So things are in the pipeline for getting me out of the doldrums I'm currently in. I hope you and anyone reading this account of why I'm like I am at this moment, will understand and see that we all need to deal with certain life changing events in our own way. Once again thank you for giving me this opportunity in getting this personal issue for me, out in the open. I will continue to read your blog with interest and I'll keep you posted on how my life is progressing, I hope that in the future my life will start to improve for the better, and I'll let you know how the book is doing.  

    Thank you Drew.     
  • cocoaandmilococoaandmilo Posts: 4Member Listener
    My heart goes out to this last post. It is extremely difficult coping with the loss of a loved one, as well as managing disability. After several nasty falls over an 18 month period, I fell at home and fractured my left femur. I was in hospital for 7 weeks and really struggling with my mobility. To cut a long story short, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, folowing a bone density scan. 9 months later, I can only walk with a frame and use a wheelchair when I go out. I don't know what the future holds or if I will ever walk again. 3 years ago I was a foster carer and also looking after my own mum before she sadly died. My husband and daughter are both wonderful and I am very lucky. I just wish I could do more. Pamela
  • izaiza Posts: 455Member Pioneering
    Hi @Gordonmrln

    Sorry to hear you went lots through your last years of life. 
    It is amazing that despite the fact you are not quite open yet verbally to people you  meet you were brave enough to share your emotion openly here. 
    I think writing a book is perfect way of dealing with life's experiences and emotions. 
    Continuing your education and completing degree is very important. 
    You will never forgive yourself otherwise. 
    Have a great day. 

    Iza 
  • davetdavet Posts: 69Member Courageous
     I believe there are two reasons we say we are fine the first is because we are english, stiff upper lip and all that, and the second is that most people no matter how close do not actually want to hear about the problems in your life and simply ask as a matter of courtesy if anyone asks me now I simply say" good days and bad days but getting there" leaving it open for them to enquire further if they want to
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Member Disability Gamechanger
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • TopkittenTopkitten Posts: 1,037Member Pioneering
    Most people do hide behind the simple answers. I used to attend a disability centre and everyone there except one did just as has been said previously. I say except one because I was the exception. I have never hidden anything. I am completely open about my problems and feelings and it has caused all sorts of issues.... so be careful about how you open up and who you open up to.

    As my sister said recently "Why do you always give a catalogue of your problems whenever someone asks how you are?". The implied extension would be "Surely it can't be ALL bad". I replied "But that's how I really am. If people don't want to know the truth why ask in the first place?". The outcome is that none of my old friends except one will contact me anymore nor will my 3 children (except for their birthdays and xmas) and nor will my sister. They all actively try to prevent me from visiting them without actually saying so. My youngest (boy) is a little better than the rest but is so wrapped up in his own world I only see him every couple of months and only get a call from him when he needs something. The remaining friend I have only seen for an hour or so at xmas, The only place I was really accepted was at the disability centre and even then only by 2/3 of the people. My mother was the only exception and (at 85) we had a mutual aid pact in operation. Sadly she died a year ago. I was shunned by my family at the funeral as my sister arranged it badly and my son couldn't attend due to work commitments. The only people to talk to me was a couple of mum's neighbours at the wake afterwards. At the funeral itself I was forced to use my wheelchair and the only person to move me about and talk to me worked for the Funeral Directors.

    After mum died in July and the funeral fiasco in August I descended into the deepest depression I have ever suffered which culminated in a yet another suicide attempt which, this time, put me in a coma for 8 days. After I came out of it I gradually tried to put things back together but with setbacks like a miserable and lonely xmas it took until 2 or 3 months ago before I really started to make some progress but even this is tainted because I am still at loggerheads with the GP surgery due to the umpteenth misdiagnosis and refusal to listen which, once again, had me rushing from the place in tears. Now I'm afraid to even go back to get repeat meds ordered. I still have meds for a month or two (long story as to how I have it) but when it runs out I will not be able to cope. My letter to the Practise Manager seems to have been ignored. I predicted after xmas that I won't survive the year and it looks like I may well have been right. As for the GP surgery, I have been with 5 different ones and been de-registered twice.

    As I said, be very careful how you go about opening up.

    TK
    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
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