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  • Lucy Trieshmann

The Beauty of Vulnerability

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

[…]

Any man's death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

--John Donne, “No Man is an Island”


Before everything changed, I prided myself on fierce independence and self-sufficiency. I thought these qualities held the key to my success, the guaranteed path to the life I imagined. If I couldn’t handle a task or solve a problem on my own, I believed it to be a personal deficiency in need of change.


As I’ve moved into this new chapter of my life, I’ve had to reevaluate this hierarchical framing of (in)dependence onto which I’ve grasped for so long. I’ve used it as an anchor, a sense of self-worth, a last clutch at normalcy amid roiling tides. Now, I understand this has only been to my detriment.


What I didn’t understand in the ethereal “before” was that (in)dependence is a spectrum. It varies day by day, hour by hour, but never truly leaves us — regardless of ability. The bonds we create with others that allow us to entrust them with our vulnerability are the very ties that form our humanity. In this framing, caring and being cared for becomes beautiful, not shameful.


Every time I ask someone for help or offer my help to another, I’m now resolving to treat it as a moment of gratitude. Interdependence creates the ties that bond. I’m no longer going to allow myself to downplay the beauty of vulnerability at the expense of our collective humanity.

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