Said the Guppy, Self-Righteously, to the Grouper


I’ve recently had the experience of interacting with people who have read this blog before they’ve gotten to know me personally. Some (read: men) were under the impression that I needed rescuing. This took me aback and made me feel strange, as if I was staring into a giant funhouse mirror where my reflection didn’t match my face.

I think what’s going on is that, in our culture, we often mistake vulnerability for weakness. Now, as I write this, I look up the word vulnerable in the dictionary, and I see why we have a problem:

vulnerable |ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl|


susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm: we were in a vulnerable position | small fish are vulnerable to predators.

My job as a writer and an artist is to be vulnerable in my life and in my work. And, yes, in some cases that causes me to be susceptible to attack or harm (read: critics), but that is a rather inconsequential feature of vulnerability as it relates to my purposes.

Brené Brown, the leading researcher in the field of vulnerability, defines it as, “exposure, uncertainty, and emotional risk.” When an artist opens himself up and takes risks, this is the source of his strength, not a detriment to it. It takes self-assurance and resilience and pluck to put oneself on the page, on the canvas, on the stage.

So I may look like a small fish, but I’ll bet money I can outswim you.

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