Why I Choose To Be Vulnerable
In more cases than not, it will always be easier to remain silent than to use your voice. In more cases than not, it will always be safer to close your heart to the world than to put it all out there on the line. In more cases than not, listening & sitting down will always be less risky than speaking & standing up. However, in life, sometimes the harder, more uncertain path—that path less ventured—is the right one to choose.
From early on, I realized that the culture promoted in my high school was one that stifled body positivity and self-worth. The idea of a self-worth based off of being better or worse than others was subconsciously stamped on our hallways, our classrooms, and our conversations. The mentality that to be good, one must be better than his/her peers, was part of the collective norm. And the flawed belief that we were defined by numbers—whether that be our GPA, standardized test scores, weight, or social media followers—was very much mainstream. Because of these factors, I knew that no matter how anxious public speaking made me, I would have to confront my fear.
And confront my fear I did. Last week, I spoke to ~300 students across 11 Health Classes at my high school about my personal struggle with anorexia nervosa in hopes to limit the stigmatization surrounding mental illness. I shared with these students—some friends, others complete strangers—the most intimate, raw details of my 17-year-old life. Although it was extremely nerve-wrecking to stand up in front of these faces and expose the truth about the dark periods in my life, it was 100% worth it, knowing that I may have positively impacted the life of even one student. The life of even one, silently struggling, scared student. The student that I used to be.
A few seconds before my first presentation, I was seriously considering calling the whole thing off, pretending I was getting flu-like symptoms. I remember thinking, “Simran, why do you get yourself into these unnecessary, anxiety-provoking situations?” As I saw the faces of peers I passed everyday in the hallway appear through the door, the butterflies in my stomach flapped their wings like they were flying away for their lives from a deadly predator. And then the bell rang.
It was too late now. Now, being the center of attention, I couldn’t just bail. I made a commitment, whether I liked it or not, and I needed to follow through. So, with a huge exhale, a pronounced release of my fear & doubt, I spoke the first words of my presentation: “Who am I & why does this presentation matter?”
The rest was a blur. All I remember is that I spoke from the heart, not letting that place of anxiety interfere with the all-encompassing, significant purpose of letting these students know they were not alone, that there were resources available to them if they were ever struggling. I spoke my truth, all the emotions of despair and happiness pouring out with my every word. And although I sincerely hope I did comfort at least one person in that audience, I at least know that I did make myself proud. I challenged myself to perform a feat I never thought I would be capable of. I faced a deep fear head on and emerged victorious.
Two days and 10 other classes later, my legs ached from a prolonged period of standing and my throat was baked from a prolonged period of talking, yet a serene contentment washed over me. That serene contentment, that calm after the chaotic, beautiful storm of self-discovery and accomplishment, is how I know I did the right thing. It’s how I know that all the initial angst and unease was worth the eventual high of knowing I may just have positively impacted the life of even one person out there.