When I was about ten years old, I received a Transformers Dinobot toy for my birthday. The Dinobots were dinosaurs that transformed into robot soldiers. The Transformers were a hugely popular toy in the 80’s and then were re-popularized with the Michael Bay movie series that started in 2007. I don’t remember the name of my Dinobot, but I remember an experience I had while learning about the characteristics of it.
On the back of each Dinobot box, there is a chart that lists out its name, specialties and ranking in categories such as strength, intelligence, speed, courage, and a few others. I distinctly remember reading the description which said that my Dinobot was “vulnerable to most missiles.” I was only ten and I didn’t know what vulnerable meant. But sometimes we can figure out what a word means through the context of the sentence. Unfortunately, in this case I confused the word vulnerable with invincible. Reading that description all those years ago, I initially thought that my Dinobot could withstand a blow from most missiles. “Oh yeah, this Transformer is strong and unstoppable,” I thought. I was proud of my new toy.
I don’t remember how long it took me to discover the true meaning of the word vulnerable. It may have been weeks, days or just a few short hours. But I remember feeling totally let down that I had misunderstood the meaning. I was disappointed to find out that my Dinobot was not as strong as I thought. Missiles could actually take him out. He was not invincible, he was vulnerable.
At 10 years old, I had already developed the belief that vulnerable meant weakness and something of which to be ashamed. I’m not sure if this was a belief that I learned in my ten years of life or if that was something that had been ingrained into my DNA through the male collective consciousness. Brene Brown has written extensively about vulnerability throughout her books. In Daring Greatly, she says that based on her research, a man’s greatest fear is appearing weak. The experience I had with my Dinobot seems to align with Brene’s claim.
Google’s Oxford Languages defines weak as:
- lacking the power to perform physically demanding tasks; lacking physical strength and energy.
- liable to break or give way under pressure; easily damaged.
- lacking intensity or brightness.
As I get older, my ability to perform certain physical tasks has certainly diminished. Working hard in my business, being a dad, being a husband can at times be draining which leaves me with a lack of energy. There are times when I give in to certain pressures. There are times when my fears get ahold of my ego and block the light inside me from shining brightly. In these ways, at times I fit the definitions of weak. I admit that there is a part of me that is resistant to saying I am weak. Vulnerability and weakness can hide in our shadows. Some of us are consciously aware of them and some are not. Shadows are a part of who we are and the better we can get to know them, the easier it is to become whole. Fear of being weak is not the same as being weak. And there is a strength in that recognition.
I have more to say on this topic. If I’ve got your interest, come back tomorrow and we’ll continue.