When I was young I didn’t understand the power of vulnerability. For me being vulnerable meant giving people access to hurt me. The irony with that with train of thought is, I was already hurting anyway. Recognizing that my experiences as a child of divorce, a victim of verbal and emotional abuse, plus living in fear because of poverty; had brought me a world of pain. That epiphany gave me the space to see that rather than hide from my story, I could tell it. The decision of whether holding it in would be more beneficial to others or detrimental to me was mine. Ultimately I decided that if I wanted impact the world I needed to understand that my purpose would require me to be vulnerable.
Becoming a public figure wasn’t something I ever gave much thought. I spent my life aiming to be the smartest person in my circles, beasting high school, and getting into a premier college. That path would be my way of leaving behind a life spent worrying about money. That was my ultimate goal. In some ways it still is. Writing this post is the ultimate exercise in vulnerability for me because it’s me saying, I didn’t have the easiest life but here I am. The reason I have the life I do now is because I chose to. That discovery is one of the lessons I learned from my therapist. That my life didn’t just happen to me – I made it happen.
My desire is to show women, especially Black women, that they can live well too.
That desire is truly my calling and my heart’s goal. There are few Black women walking this earth that aren’t worried about their financial stability or their lives. What I want to show with my life is that struggle isn’t our birthright. It is not written in our cards to be downtrodden, picked apart, or stolen from. In order for me to get to the place that women trust me I have be willing to share my story so they can see the trajectory. Vulnerability isn’t just about airing your dirty laundry but acknowledging how your journey may help someone else along their own.
As I moved throughout my life I was afraid of letting people in. Afraid to let them see me without my armor on. That armor was humor, a larger than life personality, my wit. While the outside world associated those things with a person who is extroverted and loved attention; I am quite the contrary. When I am on camera my personality certainly shines through but rooms full of people doting on me isn’t where I gain my energy. It drains me. Through many nights of silence and therapy I’ve discovered where I get filled up is in the personal relationships I have with people. The quieter moments when I can have conversations that go beyond the surface. Trying to show up for people as a gregarious presence was often difficult for me.
Now I know at 35 that peace is most important to me. It is also the thing I need to accomplish what I have been sent here to do. I have to be at peace with myself in order to pour into others. Knowing that through my words and empathetic nature I can lift up someone else, makes me beam. It meant that I had to let go of what others thought of me. I had to be okay not explaining to people that I wasn’t the person they decided I was. Not explaining that to people has proven to be the hardest part. When you aren’t living up to the image people have sketched out in their own minds of you, they are resistant to what you are exuding.
What I’ve learned through changing boldly is that I may lose some people along the way. That has only lightened my load. There is nothing wrong with those who have moved on from my life just as there is nothing wrong with me. Vulnerability is admitting that losing them was hard but growth is saying – I will go on. When you choose to walk in your purpose you are choosing to own your life. Making the conscious decision that you will be who you are called to be regardless of if the wind blows in your favor. Because ultimately fortune favors the bold.
When I released Let Leslie Tell It the remixed version I was afraid. Afraid that people wouldn’t understand the pivot I had made from celebrity gossip and social commentary to opening up and using my story as material. It is said that writers should write what they know. You can tell your story better than anyone else can. I didn’t want to live in fear anymore that no one would understand. How awesome it has been seeing people tell me that my choice to share resonated with them. It means what I have been through has not been in vain. Once again fear tried to keep from being doing what purpose asked of me. To be vulnerable.
Brené Brown has traveled the world speaking of this message in a similar capacity. While I have not yet completed all of her works I know that she makes the case for vulnerability very well. Her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, was watched nearly 50 million times. That tells me the world is asking for this. Humanity is in desperate need of people who are willing to come out of the shadows with their darkness. The healing we are all in search of lies in our willingness to uncloak the pain. To tell others where you’ve been to get where you are now.
Living simultaneously in a time when oversharing and a lack of transparency are existing hand in hand is strange. How confusing it is to watch skeletons of lives play out in the palms of our hands though we truly have no idea what’s happening after the swipe. This is why I aim to tell it like it is. My social media personality? It’s my real personality. The photos, the videos, the things you see are what is usually occurring. I may save you from watching my girls bicker, but trust me – they do. That isn’t in an effort to get you to praise me for “keeping it real.” It’s to show you that underneath it all, I am real. Still human, still capable of mistakes, still vulnerable.
Deciding to lean into that vulnerability wasn’t easy but I can say that each time I do it, it gets easier. Little steps at a time are how greatness comes to pass. Many of us question God, the universe, throwing our inquiries for what were meant for into the abyss. I present to you that perhaps the things you’re seeking for so desperately outside of yourself; purpose and plan? Is wrapped up in an unrecognizable suit. Chilling in the corner waiting to be seen by you. Just biding its time until you invite it to dance with you. And when you do, when you summon vulnerability to the party? Others will quickly show up right behind it. All they need is an example.
Photography: Kaye McCoy
My hope for you is that you’ll see in me, someone who has tried keeping it in. But realized that getting it out is how it helps the world. And more importantly – you. Take the fear off vulnerability. Live your story boldly.