Insights: Be Vulnerable, Be Raw, Be Human

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shelly 4I had the privilege of going to the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) last weekend for the opening of a new exhibition with art by Marilyn Minter.

While there, I was able to sit down and talk with Marilyn for a few minutes. It was a short conversation, but her willingness to be vulnerable about her work, and about herself, was refreshing, making me reflect on how most people are not that raw with each other, especially when first meeting.

Marilyn in her bravery put herself out there. She produced photos of her alcoholic mother back in the sixties, then in the seventies created art that many people protested against. Marilyn shared that people’s rejection and criticism of her art was very painful for her for quite a few years, yet even though people were rejecting her art, she had to be true to herself. Sharing this pain displayed her vulnerability, but her truth was endearing, refreshing and raw.

We discussed her art and her desire to show the realness of being human, often the not-so-pretty side of us yetshelly 3 beautiful in its rawness. As I walked through the art gallery, I was captivated by how Marilyn was able to truly see the underbelly, the parts of us we so often turn away from or reject. However, do we really reject it, or has society taught us to reject these parts of ourselves?

Marilyn’s work stirred emotion in me. Why are we so afraid of our realness? Why do we judge ourselves so much? Why do we value our concept of beauty which is about covering up what society considers not beautiful?

How sad it is that we are so judgmental of others and ourselves.

We admire the beauty of a rose. We do not judge its imperfections. We accept all stages of its growth and see its magnificence at all stages. So why not allow ourselves that same vision, that same admiration and uniqueness? We are all beautiful in our own way, not perfect, and we are all evolving as human beings, going through the different stages of life.

shelly 2It is so easy to focus on what we consider imperfect. We all need to stop that judgment. There is no benefit to being critical. That criticism usually has no truth to it; we are listening to societies judgments.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” Oh so true. Self-acceptance is actually a major key to happiness.

Nothing outside of ourselves is truly going to make us happy, yet how many advertisements do we hear that tell us otherwise: get rid of your body hair and you will feel free, remove your wrinkles and you will look 20 again (making it clear that looking 20 is what we all want), whiten your teeth and you will get that job or attract that person you have always wanted.

When I see or hear these advertisements, I wonder why we buy into these messages. Are we really that desperate forshelly 1 acceptance? I think we all are in some form or another, because belonging is fundamental to us.

So I ask you, as you go forward in your day, have compassion for yourself, for your imperfections, for your humanness. For who you truly are.

You are beautiful in your uniqueness. As in Marilyn’s art, she honored the beauty of humanness, so please honor this in yourself too.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Reach Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected]

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