Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.”

Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” TEDxHouston

From a young age, I have always struggled with opening up. Opening up resembled vulnerability and I was scared of what that meant. When talking to friends and family, I was comfortable being the listener more than the person who carried the conversation. And even when it was my turn to talk, I more than often skimmed through my story. I called myself an introvert and hid behind this curtain, cautiously giving pieces of my hopes, dreams, and fears to those I was sure wouldn’t judge.

At the beginning of this year, I told myself that I was always going to try and shoot my shot. Whether that meant talking to new people or trying out for the grandest opportunities — I was going for it. As I began this path, I realized that there was thing I needed to embrace: being vulnerable.

Instead of opening up to friends and family, I turned to art. In between my photography, writing, and poetry, I found an outlet to express my emotions. For a while, this was great! But even then, I was still cautious. I’d never publish my most intimate work and after some time, I just stopped sharing.

So now, I had no outlet to open up and as all therapists would freely tell you, it became overwhelming. In fact, I realized that through closing myself off, I was pulling away from many great opportunities and friendships simply because I wouldn’t share enough. At the end of each day, I didn’t want to spend my nights thinking of what I could have said and how it would have changed the conversation. I wanted to have deep connections with the people who walked into my life. I wanted to take a chance on sharing my dreams so that someone would invest in them.

Of late, I’ve been making a conscious effort to open up. I recently attended a huge summit where many times, I felt like I was the odd one out. Amidst a flood of global leaders and dignitaries, I kept asking myself what I was going to bring to the table as a young, black college girl. Finally, it’s the courage to be vulnerable that helped me get over this.

Being vulnerable requires courage. Being vulnerable means believing that my story and perspective adds something unique to the conversation. Being vulnerable means opening up to new people and finding amazing connections and friends. And finally, I believe the best part about being vulnerable is that you never know who will be there on the other end ready to accept you. My strongest support systems have come from a place where I was vulnerable enough to trust others to be there for me.

I started this letter with a quote from Brené Brown that says, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.” This year, I am challenging myself to be vulnerable and, most importantly, to never shy away from opening up. Opening up my emotions, my dreams, my hopes, and my fears.

P.S. In the spirit of opening up, I’ve decided to start using my photography for my articles. So all images in this article are mine!

Courtesy of the author

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis


  • Hope Mutua

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from The African Leadership University

    I believe in finding lessons in every experience. My name is Hope and yes I've just about every joke there is to do with my name. But I'm still here. I am currently pursuing my undergrad and following my passions in women empowerment, photography, digital marketing, and baking.