We are by our very nature, vulnerable beings. We resist that which makes us uncomfortable and when faced with feelings of vulnerability, whether from loss, fear, or self-criticism — we automatically put-up barriers. But we cannot ever truly avoid feeling vulnerable, it’s part of the human experience – Pema Chodron.
The weird thing is this …. most of us experience vulnerability in many ways and vulnerability will mean different things to different people but the research shows that vulnerability is the first thing we look for in others as a way ‘to connect’ and yet vulnerability is the last thing we are willing to show.
Connection is the number one human need and vulnerability is the driving force of connection. Then how are we to function without vulnerability if it’s our very nature?
What do you think gets in the way of vulnerability? Fear! Yes, fear! Apart from fearing the act of vulnerability, there is a list of fears such as fear of: –
- Being let down
- Being misunderstood
The truth will set you free…
Standing in your truth and being your authentic self was my numero uno top of my list of things I resisted the most. Fear of speaking my truth. It took immense boldness and braveness to have those courageous conversations, not always easy but well worth the endeavour especially when you have experienced so much emotional pain – the kind of pain that has seeped through into your physical body because of holding on to the anguish, sadness and heartache.
It may sound a little far-fetched but there is enough research available that clearly explains when we hang on to an emotion long enough to the point where it causes us stress – this internal conflict can manifest into physical illness or other conditions known as psychosomatic symptoms.
Meaning it starts in the mind with your thinking. Thoughts are often repetitive and negative. And, due to the way we are wired, the brain listens to everything we think. Repeat a thought often enough – fuelled with adequate emotion … and presto! A perfect recipe for disaster in your physical body. Therefore, it is of great importance not to avoid the pain but to feel the pain – only then can we allow the pain to do what it came here to teach us, otherwise we are just getting in the way of its process. Instead of letting it come and go, we get in the way of the flow unconsciously creating obstacles.
The way I see it we have two choices – we can either repress the pain (the emotion) and pretend everything is perfect and thus liked by others because we are keeping the peace. Or we can stand in our truth and be real with self-love. To tell someone how you feel is not always an easy task and it’s one that can only be achieved once you own your emotions and more importantly love yourself.
Be your own reason to smile…
How you treat and love yourself is how you teach others to treat and love you. Vulnerability is a hell lot more straightforward when you love yourself. When you don’t love all of who you are and let ‘fear’ stop being your brilliant authentic self to shine through then the space between vulnerability and you are like the Nile River. But when you accept and love your full authentic self you are not preoccupied with what others may think of you and dare not entertain the thoughts of rejection, judgment or criticism.
Did you know that when we entertain such fears, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and ‘worrying about such fears is like praying for what you don’t want’. I know for me that was an instant game-changer the moment I dropped all of my worries. I was a walking talking worrywart until I heard that statement. It’s an easy fix once you become conscious of the things you worry about because 90% of the things that we worry about never come to fruition. Although we invest a good chunk of our day worrying about the things, we have no control over.
Vulnerability takes practice. It is something that you consciously decide to do and plan for. You don’t have to go into it like a raging bull but rather one meniscal step at a time. The very thing for me was to embrace the freedom of not caring what others were thinking. Not an easy one of that but when you do not seek nor need approval, you are at your most powerful. True freedom comes from not worrying about what other people think or say about you.
Fear of abandonment or rejection…
Fear of abandonment is one of the most common yet damaging fears an individual may experience. You know when you have a fear of abandonment or rejection; if you find it hard to trust others, if you are sensitive to constructive feedback, if you find it difficult to make friends or on the flip side of that if you get too attached to others. The one that really resonated with me was going out of my way to make sure everyone else was happy, comfortable and at peace, taking extreme measures to be accepted and avoiding rejection which unbeknown to me was creating very unhealthy relationships in my life.
We are all afraid of being left behind or ignored in some way shape or form and that is why at times we overcompensate or can’t say ‘no’ because of the consequences. For many of us we are not consciously aware of such fear and find ourselves confused when not being able to identify if the problem is ours or whether it belongs to others … and thus rarely ask for help because we are still trying to work out if our own wants, needs and feelings are being met.
For some people, this turns into a need to be deeply engaged with everyone they meet … and they become anxious or even angry when someone pulls back or shows signs of dishonesty. However, many people also learn from rejection that it’s safer not to care. If you assume that everyone will leave, it’s easier not to make an effort to get to know them.
This may sound a little confusing because on the one hand I am saying be your authentic self and don’t let your external environment dictate who you want to be …. and on the other hand, some may choose not to get too close or make an effort to ‘connect’ with others in fear of rejection. They are both correct. They are both driven by fear. The difference is one is an ‘internal’ driver and the other is an ‘external’ driver.
Authenticity requires vulnerability…
The biggest booster for me was doing the inner child work because you get to see what is holding you back from being your authentic self. For example, if you were taught that it’s not okay to have your own opinions … or if you were punished when trying to speak up or act differently, you can imagine the psychological impact that would have on a child and not to mention the impact it has on you as an adult without your conscious awareness.
Often parents will verbally or physically be telling their children off for having fun and being spontaneous because the child is either being too loud, too emotional or too physical and wonder why now as adults they don’t know how to have fun, show emotions or ask for physical attention.
Looking for the patterns will truly bring to light what sits in your shadows. The example of ‘people pleasing’ is where one might go out of their way to be liked. Continuing with such act will mean that you will hold back from speaking up or standing in your truth … nor dare to have an opinion at all because of the consequences associated with such honesty. As a recovering people pleaser, standing in my truth and putting myself first was the biggest action that needed to take place for me to heal my wounds and be my authentic self.
The courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we live … and the rewards of vulnerability are unfathomable! Seriously, when you practice vulnerability, you my dearest experience true connection, true love for yourself and you begin to attract people who are inspired by your openness.
A great starting point to practice and build your vulnerability muscle is to work out your core values and you can do that by clicking on the below link. Enjoy!