Vulnerability: why we need to lean into discomfort.

Many people (myself included) find it incredibly difficult to be vulnerable, and judging from the numerous articles I’ve read, it seems to be a common fear. When we were young, we were carefree, rarely phased by anything; but over time factors such as our upbringing, our environment, our romantic relationships, our social circles gave us different experiences — both good and bad. Unfortunately at some point in life, people will hurt and disappoint us, so we end up building walls around our hearts to protect ourselves. At the same time, we’re unable to appreciate close relationships and intimacy… vulnerability is simply a double-edged sword. 

As humans we’re hardwired to connect with others. We live in families, we build families, we work in teams, we love as couples and thrive in friendships. It’s a scientific fact that our well-being is dependent on our connections. Yet more than ever, I’m witnessing more loneliness, more broken relationships, more disconnection… but what’s causing all of this? Being vulnerable means opening yourself up to new experiences, new people, and getting comfortable with uncertainty. It’s bloody terrifying but worth it, I trust that it creates many beautiful outcomes once you choose to receive with an open heart . The fact is, vulnerability is necessary. You can’t build genuine connections without it, but somehow society has turned it into a weakness.

I find it challenging expressing my emotions, I’m getting better but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’ve previously been told that I’m cold or dead inside, that my wall is ridiculously high, and that I always keep people at arm’s length. Yeah… this is partially true (I don’t think I’m completely dead inside). In relationships, I try my best to communicate my feelings but sometimes I feel like it’s forced or I get extremely uncomfortable. When I’m hurt or upset, I tend to either shut down or choose to let that person go rather than let them in because it’s “safer” this way. I guess the good thing is that I recognise my issue and I’m making a conscious effort to improve on it.

Part of my resistance to vulnerability came from the fact that I’ve had toxic relationships, I’ve been a toxic person and I’ve attracted toxic people. Some of my relationships were very unhealthy, then there were others where I realised a compatibility issue. I don’t wish to relive any of these experiences but it’s hard to ignore the woes, and the fact that there’s an obvious recurring pattern of my relationships breaking down again and again. After tolerating a load of nonsense, I began viewing my “failed” relationships as a warning sign to pull back, build my wall even higher and go in fully armoured ready for the next “battle” (if there were to be a next). Clearly this was the wrong way to look at things. Relationships should never be seen as a war (and one that I wanted to win every single time)… perhaps I just got used to the toxicity. Anyway I eventually changed my mindset and saw it for what it was — simply a mismatch of people, a redirection, a learning curve and a step towards personal growth.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect different results.”

If you’re someone who also struggles with embracing vulnerability. I feel you. Being vulnerable is an ongoing process that we fine-tune over time. So as we take small steps together and slowly lean into the discomfort, here are some reminders on how being vulnerable can actually enhance our lives.

DEVELOPING EMPATHY FOR OTHERS
When I’m pissed off, it’s highly likely the other party will feel my wrath. However this usually lasts for a very short period; so when I’m calm again, my compassion kicks in and I try to see things from their perspective… even if I think they’re in the wrong! It’s so easy to judge people harshly, especially when pride and ego gets in the way, but learning to relax and allow ourselves to move out of our comfort zone plays a massive part in being vulnerable. We’ve all been guilty of getting so caught up in our own lives that we forget the world doesn’t revolve around our needs.

BE AT PEACE WITH YOUR PAST
Those who aren’t scared of being vulnerable have already made peace with negative memories from their past. We’ve all made bad decisions and mistakes but we can’t keep storing our energy there. Dwelling on the past means we’re not fully present. Likewise, we shouldn’t worry too much about the future. Living in the moment and appreciating all the amazing moments right now is what we need to be focusing on.

I AM WHO I AM
By accepting our qualities and our “flaws”, by feeling comfortable in our own skin; we’ll learn to accept all the things that make us special and unique. Being confident and our genuine self also allows us to attract the right kind of people in our lives.

BUILDING EMOTIONAL INTIMACY
Speaking of being your true self — vulnerability creates greater emotional (and physical) intimacy. Sure, this is relevant to romantic relationships but it’s just as important to drop your guard around friends and family as well. It’s what creates a deeper sense of love and understanding. For real connections to flourish we have to be brave enough to reveal all of our layers.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Brené Brown 

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