So let’s talk about the v word…vulnerability. Not the most popular topic in the world. I used to become instantly anxious and fearful just upon hearing the word vulnerability. Ay yi yi, what a mess.
For some reason, growing up I never really shared my inner world with anyone. I tried really hard to be the “perfect” daughter I thought my parents wanted me to be. Then there was the rebellious phase… sex, drugs, rock and roll… you name it. Then there was the really awesome part when I surrendered (most) control and craziness to God and I became free in many ways. Then there was the phase where I tried to be perfect again because I had really screwed up and been given a lot of grace, so I better have my ducks in a row. Do you see the pendulum swinging?
There is a culprit behind all of the back and forth… shame. I had so much insecurity about myself growing up, which kept me from reaching out and being authentic with others. Then I acted out of that shame and looked toward all sorts of things to try to make myself feel better… but really I was just adding heaping scoops of pain on top of an already growing pile. Then I transformed a lot, but still had some little shame hooks that were left dug deep down somewhere. There had been a great work in my life, my relationships had been restored after they were damaged by my hurtful actions, overall I was back on my feet as a functional person.
However, shame kept me from sharing this amazing story and transformation with others. I still lacked confidence in who I was. I was afraid to tell people I met what I had been through because I feared their judgement, I feared getting hurt. Even if I did share, I did it very selectively. I would leave out certain parts of my past where I held onto the most shame, that I wanted to erase. I feared professors and others in authority with power because I thought that if I wasn’t careful they would see right through me (and then surely I would just crumble into smithereens). Because, surprise: I did and still do have insecurities! And at that time, I think that I was still believing you had to rid yourself of all insecurities before you could be a confident person, leader, etc. Now I try to embrace my insecurities and remember that it’s a part of being human.
We all need boundaries in relationships, but if you are given an opportunity to share your story and encourage someone else with what you have gone through (and it’s safe to do so) then don’t let shame hold you back! If anyone judges you or says anything negative about your experience, then that is on them. And honestly, most of us tend to respect people more when they share deep things about themselves.
Getting vulnerable in the right way builds relationships and helps others get through their own hard times.
It reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles, and best of all it kills shame! When we verbalize those things within us… you know… where we think “if they really knew that about me they wouldn’t like me”… shame loses its power. We become stronger and more courageous… and more awesome!
This might feel like jumping off a cliff, and it can be terrifying. But jumping off that cliff may be the best, most freeing thing you ever do in your life. Find someone you trust, whether that is a family member, friend, or therapist and try it out. Earlier I mentioned that surrendering is a part of freedom. You’ve got to give it up… let go of control and don’t let shame run your life. In order to be free, you have to dive off of your “cliff of safety”—no rope attached. There is a net at the bottom of freedom that will catch you. Chances are, the first few times you experience vulnerability you will scramble back up the the cliff… and jump again! Shame has had its hooks in you for far too long… so DIVE!
P.S. If you want to learn more about shame and vulnerability and how to break free, check out some of the author Brene Browns’ books and TED Talks!