In the past I have struggled with vulnerability. I have faked vulnerability, I have confused love with vulnerability, I have supported others in their vulnerability. Yet I didn’t always know how to be vulnerable myself. It was like the very idea of what that meant was a bit murky to me. “Is vulnerability telling someone all my thoughts? Is it letting someone have the ‘power’ in a dynamic? Is it ‘giving up’?” I wasn’t sure.
Here’s what I think so far.
I think a huge obstacle in my ability to be vulnerable with others was that I needed first to be vulnerable with myself. I believe it’s impossible to be able to discriminate what vulnerable information we should dispense in our interpersonal relationships and to have the judgment necessary to do so if we aren’t first completely and entirely vulnerable with ourselves.
And what does being vulnerable with ourselves look like?
Well, for me, it looks like acknowledging my emotional reality. It looks like being utterly frank with myself about how I’m feeling about whatever I’m thinking about. It means accepting my feelings for what they are and working with them, acknowledging that there’s no point in trying to hide/cover up/mask my emotions to myself.
This might sound silly or obvious, I don’t know. Maybe it’s easy for most people to acknowledge their feelings for themselves. All I know is my experience, and my experience is that I’m SO guarded with some parts of myself that I will try to protect myself… from myself! I’ll attempt to keep my own emotions at arm’s length with a multitude of useful tools I’ve developed through the years – humor, avoidance, distraction, etc.
If I had to guess, I’d say this deep-rooted belief (protecting myself from my emotions is smart) developed because I FEEL so intensely. Emotions are so overwhelming sometimes, they can seem to just consume me and envelop me in their magnitude. I think I was worried that if I felt them, they would control me.
In retrospect, exactly the behaviors that I thought were stopping my emotions from controlling me were causing my emotions to control me. Funny how that works out, huh?
Because I so often refused to acknowledge my REAL feelings toward things and instead tried to wedge my feelings into a version of myself that I wasn’t, my emotions were in fact controlling me. It’s like I was in a constant game of cat-and-mouse between my head and my heart, and it was exhausting.
Realizing that my emotions will always have power and I might as well accept them has been hugely liberating for me. <- This is what being vulnerable with myself looks like for me.
Being vulnerable with myself allows me to be able to show up for myself. I can protect myself, push myself, be as easy or hard on myself as I need to be in a given moment, and essentially be a better judge of myself ONLY when I am vulnerable. If I’m blocking and refusing vulnerability, I have no chance at being an accurate judge of myself/my character/my behaviors and actions, and that just sounds awful.