What prevents us from being vulnerable in our relationships? The obvious answer is fear, but the more subtle reason may be shame. Author and researcher Brene Brown has found that people struggle with a fear of disconnection which she believes is tied directly to shame and a feeling of unworthiness. Many don’t feel good enough for connection and either numb themselves, seek perfection, and/or deny their needs in an attempt to avoid pain. However, we can’t selectively numb ourselves which means that when we use food, alcohol, or drugs to feel less pain, both the negative and positive feelings are muted. She believes that developing a sense of worthiness takes courage to accept imperfection, have compassion for self, and authenticity in our connections. Ultimately believing, “I am enough” enables us to be vulnerable and experience connection. Dr. Brown stated that, “when we stop caring what other people think we lose our capacity for connection and when we are defined by what people think we lose our willingness to be vulnerable.”
How do we embrace vulnerability? For starters, accept that facing our fears of vulnerability is normal, ongoing, and difficult. Being open, authentic, and self-disclosing results in vulnerability and connection. We have to be willing to take the risk of rejection, ridicule, disapproval, and failure. Acknowledging our emotions and being able to sit with them without looking for ways to avoid the feelings creates a greater opportunity for closeness. Another necessary evil that many avoid is dealing directly with conflict. Confronting, managing, and possibly resolving conflict with others enables emotionally intimate relationships.
Seeking to be vulnerable with people also requires us to apologize, forgive, let go, and accept ourselves. We are less inclined to let others in when we don’t like ourselves and devalue our own worth. Lastly, accept responsibility, swallow your pride and acknowledge mistakes since this will result in greater levels of connection. Decide today to work at vulnerability and reap the benefits of deeper and more intimate relationships.