Some of us are open books, and others can’t even flip past the second page. Learning how to open up to people and show a softer side of yourself can feel like one of the most challenging tasks in the world. Vulnerability is often about feeling seen, and sometimes it’s hard to feel that way when we want nothing more than to just hide those deeper feelings away. I’m here to tell you that your feelings are valid, and you are seen. I feel for you. I feel with you. Let’s talk about it.
One of the strangest things I have realized about vulnerability is that it always seems to be the first thing I look for in you, and it’s the last thing I want you to see in me. I have realized when I see it in you, you’re courageous, you’re powerful, you’re honest. When I see it in myself, I’m timid, I’m weak and I just need to control my emotions better. Vulnerability is so hard to experience that I often find myself in fear of it. We are so fueled by the fear of what others think that it can stand in the way of things like relationships, friendships and journeys of personal growth. I am tired of feeling fearful.
Thankfully, there is no perfect way of being vulnerable. We are all going to handle our feelings and lives differently. We are all going through different challenges and acknowledging that can put us all at an advantage when taking the first steps of vulnerability. I mean, look at every classic hero’s journey. No hero got to where they were by playing it safe and keeping things to themselves. He or she had to face the possibility of failure and inner fears to realize that they are capable of anything. They had to be vulnerable. Think of yourself as that hero. You’re on your own hero’s journey, after all.
Research professor at The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of No. 1 New York Times bestselling book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” Brené Brown has dedicated over 12 years to studying all things vulnerable, courageous and shameful. Being highlighted on major broadcasts such as PBS, CNN, NPR, Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday and more, she has changed the public’s image of vulnerability and has pushed the boundaries of the effects it has on our lives. Brown’s 2010 TEDxHOUSTON TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED Talks in the world. With all her overwhelming success, it’s near impossible to ignore the power of her words. In reviewing her book mentioned above, I found a specific quote that has been playing on a loop in my head since I read it.
“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat; it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in,” Brown said.
I couldn’t help but think to myself: This—this is it. She knows, she gets it and she sees me. She sees the struggles we face, and she is bringing them into the light in a perfect way.
Vulnerability, while it is a difficult task, isn’t impossible. It can be uncomfortable, but when have we ever progressed in comfort? It can be scary, but isn’t fear what pushes us to try harder? We are capable of so many incredible things if we allow ourselves to feel all the feelings. We are limitless if we let ourselves be!
After this talk, I know what you’re thinking: Now what? How can I start feeling more vulnerable? What do I do when I want to open up more? Fear not! I have found a few tips and tricks that have helped me progress past that dreaded label of invulnerable.
1. Talk about it
I know it is easier said than done, but hear me out! You can talk things through, whether it be with your parents, your friends, your roommates, your pets, your neighbors, yourself, anyone! Saying things that you’re feeling out loud can feel as if this weight that you’re carrying around just became 10 times lighter! Confiding in someone you trust can also bring you and that person together. Vulnerability doesn’t need to be limited to a personal journey. Sharing your feelings with others can make all the difference and who knows, they could potentially be feeling the same things as you.
2. Music helps everything
If you don’t know how to put those feelings into words, a music artist out there will. I am convinced that Harry Styles can read my mind at this point.
3. Social media safe spaces
With social media, we have limitless access to people at our fingertips. With artists, poets, songwriters and more, feelings and words are flooding our feeds. Accounts such as @werenotreallystrangers have created such a safe environment for their followers to express their emotions freely.
By connecting with their followers through interactive posts, merchandise, card games and newsletters, they have normalized the strange and beautiful feelings of vulnerability.
4. Write it out
Even if you feel like you can’t say your feelings out loud, that’s OK. Start by writing in a journal! Take a few minutes out of your day and just write down every thought that flows through your mind. Personally, by doing this, I discovered that I feel a lot more than I thought. It helps in coming to terms with your emotions and assists in preparing you for accepting how you feel!
If you haven’t heard this today, I am proud of you! You are capable of being vulnerable even if you don’t feel like you are. Emotions are a process, and we are all experiencing them. You are not alone in this!