I’m not sure about you, but more often than not, I get all worked up when I need to share something vulnerable with someone. With vulnerability, there is often a level of fear.
My default is to create a story of how everything will pan out before it all begins–I go to the worst case scenario and let my thoughts run amuck because, surely, I know how it will all turn out…right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this.
The narrative usually goes something like this: “What will they really think if they know this about me”, “I shouldn’t feel this way”, “Why do I always find myself in this same spot?”, “I’m the only one.”
Although this narrative is normal and natural, it dismisses how I’m feeling and what I’m experiencing. I shame myself for what’s going on in me and tell myself what I have to say is not worthy to be shared with anyone. It casts a level of judgement on myself, rather than the gentleness I most need in those moments.
Anytime I create my own story of how someone will respond, I don’t give that person enough credit that they have the ability to respond well. Does it feel scary to let someone in? It sure does. Does it feel risky? Absolutely.
(Side note: The reality is, we all have stories of people not responding well…those stories are painful and, often, triggering. They shape how and what we share going forward. I do believe we can only experience healing when we are in safe, trusted relationships. These take time to build and I encourage you to practice sharing things that feel particularly vulnerable with someone you feel safe with.)
What if it’s worth it?
After realizing the mental anguish that always seemed to come before sharing something vulnerable, I had to start asking:
What if it’s worth it?
What if the benefits of sharing with someone outweigh the risks?
What if I give myself permission to feel what I feel and to be where I am?
What if I start courageously letting others in?
In my own therapeutic relationships with various counselors over the past 10 years, I’ve grown in courage to share those deep parts of me. The parts that often felt painful, the parts that have felt messy, the parts I didn’t want anyone to know about. It’s come through building a safe, trusting relationship with those people. It’s come with time and practice–usually fumbling my way through a conversation and often, tears.
More often than not, that story I created about how someone would respond, didn’t turn out to be true at all. Instead of my sharing being met with judgement, I received a response of acceptance and validation. Instead of my sharing being met with harshness, I received a response of gentleness and compassion.
The darkness doesn’t feel as dark
Over time, I’ve learned that there is power in letting others in. When I let others in, the lights go on. I don’t feel so alone or isolated. The darkness doesn’t feel as dark. The weight doesn’t feel as heavy. The world feels heavy right now, especially in light of COVID-19. It feels a bit darker than normal. The thoughts feel confusing, the fear feels overwhelming, the unknown is, well, unknown. What would it look like to let someone in right now? What would it look like to let someone carry the heaviness with you?
Practical ways to let others in:
Let the other person know that this is hard for you. Often, when we speak from our heart, it softens the other person and allows them to listen from their heart.
Let the other person know beforehand that you want to share something personal. It allows them to be in the best place to hear from you, especially if the moment that works for you is a bad time for them.
Write out your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Often, doing this in the form of a letter helps you create clarity. Sometimes, I will have clients write a letter, and then write how they want or anticipate the person responding from their perspective back. If need be, I have people do this over and over until an amount of closure happens, either before talking with another person or as a healing method for moments when people didn’t respond well.
Give yourself permission to fumble and be awkward! Nobody is super graceful at this. We all trip up when we are vulnerable, and that is part of the reason why it is so scary. Repeat the self-talk mantra to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect” or whatever equivalent message you need to hear.
Are you ready to courageously let someone in? It can feel scary, but what if it’s worth it? We’d love to join you on your journey–Reach out to one of our therapists today!
Written by therapist Natalie Hu
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