Why Showing Vulnerability is Better Than Shutting People Out

Shutting people out and building barriers to protect ourselves actually puts us at a higher risk of numbing the very feelings we are trying to preserve. Here’s how vulnerability wins …

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Vulnerability is tough. For many of us, when we’re hurt, we build walls. It’s a protection mechanism.

Somewhere along the way, you learn to cope with things internally and you become a master of protecting yourself. And as you block the pain from going in, you can become hardened and distant, until you have processed it in your mind. Because you don’t want to show weakness. You don’t want to feel weakness.

Building Barriers To Protect Ourselves

If you feel hurt by someone, you would rather shut down than admit it. It’s easier. You can process it within the safety of your own walls. Rationalise it. And even if you wanted to, you probably couldn’t bring yourself to talk about it, almost as if the words wouldn’t come out. Perhaps it comes from bad experiences of talking about feelings, perhaps from a past relationship, perhaps it is something hanging on from childhood, perhaps you will never know why.

The fact is that you don’t want to be hurt, but you also don’t want to let anything or anyone trouble your strength or inner peace. You firmly believe that you can do this all by yourself and you feel like opening up would risk that, right?

Well… wrong.

How Vulnerability Creates Connection

Your strength and inner peace might be your most valuable asset, but thinking it would be affected by showing vulnerability is a mistake. It wouldn’t. Quite the contrary. Risking hurt and pain but embracing your weakness anyway is actually the greatest fortitude. The place where you venture into the unknown, but do it anyway. This is what gets you out of your comfort zone and creates growth.

Sharing how you feel is also the most powerful way to build connection. Thinking back at all the meaningful human connections I ever had in my life – whether they lasted a moment or a lifetime- they all stem from a feeling, a deep conversation, a common or shared emotional experience.  They ignited because one of us opened up and was willing to be vulnerable in front of the other. And this creates a bond, because we can relate and empathise with that feeling, and hearing about someone else’s normalises it for us, it allows us to go beyond the superficial and connect at a deeper level. And because we go deeper down a few levels with them, we are already in a place where we can reciprocate by uncovering ourselves.

The Power of Vulnerability

The turning point for me was a couple of years ago, where I came to a profound realisation that being strong and all-together all the time does nothing to get you connected with others. I was with a group of people, we had all just met each other, and I noticed how this lady made an instant connection with every person in the room. She shared her childhood trauma, with her upmost raw words and emotions. And everyone’s heart and soul immediately reached out to her. She touched us at our very core and even though everyone’s story was different, she tapped into emotions that were familiar to all of us; pain, hurt, sadness, shame. She opened a door into a place well below the surface, let us all in, and gave us a place where we all gathered beyond pleasantries and formality,  straight into human connection.

What’s at Stake When You Shut People Out

Author Brené Brown, famous for her research on ‘the power of vulnerability’, makes the point that you can’t numb painful feelings without numbing the other (better) ones, like joy, happiness, gratitude. “You cannot selectively numb”, she says. And if she is right, you might well lose the best places your mind could reach, for the sake of self-protection. It is an unacceptable sacrifice.

This is not about talking about your feelings all the time with everyone. It is about being willing to be vulnerable with the right people, to let the barriers down and expose yourself with the risks that it incurs. And if they are not accepting you with the emotion that comes with, then they may just not be the people for you. Easier said than done, I know. But the alternative is worse. The alternative is to remain inside your walls and never truly trust anyone. It is too high a price to pay and I, for one, am not willing to risk it.

If you would like to explore this further and start a journey of personal growth and empowerment, please reach out, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.

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