We dread vulnerability in conversation.
The word vulnerability makes us brace for what comes next. Immediately triggers questions in our heads.
What if we're too open? It feels too risky. Once we say it we can’t take it back.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared something about myself then immediately heard my internal monologue roar to life:
You shouldn’t have said that much!
Now they think you’re crazy.
What if they don’t like you anymore?
What if they tell someone what you said?
Which leads straight to the pummeling:
You should have known not to say that!
You just should have stayed quiet.
You should have done what that (more popular) person did!
Be less like you and more like the person you’ve been told you’re supposed to be!!!
There's a sinking in my gut when my Avoid Vulnerability At All Costs loop begins. It's like being on the inside of a rimless tire, bouncing down the highway of despair.
I lived trapped in this loop for a long time. Sometimes without even knowing it was happening - just believing that pummeling myself was the way things had to be.
It was really hard. Exhausting. Painful even. But in a strange way, I’m extremely grateful for my journeys down the highway of despair (I still have them sometimes), because now, when someone says to me “I should have known...” I get it. And I have no shame to offer.
Shame doesn't get us out of the loop.
What I'm craving when I get stuck bouncing down the highway is wide open safe conversation. With people I trust, and with myself.
We need conversation that isn’t rooted in expectations of perfection, or performance. Conversation where we’re free to share what’s in our heart without fear of being forever labelled for the words we speak out loud.
Conversation where we give judgment a break, and instead choose to be together, truly with each other.
For me, it all starts with giving vulnerability to myself.
You shouldn’t have said that much; with I choose to take a deep breath and release shame.
Now they think you’re crazy; with I’m human, and being me is enough.
What if they don’t like you anymore? with I choose relationships grounded in connection.
What if they tell someone what you said? with I’ll practice connecting with people I know are safe.
We can't berate ourselves out of the loop.
Releasing the misery begins with practicing being vulnerable with ourselves. With giving ourselves permission to inch a little bit closer to who we really are, without judgment.