I’ve been doing a lot of real life practicing and I must say, I’m getting much better at sharing my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings – even when it makes me want to fold in on myself until I disappear. A lot of times it has been valuable; builds me up, fosters connection, and makes me feel stronger. However; at other times, I have found it reinforces my insecurities and makes my fears louder.
When I feel hurt and burned from my efforts to share, it is pretty clear that I need to continue working on my self-worth. I need to be able to hold onto my worth, remind myself of the importance of following my values of authenticity and vulnerability, and hold myself in compassion and being proud for doing so -regardless of the outcome. Too often when I get burned (even a little bit) after I dare to share, my go-to is to beat myself up and judge the decision to be vulnerable as a mistake. In fact, I usually declare quite dramatically, “Fuck Vulnerability!” when I’m bringing out my star defensive player (detachment). Clearly, this is the opposite of what I stand for. But in those moments of pain I struggle with what I know because following what I know just lead me to feel so badly. By holding onto my values and self-worth with a little more muster through these not-so-ideal experiences, I could allow myself to feel the hurt of what happened without using it to “mean” something (like per se, that I’m shit and all my values are shit). I would be able to hold my own safety even when (it feels like) I’m being rejected, and not feel compelled to run away in fear.
Sometimes getting hurt is just the name of the game and I get that. I’m not happy about it, but I understand it’s the risk. Falling off branches is no fun, but going out on the limb is worth the risk. I accept that. Now maybe I should record that to play back to myself as evidence when I’m spewing anti-vulnerability propaganda, because in that mind-space it certainly doesn’t feel like I believe or accept that. Though deep down, even in those moments, I know I’m just reacting out of hurt and having a temper-tantrum in response to the pain. Growth pains from this new way of being. The wonderfully painful experience of living whole-heartedly – totally sucks but totally worth it. The pain of being truly connected. Connected to your feelings and to others. A pretty big deal; certainly not something worth throwing away over a bit of heartache.
So sometimes this is the case. You will get hurt. Not because of how someone responds, but unfortunately, because the truth itself is painful. Reality can really sting.
Other times the pain comes from the response I receive, and what I’m starting to realize is that I need to own that. At least partly.
I can wish all day long that the person I’m sharing with will understand what I need and respond with just that – but that’s extremely unreasonable to expect from them and it’s not a very dependable way to get my needs met.
What I need to do is ASK for what it is I need from them – sharing is not enough. Even if sharing and being heard is all I want, I need to clarify that. I need to be specific about what support I want from them and/or what I need them not to do (offer advice, for example).
We will avoid a lot of pain if we learn to practice these share-tactics. Instead of leaving it up to chance or hoping others can mind-read, we must take ownership over meeting our needs. We cannot control how someone will react to us – that part we don’t have to (or get to) own. What we do have to own is our ASK. When we share something vulnerable, we can ask for what we need in return. Instead of just blurting something out and hoping (or better yet, not even realizing we needed anything until we get a response we aren’t happy with); we can take the time to identify WHY we are sharing and what we NEED from the person we are sharing with — and then tack this information onto the end of our ‘show and tell’ presentation.
It could sound like this…. “I am struggling with feelings of insecurity right now and feeling very vulnerable. I felt it was important to share with you because I want to be open about what I’m feeling. What I need from you is to show compassion that I’m feeling this way, and to allow me the space to work through these feelings without judging me for having them.”
Just noticing how long it took me to write out that example is a good indication of how much practice I need in this. It’s a lot to take on – being able to identify what you really need can be difficult in itself, and then figuring out how to ask for it is tricky – let alone finding the courage to actually do it!
As Brene Brown discusses in her presentation on The Anatomy of Trust – ASKING for help and what we need is an act of building trust. When we are willing and able to ask for help, we become more trustworthy. People trust people more when they know that they will ask for what they need. So you aren’t just helping to fill your needs; you are building stronger, more trustworthy relationships and allowing others to be able to have more trust in you. And hence, more trust that they can ask you for what they need without judgement.
By taking responsibility for identifying and asking for what we need, we will not only be serving ourselves better, we will doing those around us a big favour. Taking care of ourselves and taking responsibility for meeting our own needs is one of the best gift we can give to others.