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The Gifts of Being Vulnerable

Photo by Hannes Caspar
The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out the joy. ~Jim Rohn

Not too long ago, I found myself sitting around with a group of friends playing the One-Word game—a game where each person uses one word to honestly describe another person in the group. Everyone goes around until they have been “worded” by everyone else.

It’s fun and exciting until you get labeled as something you don’t necessarily identify as positive. The word that kept coming up for me: Guarded.

I got it. It made sense. I have a difficult time opening myself up to people.

I know that it’s uncomfortable past experiences that cause me to be guarded. I’m not one who dwells much upon the past or holds grudges, but along my journey, I’ve formed certain defenses in an effort of self-protection.

But now I yearn to be more vulnerable and be more open to my emotions. Because I know the wellspring of life rests in honest, truthful, meaningful connection with others. And that requires letting down my guard.

This self-exploration led me to ponder the broader issue:

  • What does it mean to feel something?
  • What are emotions?
  • Why do we get happy or sad or mad or depressed or excited or giddy?

And the conclusion I came up with is that emotions are an abstract interpretation of our reaction to the world around us. They are not conscious choices or decisions. They are not necessarily meant to be dissected or even understood.

But they must be acknowledged and shared if we want to connect with other human beings.

Feelings and emotions are the invisible cords that run through our lives – connecting our brains to our hearts. But they are also the invisible cords that run horizontally from me to you and you to me.

That’s why we can relate to each other despite all our superficial differences. That’s why we’re able to feel empathy for people who seem to have nothing in common with us. That’s how we connect to everyone around us.

Because emotions are universal.

But despite the fact that these feelings are a natural part of being human, expressing them doesn’t come easily for all of us.

Acknowledging and expressing emotions make us vulnerable to judgment. That brings risk, because sometimes that judgment is positive, and sometimes it’s negative.

So we may ignore our emotions in an effort to protect ourselves. We may refuse to speak about our feelings with others to avoid their judgment. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we don’t have to deal with the potential for negative experiences.

But we are also incapable of real connection with other people.

So I made a conscious decision that I want to be free enough to love, free enough to feel, free enough to risk. I want to be more alive.

Here are some ways that I have modified my tendency toward being too guarded. These changes have opened up a whole new world for me!

1. Positive Expectation

Approach emotion and vulnerability with the expectation of pleasure. A strong believer in James Allen’s book, As a Man Thinketh, I know that our experiences in life stem from what we expected to experience in the first place.

If I’m constantly trying to guard myself from potential pain, I forfeit any chance to experience pleasure in those moments. I need to allow myself the freedom to have a pleasurable experience that could be born out of my vulnerability.

2. Look for Commonalities

Acknowledge the likeness of others instead of the difference. It’s easy to isolate yourself based upon the perception that everyone is different and they just don’t understand you and your world.

The truth is, we are all human and as much as differences may lace our external shells, at the heart of the matter, we are all very much alike in our pursuit of love and acceptance. Allowing myself to express my feelings enables me to relate more deeply and gain more meaningful connections with others.

3. Beautiful Expressions of Life

Realize feelings and emotions are beautiful expressions of life. Who wants to be around someone who has a tough time being approachable? Nobody.

I looked at myself from the outside and realized that in order to build anything more than just superficial relationships, I must let other people into my life on a deeply emotional level. Vulnerability is one of the most beautiful aspects of a human being–one that makes each of us truly alive.

4. Live in the Now

By learning to live in the present moment, I am able to differentiate past circumstances from current circumstances.

Just because old friends, family or acquaintances may have let me down a long time ago, that doesn’t mean the friends I have today will do the same. It’s not fair to the people in my life now to constantly project onto them negative expectations from what others have done.

I remind myself that each day, each hour, each moment is new and unique. I don’t have to live in fear of being hurt simply because it happened in the past. I can be present here, right now, and experience the joy of feeling my emotions of today.

Parting Words

I encourage you to allow yourself to risk vulnerability so that you can experience life in a new dimension, connect with other people in a way that you only knew as a child, begin to see opportunities that you have been blind to seeing, and come to understand that a life without feeling and emotions is really no life at all.

I hope you will be able to do as I have done—face the fear of vulnerability, allow yourself to feel deeply, unconditionally, and non-judgmentally, and create a real connection with others through the sharing of those emotions. In the end, it will help you to experience a world where you are truly ALIVE.

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About the author

Kaci is a Southern Belle turned Hollywood Business VP, who spends her spare time reading, running and writing in an effort to create content to make the world a better place. Notes of optimism and thought provoking insights pulled from every day happenings are scribed at her blog Living Your Story.

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6 thoughts on The Gifts of Being Vulnerable

  1. Deevra

    I can so relate to this article. This is a challenge for me to. I am particularly afraid and guarded when it comes to love and relationships. Even when I am dating someone, I don’t think I’ve really opened myself to anyone in a while – fear of getting hurt and projecting past experiences on to the next unsuspecting man makes for a doomed relationship right from the get-go. This, of course, results in a vicious cycle of the fear and insecurity driving away the next person which only reinforces my fear making me more fearful going into the next relationship! Horrible! and definitely need to break the cycle. Thanks for this post. Enjoyed it.

  2. Great, great post! I love your insight and, frankly, your honesty in sharing this with us. Being vulnerable is probably the first step to creating impact on others, and also the most difficult.

  3. Kaci, I love this post and its message. You were brave to reflect on the word your friends chose and made changes based on your reflections. What a great inspiration.

    I really like how you write about acknowledgement and sharing of emotions. It is so easy to just bottle them up and pretend all is ok. There is no way to move forward if you’re in denial.

    When my husband and I started putting ourselves out there in writing it was scary as hell, but we have found so many people out there to grow from and with. We would have missed out if we chose to stay in our safe little shell.

  4. Hi Kaci,

    Very nice post. What you say is profound. We can live in a shell that we build to protect ourselves from others and the world, but when we do so we forfeit those connections with others that enable us to really live.

    Chris

  5. Eva

    Kaci, thank you so much for your insight. I, myself, am very gaurded as well and pondered for a while over number four. The present is not a mold of the past in terms of relationships and life experiences and I forget that a lot. Someday, I hope live outside of my fear and I will start on the path to freely expressing my emotions today. Thanks again.

  6. Wow, thank you all for your feedback and comments! I love hearing from people who can relate to my words and writings. This particular issue, one of vulnerability, keeps coming up in my own life. It’s not one of those things that I can just check off and be done with – it’s definitely something that I have to work on and renew each day and in each situation. I know that life and experiences are so much sweeter when we allow ourselves to be fully submerged in the moment. May you all find that sweet peace of knowing yourself better and being fully alive. Thank you again for sharing!

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