3 tips to be more Open & Vulnerable with your Loved Ones
"Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage" - Brené Brown
An ongoing theme for my clients recently has been the difficulty to fully open up to loved ones.
To fully be seen. To show the real us. To be vulnerable.
A few common limiting beliefs and fears seem to hide behind this difficulty to open up:
I don't want my loved ones to worry for me
I don't want my loved ones to feel bad
I'm afraid that people will judge me
Despite the fears listed above, my clients still want to learn how to be more open with their loved ones. And when I ask them why, it always comes down to this:
Being open and vulnerable is the only way to build real, authentic relationships.
Like Brené Brown puts it: "staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection".
So how do we do it?
Vulnerability doesn't come easily to me either. It is something that I have been actively practicing (key word: "practicing"!) since 2019 when I saw a wonderful therapist. I shared with her that, between the years 2012 and 2015, I had struggled with an intense eating disorder that not a single person knew about. Not my friends, not my family... no one. At that point, in 2019, I had healed but I still hadn't told anyone about what I had been through, even though it had been by far the most transformative challenge that I had had to face. And here's what my therapist said. She said: "you have an opportunity here. An opportunity to share an important piece of you with the people who matter to you. By doing that, you will allow these relationships to become so much deeper, so much more real and supportive, and you will also give a subconscious permission slip to the people in your life to open up more to you as well". The very next day, I sent a 2km-long text to my best friend telling her everything. Her response moved me to tears. And that's when I truly understood the power of vulnerability.
Since then, vulnerability has been a daily practice. It doesn't necessarily feel any easier, but I've picked up a few tips along the way that give me the courage and the strength to do it anyway.
Practicing Vulnerability - Tip #1: ONLY BE VULNERABLE WITH PEOPLE WHO FEEL SAFE
You don't owe your story to anyone. If you know or if you feel that someone might judge you, shame you, make fun of you, dismiss you, or all of the above, as you open up to them, then it is your right to choose not to share too much with them. Like Brené Brown says: "You share with people who've earned the right to hear your story".
Remember that some people have different triggers around different topics and, often, this makes it that we can speak about everything with everyone. Deciding that sharing one specific topic with a specific person would not feel safe doesn't mean anything negative about that person, in fact, it has nothing to do with them!
Practicing Vulnerability - Tip #2: AVOID EMOTIONAL DUMPING
This is a phenomenal practice that I have put in place and that makes a world of a difference.
Before sharing heavy or difficult emotions with your loved ones, you need to respect the fact that they might not be in the right mental space to hear it. Maybe they had a difficult day too. Maybe they feel exhausted. Maybe the subject feels triggering for them.
It's important that we understand that and asking for permission is a great way of respecting other people's boundaries.
It can be as simple as saying: "hey, I'm having a bit of a tough time with XYZ at the moment - would now be a good time to tell you about it?" - the key being to accept it if the answer is "no" or "not right now"!
For more information on emotional dumping, I recommend this podcast episode.
Practicing Vulnerability - Tip #3: TAKE BABY STEPS
Choosing to practice vulnerability doesn't mean that you have to go spill your guts to whoever will listen. Brené Brown explains: “Oversharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement".
Being vulnerable can be as simple as enthusiastically sharing one of your quirky passions with someone you just met, even if you have no idea if they will be into it as well or not.
Or it can be choosing to answer something real when asked how you are doing.
Recently, I was speaking to a fellow health coach about the business side of things. She asked me how things were going and, instead of giving her the BS answer "it's amazing!!!", I decided to be more real. I shared with her some of the things that I was struggling with and the challenges that I was facing and it resulted in a beautiful, authentic conversation. By being vulnerable
with her, I subconsciously gave her permission to do the same. She opened up to me and we were able to support each other.
The point is: you get to choose what you share, when you share it and with whom.
Practicing Vulnerability - BONUS TIP: Read everything by Brené Brown
... Starting with Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.