This is a strength, not a weakness.
Psychologists say that a great deal of our personality is developed when we are very young. It can continue to evolve, but studies suggest that the foundation for who we are is pretty much set when we are still in elementary school. Of course, we can grow and work on certain areas. We ultimately hold the power over the type of person that we desire to be. However, if you consider this theory, it can go a long way to explaining why we are the way we are. Look at your childhood.
I was raised in an environment that was not very emotionally nurturing. My mother was young when she had me, learning not just how to be a parent to a child, but simply an adult. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She was very religious and a strict disciplinarian. Kids were seen and not heard. You didn’t talk back, you listened. You weren’t asked to do anything, you were told. How I felt or what I wanted was rarely, if ever considered.
So, I became guarded. I kept my feelings to myself for fear of them being stomped on and dismissed, as they had been on many occasions. The only thing worse than the pain itself is feeling as though your pain has been invalidated. As I got older, letting people all the way in felt uncomfortable. My relationships, friendly, romantic or otherwise existed only on the surface of my being. We could laugh, joke and have a great time, but you’d never know me on a deeply personal level. This also allowed me to always have the upper hand in a relationship. Because I was never invested enough for the other person to be able to hurt me.
Then, as I grew as a woman, I learned that keeping people at arm’s length and not fostering those deep connections makes it near impossible to build anything meaningful — and I wanted that. So, I began to make a conscious effort to make myself more vulnerable without fear of the outcome.
This is how every change begins. To go against your nature requires the conscious decision to do so. Once you’ve done that long enough, eventually, the behavior will become subconscious.
We’re hesitant to make ourselves vulnerable for a few reasons:
Fear of Judgement — When we show people who we really are, we open the door to them disapproving, thinking we’re weird, or slapping us with some other less-than-flattering label.
Fear of Rejection — If we tell someone how we feel and they feel differently, we take it personally. No one particularly likes rejection, but to avoid it is actually a directive of the ego. It messes with our perception of who we are.
Fear of Appearing Weak or Losing our Power — We like to maintain control over our situations. Once you’ve made yourself vulnerable to someone, you’ve entrusted them with a bit of that power.
So, to consciously make yourself vulnerable means to act against these fears. And that takes incredible strength. When you’re feeling or thinking something, say it. Don’t contemplate how whomever you’re saying it to will view you or how they will respond. That’s really none of your concern. Open yourself up to judgement and possible rejection. Relinquish some of your control. Only then can you also be open to genuine acceptance, and even love. Let people see you. Perhaps, they’ll actually feel the same way you do. And if they don’t, at least you’ll know. Knowing is infinitely better for your mental health than wondering what’s going on in someone else’s head.
I’ve learned that making yourself vulnerable is actually very freeing, no matter the results. Unapologetically saying, “This is me! This is who I am. This is how I feel.,” does wonders for your self-esteem. Jump off of that cliff and don’t fear the fall. Be secure enough in yourself to not take rejection or even the abuse of your vulnerability as an indictment on your worth as a person. I don’t regret ever putting myself out there or opening up my heart, even if it was not reciprocated and the person on the receiving end was ultimately deemed unworthy.
Because the walls that we build to keep out the pain, also block a lot of the joy.