Have you ever suffered something so painful but had a hard time sharing your feelings with people who care about you? Do you believe that you should just be able to "get over it" so you don't #burden others with your hardships?
In this article, I share a case study from my work. It illustrates why we struggle with vulnerability and what we can do to start moving in the right direction.
I recently worked with a client who believed that sharing her feelings meant she is #weak. I shared with her a video on vulnerability to exemplify what it can look like and asked her what her opinions were of this person. Did she think he was weak for talking about and demonstrating vulnerability in front of a large audience?
Interestingly, my client back and said that for the first time in her life, she found value in being vulnerable. In her words, "being vulnerable makes you stronger, not weaker." The only trouble was she didn't know how to be this way with others.
On a rational level, she understood the value of #vulnerability, but on an emotional level she was still stuck. I shared with her how the brain needs consistent practice over time in order to form new neural connections. Because she had told her brain that being vulnerable equated with being weak for so long, her brain believed it. Now, she would need to practice stating her new mantra about how vulnerability leads to strength in order to replace the old programming.
My client lost her father and was overcome with grief, but tried to really hold it together. She stated that if she talked to her friends about it, she worried about crying which would "burden them." It was scary for her to have someone else take care of her. She felt #guilty about putting that burden on others.
Interestingly, when I asked my client how she would react if her sister were to need emotional support from her, my client stated that she would be there and that it wouldn't feel like a burden because she cares about her so much. I pointed out her #doublestandard and focused our work on helping her increase her #selfcompassion.
I have heard many people talk about the fear of burdening others with their emotions and how they live with a double standard. This seems to be especially true for people who are #selfreliant. We become self-reliant early in life due to life circumstances. In my client's case it was because when she was in elementary school and she shared something personal about herself to her best friend, that friend turned her back on her.
When we have such traumatic early life experiences, we sometimes overgeneralize. We start to believe that everyone is the same way. It creates #trust issues for us. And in the same was that we overgeneralize our fears about others, we can start to include ourselves in the equation. My client's lack of trust in others coupled with her lack of modelling as a result of her isolation led to her shutting others in need out due to the fear that she will "screw it up." This also points to a lack of self-trust.
If you find yourself struggling with vulnerability, self-compassion, and trust of self and others, you're not alone. #Selfawareness is the first step to change. Once we are aware of our blind spots, we can move toward change slowly and consistently over time. Sometimes it requires reaching out to others even though it's uncomfortable and facing our fears. For some people, working with a professional is a stepping stone to sharing themselves with the world.