MH@H Mental Health

Allowing Vulnerability (Even When It’s Scary)

woman in bath surrounded by flowers

I had a tough weekend.  It started off badly with a friend contacting my brother to check up on me, which rocked the walls of the little cave I’ve built for myself.  And then something happened with my safe person that made me feel very unsafe.  The dark voice inside my head kept repeating “He’s using me.  He’s using me, and now he’s trying to pay me.  I’m not a f***ing prostitute”.  Some of the same thoughts I’ve had to rein in before, but taken to a new level.  

I chose to withdraw rather than unleash a tantrum, and spent much of yesterday crying and just generally feeling awful.  I felt angry at myself for trusting someone and allowing myself to feel safe, because I should have realized that everyone really is out to hurt me.  Why did I let down my barriers, why this, why that. Vulnerability is not okay.

I woke up this morning feeling somewhat more human.  In a brief moment of wanting to be mature, I emailed him to apologize for going MIA, saying that I was feeling upset but needed to figure it out in my own head.  He responded and said I could go ahead and tell him whenever I felt ready, so I let ‘er rip.  

My ugly, messy, depressive thoughts coalesced in email form, and I hit send.  The response I got surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have.  Totally supportive.  Glad that I’d opened up.  Wanted me to tell him right away if those kinds of thought distortions come up in the future so we can work through them together.  As I was reading this I was crying and my head was spinning.  Was this what it feels like for vulnerability to be okay?

I recently watched an amazing TED Talk by Brene Brown about vulnerability.  She said a willingness to be vulnerable underpins our ability to feel worthy and experience love and belonging.  She encouraged us to allow ourselves to be vulnerably seen.  And maybe I did that, at least a little bit.  It was scary as hell, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Embrace Acceptance guided journal from Mental Health @ Home

Embrace Acceptance: A Guided Journal draws on concepts from acceptance and commitment therapy to help you move towards a place of greater acceptance.  It’s available free from the MH@H Download Centre.

28 thoughts on “Allowing Vulnerability (Even When It’s Scary)”

  1. I saw that Brene Brown TED talk as well and it had me crying. Grappling with vulnerability is difficult and not everyone’s ready to deal with it in their own lives, but your courage to do so is admirable, and encouraging too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Funny, my therapist told me on Friday to be more vulnerable with people from work or synagogue, otherwise I won’t make any friends. I haven’t really managed to do it yet. I’m too afraid of rejection, particularly at synagogue, which is where I most want to fit in, but also where I most feel like an unlovable freak.

      1. most of us have a lifetime of trust issues and being too cautious, but its lonely as hell!, as time allows it allow yourself just a little tiny bit here and there to be vulnerable! you will be surprised!

  3. My therapist had me watch that TED talk too. I build walls to keep myself safe and my inability to allow myself to be vulnerable means I never form deeper relationships. Even with my own husband I struggle with that. I’m glad you let it out and that your friend is supportive. That’s a huge accomplishment. I’m always afraid the reaction will be negative and I’m not sure I can handle that.

  4. Love love love Brene Brown. I have trouble being vulnerable as well, in my case, in my art class that is atelier style (everyone surrounding the model in a very tight space.) I know it will be more fun if I just talk to the person next to me instead of drawing and staring into space/phone during breaks, but it is the hardest thing to just randomly open up. But the other day, I started talking to a lady who used to be an art teacher, and she talked about her experience with leukemia and me with bipolar. It was so weird how quickly we realized we had in common in some ways. I never thought I would reveal my diagnosis in less than an hour or two of meeting someone. I think I mostly just got lucky, and have to realize that sometimes we just get lucky, and sometimes we may end up getting hurt.

      1. it’s funny because that wall may keep the most amazing people out as well, our hearts rejects vulnerability because to it it looks like the easiest way towards getting played,and hurt, but its not always true..but its hard and it takes practice and time x

  5. I’m sorry you felt that way, and I’m glad you reached out to your friend. Allowing yourself to feel vulnerable is not an easy thing to do. You did great! ❤️

  6. I find with myself that I don’t know I’ve got myself into a position of not being vulnerable. Then something happens and my husband will say something and I’ll start talking, not necessarily coherently, just a list of words sometimes and he is able to gradually draw out whatever it is that’s wrong that I wasn’t aware of. I then realise how much I had fenced myself in. I don’t know if that makes sense. Some of it comes from being autistic and not being able to read my own emotions.

  7. I love Brene Brown! The Ted Talk on vulnerability really inspired me and so has her book “Daring Greatly”. It is really hard to make yourself vulnerable; it’s something I continuously struggle with no matter how healthy I know it is to allow myself to be vulnerable. I’m glad you had a positive experience, such a relief to be told they are glad you opened up!

  8. there aren’t many moments i feel super proud of myself as when i i let myself be vulnerable, when i ask for help, when i honestly share what i feel no matter how my inner me says am just being pathetic! Vulnerability in deed is a super power! this was so beautiful to read!

  9. I find vulnerability so very difficult, particularly emotional. It is hard to take down walls so I don’t. Occasionally I open the window a little and risk the air coming in. It is scary, but each time I do I’m allowing a little more love and trust to build up.
    Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m not sure when it gets easier but practise is the best way.

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