My friends have always described me as being a bit scanty when it comes to self-disclosure. I tend to sit more comfortably in the role of listener as opposed to speaker. I rarely call a friend to discuss anything that's troubling me and I typically prefer to wrestle issues to the ground in my own head. I've only recently discovered how draining and un-resourceful this can be for my own psyche and I'm starting to embrace the notion of vulnerability.
I've always considered myself as being mentally strong, emotionally resilient and tenacious when necessary so it never really crossed my mind that dealing with issues myself was anything other than virtuous. More recently I have realised that it's not me being strong and brave facing issues alone, on the contrary it could actually be deemed the opposite - cowardly and maybe even a sign of weakness?
Part of my reluctance to share perceived weaknesses, hurts and vulnerabilities arises from a desire to be self-sufficient as well as my desire to maintain a sense of control and perceived togetherness. I'm certain it's linked to my perfectionist style and an over-inflated sense of my capacity to solve all my own issues.
Lately I've chosen to adopt a new mindset about all this. I find the act of baring my feelings and troubles to another person extremely difficult. I feel raw, exposed and vulnerable and it's super uncomfortable for me. I'm now learning to sit in that discomfort and view it as a space for growth and expansion. It's also a space of opportunity where I can gather inputs from others, seek counsel, receive varying perspectives, access external wisdom and accelerate the process of finding solutions. It's also just nice to share what's in my head and spill it out so I'm not carrying it all around on my own. A slight issue I have found is that in order for me to comfortably expose my vulnerabilities I need reassurance that I am in a safe space with someone who can listen well, ask powerful questions, challenge my thinking and yet simultaneously allow me to just spew whatever is on my mind without judgment. Hmmmm....too much to ask?
Listening, it turns out, is a really under-rated skill. I don't just mean active listening like we learn about in workplaces and schools. I mean genuinely holding the space for someone, suspending judgment, permitting openness, allowing the free-flow of conversation and removing all other matters and intentions from your mind. I am referring to the offering of true presence devoid of any intention other than to simply listen to understand. As a coach I'm constantly trying to refine my listening skills and ironically the less effort or "trying" I do, the easier it is to be present. Letting go of the need to respond, to demonstrate skill, to convince or persuade and simply listening to understand is something I have had to practice again and again. It requires trust in one's self as well as trust in the process, and when you gently allow the stream and go with the flow, it's actually quite beautiful. Imagine if people with opposing views could listen purely to understand the other person, not simply to respond or dominate the discussion. Anyway, that's probably another topic for another blog article - let's get back to the matter of vulnerability.
I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a bunch of beautiful friends who all happen to be great listeners so I've been practicing my self-disclosure and allowing myself to experience the feeling of vulnerability. I've noticed that interestingly I feel more feminine when I do it, and there's a pleasant feeling of humility and openness that accompanies it. I'm amazed how cathartic a discussion can be when you can truly speak your mind and get things off your chest. It's especially nice to feel heard and understood by another person and to have someone simply hold that space for you. I'm getting used to the feeling of vulnerability and I'm beginning to embrace it. I've noticed that things get easier when you share, not just because you relieve the burden of holding it inside your head, but also because when you ask for help the strangest thing can happen - you get help! This might sound obvious, but for most of my life I've attempted to solve everything myself so this has been quite a revelation to me.
I'm embracing the sensation of vulnerability and so far I am benefitting from making room for it in my life. Are you allowing yourself to be vulnerable? Do you share what's on your mind? Do you ask for help?
It might be worth giving it some thought.