Over the past year, I have been working really hard to bring awareness to a lot of things that have been holding me back in my life and in my relationships. I had a conversation with my mom earlier this year about my failed marriage (and relationships in general) and she said,
“I don’t think you have ever truly been vulnerable with your partner.”
When I thought about it, maybe she was right. I am definitely an over-sharer and am quick to go into “ask me anything, I’m an open book” mode when I meet new people. But I read something else that Brené said that really clicked in that regard. There is a difference between sharing out of a need for attention and sharing from a place of vulnerability.
Over the last 365+ days, I have had an exhaustive amount of conversations about self-awareness and many, many realizations about my behavior and some of its drivers. One of these conversations with a friend of mine was about constantly “performing” when you are in the presence of others; meaning we act in ways we believe people will like, do things that will make us memorable, make people love us. This stems from a deep insecurity that we are not enough the way we are and simply being ourselves will not suffice.
Needless to say, it’s been quite eye-opening. I’m constantly catching myself mid-act and questioning my intentions. Is this authentic or manufactured? If it’s manufactured, why?
In my last post where I opened up about my divorce, I mentioned that one of my lessons learned was the need to speak up for myself if something doesn’t feel right or ask for something if my needs aren’t being met. Basically my internal dialogue goes like this,
“If you ask for something, you are needy. If you tell them they can do something differently/better in order to meet your needs, all they hear is “You’re doing it wrong”. This will make them defensive and angry and make you less desirable and they will leave you. THEY WILL LEAVE YOU.”
Do we see how this dialogue is a worst-case scenario, 0-60, over-exaggerated story that doesn’t serve us? Reading that back it sounds a little, okay very, dramatic. So I know that I need to start asking for what I need/want instead of just telling myself to shut up so someone will stick around. Guess what this requires?
And so, I have been using most interactions since then, especially any potential romantic relationships, as an opportunity to gain reps in vulnerability. I’ve even added the upgraded challenge of doing so with people who may not be emotionally intelligent enough to receive my vulnerability and process it, which has made it a lot harder to move through.
But here’s the thing, being vulnerable enough to ask for what you need/want should be done with any person who isn’t treating you how you want to be treated. This whole “Me Too” movement (my experience(s) with this will be a separate post) is centered around a lot of people not being able to speak up for themselves in a time when they needed to for fear of the repercussions.
In the moments leading up to baring my soul, I’m filled with anxiety, dread, and a thousand thoughts and scenarios. Reminding myself in those moments that I’m worth whatever I’m asking for and remembering all of the other impossible situations I never thought I would survive that I made it through gives me the strength to open my mouth and say those words.
Being vulnerable in these moments is showing me my worst fear, that they do leave (sometimes), and I’m fine. Often times I’m better for it/because of it. But that’s not always the case. And if you never ask, you will never know how much better things can be when you are valued and treated the way you know you should be. Being vulnerable often times breeds vulnerability, and asking someone for something you need gives them the opportunity to show up for you in that moment, or not.
So, I’m going to keep doing the work towards those vulnerability PRs. Hopefully you will too.