So far this month I’ve talked a lot about shame and what we do to try to cope and protect ourselves from it. We put up shields and armour in order to hide. What are we hiding from? I’d say it’s from being ‘seen’. When we’re in shame, we feel worthless and unworthy of connection. We don’t want to be ‘seen’ for fear someone will further increase our sense of shame. The problem is that hiding keeps us from connection and it’s in connection and experiencing empathy that we can begin to walk out from underneath shame.
Which brings us to vulnerability. Vulnerability is necessary for connection. How can I feel a connection with someone when they won’t let me ‘see’ them and/or I won’t let them ‘see’ me? It is in taking down our shields and allowing ourselves to be ‘seen’ (i.e., being vulnerable) that we can truly have connection with others. This is where empathy and wholeheartedness grow.
It’s not an easy thing, especially for anyone who has experienced trauma in their lives. Often there is so much pain around vulnerability and so many walls of protection built up, that stepping into vulnerability is difficult. But…it’s not impossible. It takes baby steps with those people whom we trust (and sometimes with the help of professionals), with those who can bear the weight of our stories. With each baby step into vulnerability and receiving empathy and understanding in return, walking into vulnerability becomes a little bit easier.
Vulnerability involves risk. There are never any guarantees how the other person will respond. And sometimes the people we most love and care about will let us down. Even with knowing this…even so…I believe vulnerability is absolutely worth it. There is no other way to get through our healing to the other side. How can we become healed and whole if we never let anyone catch a glimpse of our brokenness and pain? If we never even admit it to ourselves? Sometimes vulnerability means being vulnerable with ourselves and taking the risk to see what’s really going on inside. And then reaching out to others.
Vulnerability is not easy for me. My vulnerability shields and hiding techniques are pretty entrenched, and I’ve had to do the work of learning to stop using them. I still have a long way to go. I want with all my heart to live as the wholehearted do, to learn to be vulnerable and authentic, because I know that’s where real connection happens. It’s where I won’t feel alone.
We all put up shields and masks to protect ourselves. We’ve convinced ourselves (or others have convinced us) that this is the best way to walk through life. But I believe there is a better way, a way that will bring deeper meaning to our lives, if we’re willing to take the risk to step out and be seen. Won’t you join me?