Vulnerability – one of the biggest buzzwords in the self-care scene right now. Experts tell us that allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable will open us up to deeper relationships, allow us to feel more joy and take away our social anxiety and awkwardness. Who wouldn’t want that?
The trouble is, most of us just don’t know where on earth to start. Since our earliest years we’ve been told to stay strong, be in control. Most of us had parents who would hide their true struggles and emotions from us in favour of the good old ‘I’m fine’. So, how on earth do we strip back the layers and learn to show our vulnerable side?
Here are 5 easy practices to embed in your daily life to get you started:
Reflect on your day – every day
Being able to openly show your emotions and feelings begins with getting to know those emotions and feelings. Being vulnerable in the world begins with being brutally honest with ourselves. Take some time to sit in reflection every day and ask yourself how you feel and what’s going on for you. There’s no need to understand or analyse the feelings, but taking a few minutes to really pause and reflect on the way you feel can start to put you in touch with what’s really going on for you. You’ll never be able communicate and show the true depths of your feelings if you aren’t able to understand them yourself.
Break down the fear of failing by failing little and often
Going to live to your true potential and be real and honest with people at all times? Here’s the bad news – you’re going to know failure. You’re going to fail. Not once. Not twice, but repeatedly, because being vulnerable is about giving up the pursuit of perfection and allowing yourself to take risks, put yourself on the line and speak up when you have something to say. People won’t always like what you have to say, some people will be stuck in their own fear and confusion and will try to tear you down, and sometimes you’ll just misjudge things yourself.
Get used to the idea that failing is just a part of being truly open and living to your full potential by allowing small failures and not beating yourself up about them. Say something unexpected in your next business meeting. Been wanting to do that open mic night or submit that poem to a poetry magazine? Go for it. It doesn’t matter whether you get a standing ovation or a stunned silence – the winning is in the fact that you followed your heart and you gave it a go. Re-frame what success looks like and start looking at failures as a positive because you allowed yourself to be real, open and vulnerable.
Access your vulnerability by using positive affirmations daily
To allow yourself to be more vulnerable, first you have to accept that you are truly worthy and good exactly as you are – perfectly imperfect. Forget self-improvement, vulnerability is all about self-acceptance. Start to love yourself, your mixed-up, nonsensical jumble of thoughts and your moods and emotions. Start to honour every part of yourself. Daily affirmations can be a great way to do this. Affirmations are simply positive statements about yourself that you repeat in your head several times a day. Start with affirmations that feel broad eg ‘I am perfect exactly as I am’ and then move to affirmations that work on specific negative thoughts that you have about yourself. For example, if you worry that you’re not doing enough for other people, you could choose the affirmation ‘my needs and wants are important and I have a responsibility to look after myself’. It may sound cheesy, and let’s face it, it is, but it can seriously change the way your brain is wired to start helping you have positive thoughts about yourself.
Try showing yourself more fully in small situations
Have a think about your social groups: family, childhood friends, work colleagues, college friends for example. Are there any groups that feel like a bit of a chore to you? If there are, the chances are you are not showing yourself fully in those situations or are playing up to old habits and personality expectations that no longer fit for you. It may feel risky, but try taking baby steps with risking showing your true self in those situations.
If people expect you to behave a certain way, take time to reflect on that behaviour and ask if that really feels genuine for you. If it doesn’t, start to push back. Family relationships can be rife with these kinds of expectations and can often be a great place to start. For example, if you’re known as the generous one – the one who often sacrifices for the rest of the family, try doing something clearly selfish once in a while.
Take the last piece of cake, grab the only seat on the bus before someone else does, take a day out for some much needed you time and don’t apologise for it. You might find that it feels empowering and it’s a great way to start to shift people’s expectations and feel more like your true self.
Practice saying ‘I’m feeling awkward about saying this’
Accessing your vulnerability can be tough, but here’s an easy hack – name what you’re feeling. If you’re trying to express your true feelings but finding it uncomfortable or awkward, then say so. It will help people to connect with what’s going on for you and will open up the field for you to say what needs to be said. Practice being honest about how you feel when you’re trying to shift old habits and let your guard down. You’ll be surprised by how much people warm up to you when you say what’s really going on.
Ready to start to access your vulnerability? Most importantly of all, be honest. People can’t fault you for saying how you truly feel and what’s truly going on for you. Be honest, be sincere, and most of all, be yourself! That’s all there is to it.