Our Fear Of Being Vulnerable Is Why We're Missing Out On Love

by Zara Barrie

I'm going to recklessly throw this out there: My name is Zara Barrie, and I'm woefully terrified of the prospect of being vulnerable to another human being.

I don't this makes me cool. I don't think it makes me tough. I don't think it provides me with an even mildly mysterious edge.

In fact, on the contrary, I look at it as a giant, bright red warning flag wildly waving itself above my head.

Allow me to disclaim: I'm an extremely vulnerable entity. In fact, most days when I wake up, I feel like the most vulnerable creature ever to grace the planet.

But that doesn't mean I want to let you know that.

Isn't that the way it usually goes? The more deeply sensitive you are, the further the knife cuts when pain is inflicted upon you, so you take great measures to ensure your walls are extra high?

Some people fear rats. Others have hardcore, staunch, ever-pressing fears of spiders creeping into their beds in the darkness without them even noticing.

Some people are afraid of being confined in a packed subway car or are racked by nerves the moment they find themselves on an empty street on the Lower East Side come nightfall.

Some people are overcome with electric shocks of anxiety when they are stuck in a large crowd of sweaty 20-somethings at a drug-frenzied music festival.

I have a dear friend who is so sorely afraid of other people's bare feet; she refuses to date anyone who would dare to wear open-toed shoes.

My brother feels jittery in the presence of clowns. My mother is terrified of the movie “The Exorcist” and won't even let me utter the title of the movie aloud while under of her roof.

We are all afraid of something.

While I'm notorious for and outspoken about my irrational, sweeping fears of furry raccoons (it was painful to even WRITE those two fatal words) -- I'm quiet and guarded about my issue with vulnerability.

After all, aren't women supposed to be seen as these carefree, open-hearted, free-spirited entities?

I'm afraid to be vulnerable, and I'm afraid you will see I'm afraid to be vulnerable.

Because boys are the ones who are supposed to have issues exposing their softer side. Not girls.

I'm not sure where the root of this fear is derived from, but I do know it's all too often the very thing that stops me from getting truly close to anyone, especially when it comes to the ever-complex world of love.

I crave a true, honest, deep, raw and impenetrable LOVE just like every other 20-something female making her own way in the world. I'm more ready for it than I've ever been. I actually want it.

Except I have this horrendous habit I can't seem to shake: As soon as I get close to a partner, as soon as someone starts to crack through the surface and break into the raw realness -- I run.

Maybe it's because exposing those wounds is what makes the pain set in. And I, like many a girl of the modern world, am a chronic avoider of feeling unpleasant feels.

I'm not alone in my all-consuming unease of this unsafe, unfamiliar feeling of vulnerability. In fact, a ton of my girlfriends are tethered by the same phobia -- it's fear that reverberates throughout our generation. And the end results aren't pretty.

Because the truth is this: How can we have deep and meaningful relationships if we don't let anyone get too close?

Is this universal FEAR of vulnerability the very reason our relationships tend to be fleeting and meaningless?

We fear being hurt more than we want love.

I don't know a single person, male or female, who doesn't want love.

He might hide behind the mask of cynicism. She might not be ready. He might be a narcissist -- regardless of the endless stream of issues we are laden with -- at the end of the day, we all WANT to love.

Someday. Sometime.

But what's greater? What is more profound? Is the fear of hitting the ground so overwhelmingly powerful that it overrides the desire to fall?

Are we all so collectively damaged that we choose fear over love? We can't experience love without making ourselves vulnerable.

The walls must come down for us to really be seen. We need to let people truly see us if we want the love to be real.

Otherwise, it's nothing more than a falsified, fantasy love. It's people falling for the perfectly curated version of you, not the real you.

We are afraid to surrender our power.

We are a generation of control freaks. We vehemently control our image on social media.

We take pills to control our short, rapid-fire, fleeting attention spans. F*ck, we take pills to control our feelings.

When we're vulnerable to another human being, we lose the tight fist of control. We are suddenly stripped of our power.

When we are raw and exposed, we give our partners the opportunity to get to know us. All of us.  It's only when people know us that they can hurt us.

Otherwise it's just ego bruise, and we can recover much faster from a cracked ego than a broken heart.

We are scarred from the past.

We all have that one scar that cuts so deep; we never want feel that pain again.

We all have experienced the trauma of opening up to someone who royally f*cked us over. We have all put our trust in someone who took it and recklessly ran with it.

Is the damage from the past what makes us so afraid to ever dare allow ourselves to open up again?

We are afraid we won't like what we see.

We are so terrified that if we were to strip ourselves of our sky-high walls and let you in, you would see us. The real us.

What if you saw us without heaps of expensive makeup, sans Instagram filters, with zero protective layers of designer outerwear- -- and you didn't like what you saw?

Are we afraid that if we were to allow someone into our protective, precious orb -- and this person didn't like how it felt in that sacred space -- we wouldn't be able to recover?

Herein lies the tricky part of this protective method: When we are hit with the unexpected fist of true love, our walls will naturally be inclined to ever-so-slightly lower.

Even the most guarded girl in the world isn’t immune to the powerful force of love.

If you’re lucky enough to feel it, don’t resist it. Don’t stave yourself from the most profound experience of your life because you’re afraid to feel the scary feelings.

By cutting yourself off from feeling vulnerable, you’re also cutting yourself off from the most wonderful feelings in the universe.

You have to open yourself up and let the good in, even if it means risking feeling some bad.

And if you do find yourself hurt -- because it CAN happen -- always remember this: There is no pain in the world you can’t recover from. I promise. It’s all worth it.