Assumedly like most other humans on this planet, I am terrified with the idea of feeling vulnerable.
Especially when it comes to love.
Why would I ever want to voluntarily subject myself to an opportunity that can hurt me, embarrass me or just make me feel worse about myself?
In any situation that presents a threat — be it physical or emotional — our natural instinct is to protect ourselves. That's just basic survival for you. We gear up with our shields and armor (and sometimes weapons). We try to defend, hide or deny those insecurities and weaknesses.
I am the ultimate poster “chill girl” when it comes to dating.
You know, the ~free spirit~ who isn't really emotionally available. You can never quite catch her.
She presents the thrill of the chase, and just the right amount of “seductive intrigue” to keep you interested. (Ugh.)
She's not overbearing, intense or needy. Particularly in our culture of over-accessibility and instant gratification, it can be easy to get bored and restless, constantly on the prowl for something better.
The problem is, I was never that girl.
But also, real talk: How much does that girl suck? Pretending to be that girl was inconsistent with who I was, and obviously unsustainable.
I'd “date” people and say I wanted to “keep it casual too,” while secretly hoping for an intimate, long-term connection.
I was worried that if I came out and said I was looking for a relationship, I'd be the love-obsessed, crazy girl with an agenda and no chill.
So, now what? Is this the part where I tell you I finally let my guard down, and have been dating my soulmate ever since? Obviously not.
But I DID do some much-needed introspection when I finally admitted to myself that I didn't like the way things were going. That was my first honest, vulnerable moment in a long time.
The important thing to remember is vulnerability is a process. It doesn't happen overnight, and you never really “master” it.
You should definitely check out Brené Brown's killer TED Talk on vulnerability if you haven't already.
Some of my unsolicited, personal takeaways with leaning in to vulnerability in relationships began with understanding being vulnerable can only be a good thing.
Here are the reasons why:
1. It's the most honest you can be.
Being vulnerable involves letting yourself feel all the things — the good, the bad and the not-so-chill — and then also letting someone else see it all.
When you hide or deny any of that, you're not being honest with either yourself or the other person.
There's nothing more refreshing and relieving than coming clean and just being real. At the end of the day, isn't a real connection what you want?
2. Not letting yourself be vulnerable is exhausting.
That fake time in my life was the most tiring and unfulfilling experience ever.
It was definitely easier, and it felt like there was less of a chance I'd get hurt.
But I felt unsettled, like I was never really getting anywhere. It was exhausting to keep up with the charade of being a version of myself I thought other people would prefer... sans the insecurities, flaws and quirks.
3. Vulnerability can actually make you happier.
When we numb feelings like fear, embarrassment and pain, we also numb excitement, hope, gratitude and happiness.
Feeling all of those things is what helps us become more connected, which we're all striving for in one way or another.
We can numb and discharge pain and discomfort in a number of ways, whether we're projecting in an argument or tackling our stress with some wine.
Let me hit you with a fun little personal anecdote: For most of my dates, I relied heavily on alcohol as a social crutch to alleviate those first-date nerves.
While there's nothing wrong with a glass of wine or beer to loosen up a little, I thought I needed that liquid courage to avoid feeling awkward or freezing up. I thought that without it, my anxiety would throw my personality out the window.
It got to the point where I became a different person.
I was ignoring what I was really feeling, hiding what I didn't want the other person to see and maybe even pretending to see something in the other person that wasn't ever there to begin with.
None of that is fair to anyone. And so, of course, I realized I wasn't actually letting myself be happy.
4. To get what you really need, you have to ask for it.
Because asking for what you want is vulnerable. Expressing how you feel is vulnerable.
This is like when you say you're “fine” and expect the other person to read your mind and know you're not. Sometimes, admitting you feel a certain way, want a certain thing or even asking for something can be the scariest thing ever.
This is because you're welcoming the opportunity of rejection, ridicule and failure. But the chances are pretty slim you'll be getting anything resolved if you don't address it.
5. It makes us present.
Letting yourself be vulnerable is the most in-the-moment experience you can have.
You're here, letting yourself feel the things, and you're sharing them with someone else.
It's uncomfortable. But you feel fucking alive, don't you?