A few words about vulnerability

I have a hard time making myself vulnerable. Fully vulnerable.

I don’t mean that I have a hard time opening up or being transparent. I’m very free with what I share with people – my flaws, my failures, my insecurities, my inflated sense of self-esteem. No qualms about revealing my anxiety, my phobias – things that I didn’t even realize until recently other people keep as closely guarded secrets.

My quirks don’t make me feel in the least bit vulnerable. I’m indifferent to general opinion or how my flaws will shape other people’s views of me. After all, I know something about their flaws too. That they have them. That we ALL have them, and mine are no better and no worse than anybody else’s.

I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. But only for the most part, as it would seem.

Yesterday, my yoga teacher was talking about vulnerability during class. How she craves a connection with people, but is terrified when she feels one.

I’ll confess, whenever one of my instructors goes into a soliloquy when we’re hanging out in a pose, I usually tune them out. I’d rather think about how much my quads hurt or try to get my arms and legs a little bit straighter.

But something she said really resonated, and it made my ears perk up. It almost felt like she was a little bit psychic, to be honest, Because I’ve been struggling with vulnerability for a while, knowing I have to go there and finding myself not capable. And I was reminded of that struggle last week at my company’s National Sales Conference, where I had to navigate 1,100 of my colleagues crammed into the same conference center.

I feel very vulnerable around people I like a lot. People who inspire me or surprise me. People I admire, particularly if they are new to me. They bring on that ever so familiar flight or flight instinct in me, to the point where if I click with someone, I’m much more likely to run the other way the next time I see them than I am to engage them in any way that might give away my true feelings.

I snub them before they snub me.

It may have something to do with being teased by the “cool” kids as a child. I don’t know.

I just know that when I speak to someone like that, I become incredibly awkward. I want to seem aloof and end up coming off as rude. When I push myself to be friendly, I become gangly and goofy. And then I spend hours dissecting what I said, and how I said it, convinced I’ve embarrassed myself in some irreparable way.

I’ve realized this about myself many times before, and in the past I’ve tried to put myself out there, willingly embracing my vulnerability by approaching one of these people or by offering compliments, invitations to connect or other brands of kindness.

And as my yoga teacher told us next (and as Brene Brown will likely tell you quite eloquently, if you watch the video above), MOST people reciprocate vulnerability with a little vulnerability of their own.

But some don’t. And I’ve clung on to those exceptions over the years, allowing them to prevent me from fully exposing myself again.

Who knows if I’ll really internalize this lesson during my lifetime. It appears to be a recurring theme, and a frequent source of regret for me as I miss one chance after another to make a new friend or a fun acquaintance.

So if we should ever happen to meet, and I spot you first and fly off in the opposite direction, it means I REALLY like you and I think you might snub me first… so please take it as a compliment!


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