ERP 115: How to develop the strength of vulnerability – Part Two [Transcript]
ERP 115: How To Develop The Strength Of Vulnerability, Part II
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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.
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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 115, How To Develop The Strength Of Vulnerability, Part II. Thank you for tuning in, I am grateful to spend this time with you as we discuss love and relationship.
The intention for the Empowered Relationship podcast is to help you feel more skillful in developing and navigating and cultivating long-term intimacy, negotiating the difficult spots that trigger us, that challenge us, as well as cultivating and expanding those peak, intense, passionate experiences so that we can feel those highs, feel those joys, learn from the lows, as well as sustain and develop a stable, lasting, secure, gentle love that’s dependable, that’s consistent, that’s healthy.
Over the last several weeks I’ve been creating podcast episodes that follow a thread. Sometimes I create an episode and I feel the significance of continuing the conversation and it leads to another topic, and since I’m in the flow of that topic, I will create sequential episodes that follow a particular train of thought that I believe is important, that I know clients struggle with, that I’ve struggled with, that I know from my training and my research that it’s really, really relevant.
I started with episode 110 talking about two conflicting needs in relationship that tend to cause tension… And I’m not gonna do a full recap, because obviously, you can check out that episode if you’ve missed it, and then I have several episodes following that. So again, I’m not gonna do a full recap.
Today I am continuing the conversation of how to develop the strength of vulnerability. So I’m just letting you know that this is part of the bigger conversation, and if you’re just tuning in and haven’t listened to any of those, that it might be helpful to start with 110, and then make your way up until today’s episode, which is Episode 115, How To Develop The Strength Of Vulnerability, Part II.
There was an interview that I’ve included that is unrelated, but definitely I’ve had great feedback from people, sharing just how illuminating and insightful that interview was about toxic relationship and emotional manipulation… And that’s with Paul Colaianni.
Just to give you a little sense of what’s coming up, I know several of you have been waiting patiently for me to get to your questions; I will be getting to those and I hope to be able to get those out very soon. On the topic of trust I have a few other questions in the line-up, and then I have some great interviews that I know you’ll get a ton of value from.
At any point, as a listeners, I am definitely open to your feedback. You can e-mail me email@example.com, you can also go to my website, DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Contact and you can find some of the ways to engage in the podcast. You can either submit a question to me directly via e-mail, you can also be on the show, receive live laser coaching about your particular relationship concern, knowing that your session will be turned into a podcast episode, with the understanding that we are all in this together, that people learn from each other’s stories and their process, and that I too — when people ask me what I’m up to professionally, I share that I’m a relationship coach, I’m a psychologist, I work with clients, I have programs, and I podcast. And I usually include that I am very much on the path myself, that what I talk about, I practice to the best of my ability, and that I am humbly a participant in this work, knowing the power of these principles.
In last week’s episode, part I of How To Develop The Strength Of Vulnerability, I talked about usually most people have a pretty negative association with vulnerability. It’s not a positive trait or something that typically people put a lot of value or stock in and prioritize. It’s just not something that people walk around saying “Yes, I’m gonna be vulnerable today. That’s’ my goal.” Most of us don’t have that in the forefront of our mind. And then really talking a lot about Brené Brown’s work and how she’s done a lot to redefine vulnerability, especially when it comes to connection and relationship.
Some of the major components of her definition are essentially it requires an emotional risk, something that means something to us, like we’re putting ourselves out there, and that the outcome is uncertain, and that we feel exposed. We’re revealing some aspect of ourselves.
I also offered four ways to develop strength and being vulnerable. One is redefine vulnerability; that’s really creating your own association and trying to reframe vulnerability for yourself. You might use Brene Brown’s definition, it might actually include some other things.
Number two, learn to accept some level of discomfort and uncertainty, tolerating that. I share a personal story and give you some tips around how to do that.
Number three, get connected to what is true for you. Learning to tune inward and take an honest look, and almost reading what’s going on. Some of us don’t do that.
Number four, set yourself up for success. This has to do with when you’re preparing yourself to initiate a conversation with someone else that you care about and you trust, where you’re interested in revealing more and sharing more vulnerably, and how to do that so that you’re setting yourself up for success.
As we move forward in today’s conversation, I would love to just open up our mind to the fact that when we typically think of vulnerability, we think of what’s tender, sometimes maybe painful, sad, insecure, maybe fear… And that is true. And I think what’s also true is we can feel vulnerability and also the joy and feeling touched and feeling moved. It’s emotional exposure, risk and uncertainty, but that can be both in what we would label as unpleasant and what we would label as pleasant.
As I’m thinking about this, I’m even just thinking of a couple examples – have you ever gone to somewhere in nature, perhaps something that’s categorized as one of the major wonders of the world? And as you encounter it – this natural sight could be some national park… There’s many places that we could feel awe when we approach; the beauty, the immensity, how overwhelming, humbling perhaps even… And that we could feel touched, we could feel impacted and moved deeply, and that can feel vulnerable to actually allow ourselves to feel that, and perhaps share that with someone.
Another example that comes to mind is having a child, seeing that beautiful baby being born… You’re feeling your heart, holding your child for the very first time, and just feeling yourself perhaps wanna weep, and just the love and the joy and the beauty and all of the emotions, right? Most of us would deem that as one of the most precious moments in life, and that can feel vulnerable, right? That’s very tender, and we would label it mostly positive.
So as we’re talking about vulnerability, I wanna just hold that it includes the full spectrum of emotion, and that in my mind they’re all part of the rich fabric of the human experience, and that for a full spectrum living, we wanna have the capacity to experience all of these different emotional experiences. That emotions typically serve a purpose. You might have heard me talk about in previous episodes they have a beginning, a middle and an end. They have a flow, they’re not meant to just stay and take hold of us and control us. Emotions usually have just some type of information to share or just invite us into, again, this human connection and experience… So that they usually pass, is more of my point here. They’re just part of the experience.
Yesterday I was working with one of my clients, and vulnerability is something that he is beginning to work on. In his career, he is self-identified as being much of a workaholic and very successful, but also has run the pattern of occupying himself, stay busy, being preoccupied and not really being connected to his emotional world and the sensitivity of that, and the vulnerability.
He was sharing a recent experience of his where he was celebrating his birthday, and his wife had thrown him a surprise birthday party where some beloved friends and family were all celebrating him, giving him acknowledgment, appreciation, and just sharing positive experiences and memories with him. And he shared that it was such a sweet thing that people really showed up for him and were celebrating him… He also described feeling lonely, feeling disconnected while being at this party.
This is a man that loves deeply, cares ferociously, fiercely; he loves his family, he loves his wife, and with me when we’re in session, he can allow himself to touch into the emotion and the sincere vulnerability there, as he describes his love for his children and his wife.
So when he was discussing this sensation of feeling disconnected and lonely, we talked about vulnerability, what it takes to receive, to be moved by appreciation from our loved ones. This relates to his upbringing, and a lot of psychological or therapeutic stuff, but what I really wanna bring attention to is just that he has talked a lot about needing to feel protected, needing to have walls up, needing to have some level of protection. And that vulnerability feels scary, it feels weak, and I think this is typically difficult for a man, especially in America (or Western society), that men have a lot of socializing about being strong, and not crying… They get a lot of feedback when they’re little, like “Don’t cry, be a man”, or those types of things. “It’s okay, suck it up!” So it’s less socially appropriate for a man to be tearful.
As we were discussing what vulnerability looks like, he pondered the question, and he thought about it and he said “It feels like you have two choices. One is to shut down and minimize, and two is to be open to the experience.” I like what he was describing, and I do think that there’s some grey area there, without going into too much depth about that… Basically, we can be open, but also have some filters that in a social situation we wanna be appropriate and we might not necessarily wanna go to the full depth of our vulnerability… But that we have some choice, we’re aware and we’re choosing how open or defended we wanna be, but that we’re aware of it.
I was thinking about vulnerability in general, and I started to put this graph together almost. It’s almost as if you have a square and you divide it into four parts. You have an upper left, upper right, a lower right and a lower left. I will create a graph and put it on the show notes for you guys to have a visual, but I’m gonna describe it verbally for you here.
So basically, the upper half is looking at the self – how we are with ourselves. The lower half is how we are with others. Then we have the left side of the box, which I’m deeming as closed, and then the right side of the box, which I’m deeming as open. I think you might know where I’m going here, but the upper left represents closed self. This is where in my previous episodes you’ve heard me talk a little bit about we have all kinds of ways of not being open with ourselves. We don’t even know how we feel, we numb ourselves out, we distract ourselves. We’re busy, we don’t ever take pause to check in. This can be to some extreme or the other, right?
Then let’s move towards the self in an open way, and that would be moving over to the upper right. This is where you know how you feel. You feel your feelings, you have awareness, and you’re able to move from that awareness, and make decisions from that awareness, relate to others from that awareness… And it’s highly beneficial to be connected to yourself. I have talked a little bit about this in previous episodes.
Okay, so let’s move to the lower left – this is where we are closed with others. In this example, he’s at a birthday party where everybody is wanting to celebrate him, appreciate him, love him and give him positive feedback, and he’s feeling perhaps maybe overwhelmed, disconnected… He doesn’t know how to receive it. He’s got walls up, he’s a little guarded, and he doesn’t maybe trust it. He doesn’t feel all the way safe, or it’s just unfamiliar. There’s other things that we do to not receive.
We shut people down, we dismiss it… If a compliment comes our way, we say “Oh, yeah…” – we just dismiss it or we disregard it. We turn away from others, we don’t give ourselves an opportunity to connect.
I think one of the examples that I’ve used is how we typically – and this is very common these days – we will preoccupy ourselves with a cell phone. I see people walking down the streets with cell phones, or at lunch with cell phones, or sitting wherever they are (at coffee shops) with cell phones. It’s not open for connection, really… Any human exchange where we’re preoccupied and where our focus is elsewhere. I’m not saying that’s why we do it, but that could be one tool to not be open with others.
Moving to the bottom right, where we are open with others… We experience feeling with others, whether or not we are open to feeling someone else, or we are allowing ourselves to be felt. Somebody can see us, feel us. We might let somebody see our emotional experience, see a tear. We left somebody share in empathy, where we empathize with them and we feel with them, or we allow somebody to empathize with us. There’s a vulnerability there, and as we’ve been discussing, this has a huge impact on intimacy and connection.
For intimacy to deepen and for connection to occur, we want to connect and we want to feel each other. We wanna make that connection. Emotionally, being receptive and open is key, especially when we wanna avoid it, deny it and sweep it under the rug. And when we talk about long-term intimacy, there’s gonna be many, many, many opportunities to share, and we have choice points.
And again, it’s not about being absolute here; it’s not about “Every single time I need to be open and vulnerable” – that’s not the goal. The goal is for you to be aware and mindful, and have choice around what matters. Similar to how people choose their battles when they wanna take issue with their partner, you wanna be choosing the important places to reveal.
The same client was telling me that one of the biggest gifts he has received from his emotional personal growth work has been the ability to look at what is going on honestly and openly. He said “Previously, I was afraid, I was terrified to poke around what was going on internally.”
Without going into too much detail about his particular story, I will share with you that when he first reached out to me, he was having panic attacks, he was going into downward spirals of weeks of being depressed. He talked about self-hatred, and just panic and anxiety throughout the day of assuming the worst and thinking of worst-case scenarios. There was a lot going on for him. So he now describes his life as feeling happy. Yes, he has things to work through or things that come up, but it’s more of blips, rather than a constant state of being. He talks about feeling joy and happiness and love and peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul.
Again, while this work is uncomfortable and difficult, I just am giving you some example of what it can lead to, what the long-term payoff and benefit is.
I’m hoping that you have some interest in developing the skill of being more vulnerable, if you so choose, and I invite you to experiment with it. Even if you’re not sold on the value of it, I would encourage you to just try it out.
In my last podcast episode I gave you some tips; today I’m gonna also give you some tips, but first I would love to just describe some examples, because this client was telling me “What does it look like?” I’d like to give you some examples of vulnerability and action.
I’m gonna actually use the right side of the box that I was talking about, where we’re gonna discuss vulnerability as it is being more open… So this would be the right side of the box. And open with the self, that would be the upper right. Some example of vulnerability in action is having faith, even at the risk of looking like a fool. Maybe saying “I’d love to hang out with you, I’d love to get to know you better.” If that’s genuine and true and it feels like a risk, but believing in yourself a bit. I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that.
Another example is investing in something that’s meaningful to you, even if it means you might get disappointed. Perhaps there’s a hobby that you would like to pursue. I discussed and shared a personal story around going to East Beach Volleyball area of Santa Barbara, knowing how much of a passion it was, but also how incredibly intimidating… That was investing in something that means something to me, knowing that I might get rejected and might get disappointed. It might not go the way that I would like it to go.
Another example is, as I’ve just mentioned, putting your phone away. Instead of using your phone as a defense or some type of barrier, perhaps putting it away and being more receptive. If you’re at a coffee shop and you’re waiting for your coffee, perhaps put your phone away and just look around… Maybe just observe what’s going on outside, perhaps the people in the coffee shop, and just be present and open.
There’s a client that I’ working with that’s actually been single for I’d say almost a year (maybe 8-9 months) and he is interested in dating again, and he is very — I would not call him type A, but he’s very smart and very accomplished, both physically, mentally; he just likes to set goals, and he is very driven. When he describes his life, sometimes I’m like “Well, are you ever just open to making a connection wherever you are?” We talked about that a little bit and he didn’t understand what I was saying, so I was giving him some examples… It really relates to this – even is there a place to spread good? I don’t know if you guys have ever heard of the random acts of kindness – that’s just doing something kind, or making a gesture; it could be opening a door for somebody, it could be somebody dropped something and helping them pick it up, or just some way being of service and offering a value, with no strings attached. There’s some real good and connection there. That’s a little side tangent.
Okay, so coming back to that upper right, being open with yourself. This is where you’re connected to yourself, you know how you feel, you know it’s important to you, and you’re being receptive to — you know, some of this is grey, I’m recognizing… Like, my suggestion, putting the phone away, actually does connect with other people, so I might actually start to move towards the bottom right… But I’m more just trying to articulate some ways and examples of where you are connected to what matters to you, your feelings, and you’re really being honest with yourself.
So the last one here is “Take a risk.” I’m quoting Amber Rae, in an article called “The Power Of Vulnerability: Five Ways To Come Alive To Your Authentic Self.” I love that title. She says:
“Act with no guarantees. Ideas are safe. The idea of true love, the vision of a better world, the image of your perfect lifestyle. We can sit safely in our imaginations all day, or we can fully commit to taking action, embracing the notion that we might fail or get hurt.”
I like that – the idea that ideas are safe, and that part of the vulnerability here is taking the risk. If something means something to you, doing something.
Let’s move to the bottom right, where you are open with others. Again, this is where people can see you and they can feel you; you’re open with them. Some examples – being able to bring up an issue. Express a need or a desire, perhaps with someone who means something to you – a family member, a friend or your significant other. Maybe state a desire that you have, like “I would like to go take a dance class with you” or “I haven’t seen you in a while, I would love to get together and have some one-on-one time with you. I’d love to go grab some tea, or grab lunch. Are you available? Does that sound good? Are you interested?” It’s a small example, but it’s still putting yourself out there.
Sharing an opinion. Perhaps an opinion that you don’t know how it will be received. Sharing something that you believe that might not be popular.
Another example is standing up for yourself. Saying “Ouch, that hurt!” or saying “That does not work for me, please don’t do that.” Or “I’m not interested in that, I’m not willing to have this conversation with you.”
Another example is merely sharing your feelings; share what’s really true. By the same article I just mentioned by Amber Rae, she says:
“Be real. If you’re scared, say you’re scared. If you don’t know, say you don’t know. If you made a mistake, say ‘I made a mistake.’ If you feel hurt, say you’re hurt. If you’re in love, say you are in love.”
It sounds simple enough, but when it comes down to it and we can feel that raw, tender, sensitive truth, that exposure, taking the risk, and the uncertainty, it feels scary sometimes. Again, the vulnerability requires some courage, and I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that in the moment, but I wanna give you a few more examples of what vulnerability looks like when we are open to others.
Share what you are afraid of. Share your fear, or a shameful experience. Something that might feel like a deep, dark secret even. I remember when I started dating my now-husband and it was the first year that we were together… I was familiar with a lot of these relationship principles at the time. I had self-studied, but I hadn’t actually begun my research or my official training in this work… And I knew that I wanted to reveal to him all of the stuff that I might have felt like was shameful, or things that I was embarrassed by… I wanted to take that risk. I wanted to test the safety — not that I was testing him, but I wanted to actually feel the transformation that happens when we do that work. If we never test the ground, we don’t ever get to feel the strength of what’s on the other side, right? We play it safe.
This one particular day we had gone on a hike, and for whatever reason we were talking about something that brought to mind something that I had been holding, and I wasn’t really actively holding, it was just something I hadn’t shared with him; it had never came up before. So it was coming up, and I could tell I had a choice point; I could just deny it, ignore it and keep moving on and putting my best foot forward, and enjoying connection with him.
Yet, I knew that I wanted to have a deeper connection with him; I knew I wanted to deepen the intimacy. I know this is hard, because we’re having a great day, it’s a beautiful day out, and it’s sunny and we’re enjoying each other; we’re walking hand in hand, and it’s really beautiful. We don’t typically want to upset that, we wanna enjoy that.
Yet again, I wanna remind you that I wanted an authentic, deep, lasting relationship with him, and I felt that inner stir in me of “Okay, there’s something here that I’m not fully honest about with him.” The topic has come up and I could choose to share or not share. Oh gosh, I remember saying “Okay, okay, okay…”, like, I hadn’t tested it enough to really feel trusting, so I, in full honesty, was experimenting, and I knew there was great benefit to be had and great cost. The uncertainty of I didn’t know if he’d still wanna be with me, because in my mind it was something shameful, it was something I wasn’t proud of, and it had to do with when I was young… I won’t go into the details of it, but the point here is that I had no idea if he would accept it, if he would still find me attractive, all of those things. But I was committed.
So we were on this walking footbridge, and we were underneath a shade of a tree; we were talking, and “I wanna share something with you.” I can’t remember exactly how I prefaced it. And I told him I was nervous, and wasn’t proud, but I wanted to really be honest that I valued revealing, and the power of that. So I felt my stomach in knots, and my knees were a little shaky, and I fumbled through and shared what I shared, and he just looked at me, and he had a warmth in his eyes, and I think he reached out to embrace me and hug me… I don’t think I was that tearful, because I had done my work around it, I just wasn’t necessarily proud of it; it wasn’t something I advertised, or felt proud of or something, when I’m dating someone.
Granted, we had had some foundation; we had been together for a while. It was the first year, but I wanna say we were maybe 6-7 months. But I’m tearful now as I describe, just, in the power of the connection. It was something that I felt like was unnamable. For him, it was like “Okay, I get it. We’ve all done stuff when we were young” and like “Okay.”
I think for him – I should ask him, but I think for him, if he ever remembers it, because for him that probably wasn’t a big thing… But I think for him, he could value the courage, he could value the honesty, he could value what was in it. And what was in it was I was really taking a risk to trust him, to be vulnerable, and I think that he could feel that, and he felt connected to me. He felt the respect and the gift that I was giving him, so it deepens our intimacy. I trusted him more, I felt more clear and clean, like I wasn’t holding or hiding anything, and I had done it…. I had taken the courage, I had taken that risk, and I had felt the shift in me to stand in it, and also to be received in it.
It’s so funny, I didn’t expect to get emotional sharing this with you, but I’m trying to track back to that time and really capture… So I can feel it when I’m sharing it with you.
Okay, so let’s move back to other examples… Apologize. If you are sorry and you can feel the apology maybe being genuine, and really giving that gift of “I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention”, or “I made a mistake, I didn’t mean to…”
Ask for help. Again, we tend to operate with this “I can do it all, I should be able to figure everything out myself” and sometimes it’s better to solicit or ask for help if somebody is stronger in an area. Let them help. To ask for help – that can be a vulnerable thing, to admit “This isn’t my area of strength.”
Okay, a couple more here. Give a genuine compliment. So often we avoid giving a real genuine, heartfelt compliment, because we’re afraid of making them feel awkward, or feeling awkward ourselves. This can be simple. It could be just a shift in language.
I like to get to yoga at least a couple times a week, and sometimes I like to thank the instructor. I could say “Great class!” That’s a compliment. Another version of a compliment would be “I really enjoyed your class, thank you!” That’s way more personal, slightly more vulnerable, because I’m owning it, rather than just making a statement around “Great class!” Again, subtle shift, but it is a little more open.
And then to switch that with the last one here – just as an example; there’s many, but just for the sake of our conversation – is to receive a compliment. As I was sharing, a client that I was working with yesterday being at a party where he was getting compliments, appreciation, and that it’s sometimes a vulnerable thing to receive, to feel touched and to feel moved by people’s love… To feel it with someone.
I’m sure you felt the experience of giving someone a compliment and they just shrug it off, and you’re like “They didn’t even open it, they didn’t even receive what I gave them”, and especially if it was really genuine and heartfelt, it can almost feel hurtful, like rejection.
As Brené Brown discusses, vulnerability is about vacillating between “I am here and I love you, and I’m going to reveal my innermost to you, and I am scared to death that you’ll reject me.”
A little bit about what vulnerability offers, and then I have a couple tips for you as you begin to build and develop the strength of vulnerability. Okay, so sometimes it’s helpful to have the goal in mind, that there’s a real reward on the other side of taking this risk. Again, I’ve talked about feeling more connection with yourself, feeling in touch with yourself.
My client was sharing one of the biggest gifts he’s received from our work together is being able to turn inwards and connect with himself, to how therapeutic and healing and cathartic it feels. Another benefit is feeling more connected to others, building more trust. In my story I was talking about wanting to deepen my relationship, and being willing to take that risk and not know the outcome.
Another benefit is that we’re much more likely to get our needs met. We’re asking for what we want, and we’re letting someone see us.
In a recent episode with Paul Colaianni that I mentioned, about emotional manipulation and toxic relationships, one of the aspects that he was encouraging people who feel susceptible to being manipulated is to get more clear and connected to self, and be able to set boundaries, make decisions, ask for what you want. Because if we fast-forward when we don’t do that and we’re being manipulated, we could feel that we’re vacant. We’ve lost ourselves — the whole idea of we’re a shell of our former self; we’ve just allowed someone to dominate, whether or not it’s malicious, or conscious or not, the pattern is being manipulated, being dominated. So a part of the real benefit here is that you can show up, that your partner can know you, that your preferences are being accounted for, and that you can share in relationship; you’re co-creating the relationship together. So there is a slight connection there.
In an article I have quoted before, by Emma Seppälä, titled “Why Being Vulnerable Is The Key To Intimacy”, she’s actually quoting Brené Brown… So Brené Brown says:
“Show me a man who can listen to a woman and not try to fix her problem but rather just listen to her and be there for her. Show me a woman who can sit with a man who shares his vulnerability and still loves him the way he is, and I’ll show you a man and woman who are courageous and have done their work,” says Brown. “It’s about intention – Can this be the safest place that we have: with each other, you can be afraid with me and I can be afraid with you.’”
Alright, I have a couple tips, I have three to share with you before we wrap up. This is, again, how to develop the strength of vulnerability.
1) Find a starting point. Knowing that developing vulnerability – if it’s new to you, if it’s foreign to you – takes time, practice and courage. So if you can just find some place to start which would require identifying one way perhaps where you could be more open with yourself, more honest, or perhaps more available to others – and maybe you wanna use some of the examples that I share with you in this episode… Perhaps looking at the places where you are uncomfortable.
In my story I shared, I said it was the thing that I was hiding. It was the thing that I wasn’t willing to share, that that’s where some real transformation, for me, and vulnerability felt.
Maybe asking yourself the question what stops you from being vulnerable and more intimate with your partner? That might give you some indication and pointers as to where you are holding walls, where you’re defending.
You can also look for good role models, other people in your life that are actually decent at this. Again, as we learn, we get to make it our own, but sometimes it’s helpful to learn from other examples.
A couple more, just points about picking some place to start. I would encourage you to just start small. Every little shift you make leads to big changes, but the goal is to start somewhere. Take your time and being gentle. If this is uncomfortable, you’ve had an upbringing that didn’t support this, that maybe you had negative experiences, there might be some things to work through here. Again, reach out for support. If you wanna contact me, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Learn to lean in. As we begin to see the value, focusing on the benefit, the outcome of what we’re doing this for, believing in that, we can feel more motivated to engage, which is to turn towards instead of turning away. Turn towards yourself, or turn towards your partner or someone else, instead of turning away. Being willing to be open, mustering courage… Whether or not it’s naming it, seeing it, acknowledging it and sharing it, whether or not it’s being seen…
I have a client that I’ve been working with, and she had a relationship and she was describing some differences between them, her and her partner. One of the conflicts they had in their relationship was that her partner complained that she didn’t do a great job of expressing her care, her love and her interest in relationship.
As my client was discussing with me some of the ways that she had demonstrated her love, one of which was introducing her girlfriend to her family. She talked about how important family is to her. As she had shared it, I was recognizing “Oh my goodness, I can’t feel her; I know this is big for her, but she’s not actually telling me how big it is.” And I got curious; I wondered if her girlfriend knew what a big deal this was for her. And as I reflected back, the emotion, and just wandered with her, it became clear that she hadn’t really shared what that meant emotionally.
So her girlfriend was thinking “Oh, this is no big deal. We introduced each other to all kinds of people. I’m just now meeting her family. Yes, it’s a good thing, but it’s not super significant”, where for my client, she was telling me this is a big deal, and there was a lot in it, and there was a lot of significance to it and what it means to her, and it was emotional.
So how we let people feel us – that can make a difference and it can have an impact in the way of connection. Okay, so that was under being seen. We’re still talking about learning to lean in.
I just wanna suggest the idea as we leaned in, being available… We’re turning towards, and that can be active, or it could just be not passive, but just present. We’re being more open and available, rather than turning away. As we do that, we also wanna be connected to ourselves. We’re leaning in to us, and we’re leaning in to others. As we lean into ourselves, we wanna take care of ourselves and be mindful, especially as we’re talking about matters of the heart, that we’re taking care of our heart.
In previous episodes I’ve talked about the importance of safety that allows for this vulnerability. We can’t just go out on a limb and not feel safe and really express ourselves more vulnerably. That’s not gonna be taking care of ourselves.
3) Believe in your worthiness and the process. Part of what I’ll say here is that as we test this, as we experiment with it, we are building trust in ourselves and we’re also building trust in others. Sometimes the whole idea of starting small allows us to build some strength, it allows us to build some trust that we can take bigger risks. We don’t have to do the biggest, scariest thing out of the gate. We wanna develop a foundation where safety is important, because our previous experiences matter. Our beliefs about vulnerability, connection and these things impact our capacity to be vulnerable, so we want through what we need to work through, but also be incrementally building our strength around this.
I wanna just reassure you as far as this believing in the process, your strength will build. We don’t go to a gym and lift weights week after week and month after month and year after year the same weight, right? We build strength, we increase our weight, and we get stronger. That’s the same for developing the strength of being vulnerable. Start small, and know that your strength will build.
Know that you’re worthy of having the type of relationship that’s safe, that’s secure. It is available, you can have it, you’re worthy of it. A part of it is just believing in it and setting your goal towards that and doing things accordingly. I’m not gonna do the old way, I’m gonna do a new way. Yes, it’s scary, yes, it takes courage, but yes, you’re worthy of it and you are loveable, and this is available.
Part of this is giving someone a chance to see you, to feel you and experiment with steps of building safety, building trust, building security… And again, building your own internal strength of being able to do that.
The three tips that I’m offering you today are one, find a starting point. Two, learn to lean in. Three, believe in your worthiness and the process. A quote by Karen Young – I have referenced this article, The Key To Vulnerability:
“When we shut down our vulnerability, we shut down the possibility. There are no guarantees. There never have been. But what is certain is that we deserve more than to have our vulnerability – the greatest vehicle to connection – shut down by fear. We cannot guarantee the outcome, but we can have faith in our ability to cope with it. Living and loving with a vulnerable, open heart will bring its own rewards.”
The intimacy that we yearn for does not just develop on its own. It requires a willingness and an openness to connect with ourselves and with others. As Brené Brown explains, people with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that vulnerability is a necessity.
I’ll leave you with one question to consider – what is one practice step that you can take to starting to develop the strength of vulnerability in your life?
I hope you have enjoyed today’s podcast episode. If you have any feedback or comment, I would love to hear from you. You can click on the show notes from my website and leave a comment below.
The show notes can be found on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com. Click on Podcast and you can find the most recent episodes at the top. Again, this is episode 115, How To Develop The Strength Of Vulnerability.
Also, if you’re listening and you’re recognizing “Oh, man, this is hard for me. I don’t know how to do this. Even with all these tips, I’m not sure… There’s so much stuff I feel like I have to overcome, or hurdles or blocks…”, feel free to reach out to me. Again, my e-mail is email@example.com. I would love to support you in the way of coaching, or perhaps looking at a program that will help you develop these skills.
Feel free to reach out to me. Again, my e-mail is Jessica@DrJessicaHiggins.com.
Thank you for listening. Until next time, I hope you take great care.
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