March 8, 2017

Three tips for building Vulnerability & Honesty in Relationships.

If you’ve never met me in person, you would never know that I have a hand tremor.

Usually, it’s not too noticeable, but when caffeine kicks in or I have low blood sugar, my hands get pretty damn shaky (like, I could never be a surgeon, shaky).

For years, I’ve felt so much shame around my tremor. I felt like it made me look like I was nervous—even when I wasn’t. I’ve made jokes about it, laughing it off if I accidentally spilled a drink, but it has always felt distinctly “uncool.”

Last summer, I was in a room of over 100 women entrepreneurs at a posh hotel in Beverly Hills, and I was excited.

My hair looked good, I felt confident in my outfit, and I was honored to be one of the speakers at this event. I also finally had the chance to meet people in my industry in person who I had previously only connected with online.

But as I was mingling in the morning, I could feel my hands shaking as I held my coffee cup. I found myself wondering, “Do the women I’m talking to notice? Do they think I’m nervous? Do they think less of me?”

A familiar hot wash of shame came over me and I wished, like I had so many times before, that my hands would just be still.

Feeling brave later that day, I decided to mention this experience to a few women at my table. To my surprise, I was met with an outpouring of love and appreciation for being vulnerable. As a result of my sharing, one by one the other women began to follow suit, outing insecurities and uncomfortable truths of their own.

This sharing created a bond that ran far deeper than any I had ever experienced at a business event in the past.

The lesson?

This idea that we have to put on a mask that tells the world “we’ve arrived” and “have it all figured out” in order to be loved and respected (especially in “professional” settings) is total bull. Plus, buying into it is really stressful and unsustainable.

When we’re brave enough to be the first to take off our mask of “perfection” and show the people around us our awkward, wobbly, or (in my case) shaky parts, we create a massive opportunity for deep connection—the kind we all hunger for.

Here are a few tips for getting more comfortable with the (inherently uncomfortable) task of being vulnerable.

1. Start small.

Outing our deepest fears to total strangers—especially in a professional setting—is a tall order for those of us who are less versed in the fine art of vulnerability. I recommend beginning your journey toward a less guarded existence with a close friend or family member who is loving and non-judgmental by nature. Pick a topic that is right on the edge of your comfort zone (but not totally beyond it) and tell him or her about it—perhaps something you did a long time ago that you’re not especially proud of, an insecurity you’re currently grappling with, or a white lie you’ve told.

Notice the reaction. Most likely, he or she will respond in a kind, non-judgmental manner and follow suit, divulging a secret or two as well, leading to a more intimate and fulfilling relationship. The trick here is to pick someone safe and share something that feels a little edgy, but not terrifying, so your chances of having a positive (and hopefully liberating) experience are high.

2. Write out your “worst case scenario.”

Sometimes the best way to get over our biggest fears is to address them head on. Take out a journal and pen and at the top of the page write, “I am afraid to be vulnerable because…” and jot down whatever comes up for you.

Perhaps you’re worried you’ll be judged, shamed or criticized, or that people wouldn’t like you as much if they knew the “real you.” Once you’re done writing down your biggest fears, go back through them one by one and ask yourself: How likely is this to happen, really? And if it did, would I survive? Is the chance of this happening worth the cost of hiding and staying afraid?  Typically, the process of writing out your biggest fears and looking at them from a place of non-judgmental introspection greatly reduces the power they hold over you.

3. Look for experiences where vulnerability is on the agenda.

There is an ever growing number of groups and events out there with the aim to get people connecting in deeper and more meaningful ways, such as a support groups, personal growth events, writing groups, and book clubs. Many coaches, healers, and authors offer these types of programs too. These events provide a built-in container in which vulnerability is encouraged and, as a result, flourishes. As an added bonus, people who are interested in personal growth tend to be on the loving and open-minded end of the spectrum by nature.

At the end of the day, know that sharing vulnerably is a courageous act that is of high service to the world. All humans, regardless of how “together” we seem, are deep down messy and imperfect, and when one of us lets this reality be seen—even just a little bit—it gives everyone around him or her permission to do the same. Vulnerable sharing creates a ripple effect of love and a collective sigh of relief, and it is my sincere hope that this article inspires you to do more of it.



Author: Rebecca Rubin

Image: Unsplash

Editor: Callie Rushton

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