I love love love the work of Brene Brown. I recommend her books right here in my Resources section. I recommend them to my friends. I recommend them to people who are becoming therapists. I recommend them to my mom.
Thanks to Brene’s work, this whole new awareness of the importance of vulnerability has been illuminated. Now, it’s not just life coaches talking about how risks are pretty necessary to living a fulfilling life; it’s lots of other folks, too. The messages being tossed around make sense:
To be loved, you need to be open to letting all the many parts of you be loved (not just the good-looking parts).
To achieve your dearest ambitions, you need to be willing to fall short of them.
To truly connect with other humans, you need to allow them to see that you, too, are human.
I’ve heard from several of my coaching clients that they feel they need to be vulnerable all the time in order to live their most fulfilling life. And while I think vulnerability is completely important, I think that it’s also important to protect yourself.
Part of allowing yourself to be vulnerable is knowing when (and with whom) you can be vulnerable. Not everyone will treat your most delicate dreams with care. Those who will not shouldn’t be entrusted with them. If a certain person has shown repeatedly that she stomps on your sensitivity, she doesn’t get to see your sensitive side.
This selective, discriminate sharing of tender things doesn’t mean you’re not going to connect genuinely with anyone. It means, instead, that you’ll eventually fall into orbit with the people who do respect your sensitivity, and hold it delicately. It also means that you’ll have fewer experiences of sharing too much with the wrong people, getting stung, and never reaching out again.
I would never guarantee that you won’t get stung again. I would love to do so, but I can’t. You will be hurt again in some way, and I will too, because that’s how life is. But you’ll also connect deeply, truly, with the most unexpected people. Perhaps you’ll come back into contact with an old friend who, since you last met, has had a similar life story to your own. Maybe you’ll fall into the deepest depression, and come out of it with someone who truly understands that anguish. Or maybe you’ll fall in love with someone who is your opposite in every way but marvels at the glorious chasm of difference between you.
Until you find the people who hold you tenderly, wrap your arms around yourself, gently and with ever more care.