How To Cultivate Vulnerability - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 18, 2014

How To Cultivate Vulnerability

# 1. Learn to trust yourself first before you can trust enough to let others into your life

Theresa J. Crawford

So what is vulnerability? The dictionary definition says; capable of being wounded or hurt. Wikipedia says; Vulnerability refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. And researcher/writer Brené Brown says this; Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage arenʼt always comfortable, but theyʼre never weakness.

As a writer, I like to have clear definitions of words, or we will never, so to speak, be on the same page. As a therapist, I want first and foremost for my clients to learn how to care for themselves. So, to be clear, I donʼt think women struggle with not being vulnerable enough. In my experience, most women struggle with being too vulnerable, too open, and too gullible.

Women are socialized to be nice, not to take risks, and to give up even when they are competent. This is confirmed by research on women and risk taking and competition. We women sometimes collude in our own vulnerability. No wonder women struggle with being vulnerable! I also would argue with Brownʼs quote and say, actually, truth sounds like truth, and courage feels like courage. Feeling vulnerable feels like feeling vulnerable, scared and hopeless sometimes.

There is such a thing as being safe enough to allow someone else to care for us. This isnʼt vulnerability, it is safety and trust. Women need tools to know how to trust themselves first, and then they will know who they can trust enough to let them into their lives. If women donʼt know who they are and what they want, they will have a hard time getting it; this is what makes women vulnerable. Knowing what you want, going after it, taking calculated risks and staying in the competition, this makes you strong.

When you know that you are valuable because you value yourself, you wonʼt allow anyone to hurt you, youʼll know where your boundaries are and you wonʼt let anyone cross them. Once you have your own strength and courage, you can let people in your life, not because you are vulnerable, but because you are not vulnerable. To connect with your best, strongest self, surround yourself with people who support you in following your dreams, take some risks, stay in the competition and let love find you.

Theresa J. Crawford, MA – www.crawfordtherapy.com

# 2. Vulnerability is about speaking our truth unabashedly

Kristen Brown

Learning to be vulnerable again (or perhaps for the first time) is a delicate place to navigate because we’ve subconsciously armored up in attempt to protect our heart from possible pain. The first thing to understand is that being vulnerable does not mean giving away our heart or our love to just anyone. Vulnerability is about speaking our truth unabashedly. It’s about sharing who we are through open, honest and authentic communication. We don’t have to give anything (our heart) to anyone until we are good and ready. However, we must be at least willing to try something new or we will perpetuate the same disconnected relationships of past.

When we are willing to share our inner selves, we can then see how others respond to us. In this we can determine whether it is “safe” to proceed further with this person thus, opening our hearts a little at a time. If an armored person rushes in to quickly and for some reason doesn’t receive a response that feels safe, the armored person may subconsciously armor up even further. Take your time.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize and understand that vulnerability begets vulnerability. Magic and miracles happen when one person let’s their guard down and shares authentically. With this, the other person will also feel safe to do the same. This is how true connection is born within our relationships. Most everyone is scared to death to navigate a new relationship. At some point in life, we’ve all been hurt. When we are willing to state our fear, most likely we will discover our person is equally afraid. By uncovering this vital fact, you may find you both helping one another along!

As with anything in life, it is of utmost importance to trust your intuition while learning to navigate vulnerability. At all times, we are being guided by a Universal Intelligence that will indeed send you warning signs if someone’s motives are not of the highest nature. However, we must learn to discern between our own fear and the warning voice of Spirit. If it’s a red light you are receiving, be willing to say your farewell and move on. If it’s a green light you are receiving (a peaceful knowing that all is well), you must find the courage within to step boldly into your authentic self and allow for the graceful unfolding.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com

# 3. Follow the leader on vulnerability

Amanda-Patterson

As a therapist, when I was reading up and learning about vulnerability, I fell upon a woman name Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, a research professor. Much of her work is surrounded around the topic of vulnerability, in addition to shame, courage and worthiness. In watching her TED Talks, I learned about how vulnerability can be a very uncomfortable thing to “do”. It helped me to see that someone, who extensively researches this stuff and is immersed in it, can have a difficult time being vulnerable.

One way to practice vulnerability is to learn about it. Awareness of a subject is a good first step towards your goal. Vulnerability is not something we are taught about it school. Most emotional issues are not covered in the general education at public schools in America. Therefore, we must reach out of our comfort zone and find the people interested in exposing others on these topics. I strongly suggest you watch the TED Talks found here that Brené Brown did on vulnerability: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

Once you have a basis for what vulnerability is, you can put the principles into action. Release the toxic shame that is binding you. A good book to read is “Healing the Shame That Binds You” by John Bradshaw. Take the courage to do something outside of the norm, especially when it comes to relationships. Tell the other person that you love them before they tell you. Give someone a second chance. Be open to dating people that are different than you normally date. Work on your worthiness and really begin to feel like you are a valuable person to yourself, others and the world as a whole. Look in the mirror every day and tell yourself that you are a worthwhile person (or any other positive affirmation that fits for you).

You may find that being vulnerable really works for you.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brené Brown

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

# 4. Start by taking small risks that may have small wounds, but might lead to greater joy

Dr. Randi Gunther

If you see vulnerability as weakness, fragility, or openness to be hurt, you will stay legitimately closed in any intimate relationship. You will believe that your defenses are not strong enough to guard you against being exposed and potentially rejected. If that is true, you will approach love relationships with understandable tentativeness and stay poised to get out before anything bad happens.

Though it is always important to assess every new relationship for signs of potential harm, expecting it to happen can lead to a pre-defeated approach. If you are looking for reasons to keep yourself adequately protected from any potential distress, you will most likely find them. Risk-averse people focus on the things they are most afraid of happening and avoid any possibility that might occur. They would rather live by the maxim, “Nothing ventured, nothing lost,” than “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

If you fall into that category, you will automatically define yourself as prey to a predator. At the first sign of any danger, you will only have three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. If you perceive your partner as rejecting, devaluing, or invalidating, your first response will be to fight back, run away, or allow yourself to be taken advantage of by becoming immobilized. Obviously, it is not a good idea to limit yourself to that role.

So, what is the alternative to a fear-based prey stance?

Look for sabotaging patterns in your prior relationships. For instance, do you always look for nice guys who promise to protect you but at the price of your independence? When you pretend to be stronger than you are, does your vulnerability eventually crop up and alert your partner that you are not what he signed up for? Has your position of self-safety-first pushed away potential partners that just don’t want to work that hard to gain your trust? Have you been so concerned about your own safety that you’ve failed to notice that the guy on the other side may be scared of you?

Ask yourself if the risks you’ve taken that haven’t turned out were well-thought out. For instance, do you oscillate between caring men who bore you and edgy men who turn you on but are more likely to love and leave? Are you screening correctly to separate out the men who can care for you but won’t fall prey to indulging you in too much sensitivity at the price of their own needs? Are you so busy protecting yourself that you are not seeing risks worth taking?

Think about what is self-care and what you may be asking for that should be your own responsibility. If you’ve had trauma as a child, or been painfully emotionally or physically abused in past relationship, you might be looking for the perfect man who can automatically know how to handle you. Many women who have been sexually abused know how hard it is to find a partner who is a true “ally in healing.” Those men innately understand when they should care for you and when your requirements for safety are not appropriate.

Learn what you really need in a partner that is both fair and self-caring. There is an indisputable maxim in dating: You will pull in what you give out. Make sure that what you are asking for is also what you can give.

You can choose to live your life protecting yourself from being hurt. That is always your prerogative. But you will open yourself to love at the same level as you open yourself to risk. The more you fear being wounded, the more you will hide in your own comfort zone. Try not to be rigid there. Take small risks that may have small wounds, but might lead to greater joy.

Dr. Randi Gunther, www.randigunther.com

# 5. Start slowly to express a feeling to your partner that you would normally not reveal

Sherry-Marshall

Being vulnerable means being open and connected to your heart and feelings and authentically expressing your genuine self to your partner. The result of showing your vulnerable side deepens connection and intimacy in your relationship.

‘What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.’ Brené Brown

We are often scared to be vulnerable because we can feel exposed and shamed. If we are misunderstood or viewed as needy or get rejected, we think we have no protection or defense. We are worried people will find out who we really are, which actually means all the qualities we don’t like about ourselves! This is why we armour ourselves against expressing our true feelings.

We don’t need to be insecure or fearful of being judged or rejected. We can develop confidence, self-love and feelings of safety to show all of who we are to the person we love. Everything worthwhile involves some risk. Step out of your known identity and comfort zone. Let go of being in control and realize your partner wants to listen and support you.

Most of us sometimes get worried, anxious and shaky, make mistakes or still suffer from past bad relationships. It’s part of being human. It gives our partner an opportunity to appreciate our sensitivity and show empathy towards us. It also shows them that they don’t have to keep up an image of being a ‘certain way’ all the time.

So, firstly discover why you find it difficult to be vulnerable. Is it connected with messages from your family and upbringing or because you got hurt before and decided to ‘toughen up’ and not let anyone get really close to you again? Start slowly to express a feeling to your partner that you would normally not reveal. Also let your partner know that you are open to listen to their deeper feelings. Open up, little by little and become kinder and more honest with yourself and others around you.

Vulnerability doesn’t mean that we are emotional and in pain all the time. It means that we feel good about ourselves and that we have the courage not to protect ourselves and build up barriers against the person we love. We become more congruent and our feelings match our words. It means we show that we care.

Step by step, validate yourself and recognize that real connection comes from allowing ourselves to be truly open and honest, rather than presenting a persona of who we think others want us to be.

Sherry Marshall, BSc, MAA – www.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au

# 6. Follow the 2 tips below

Loral Lee Portenier

What does it mean to you to be vulnerable? In order to answer this question, you need to explore every area of your life.

For instance, physical vulnerability could include such things as pulling off on the side of the road, alone, to fix a flat in the middle of the night, or the feet-in-stirrups position you assume while you get your annual exam. Financial vulnerability could mean relying exclusively on your partner’s income, or quitting your job to become an entrepreneur. Emotional vulnerability could mean giving birth to a child and accepting the role of motherhood, or opening up and sharing a deep secret with someone.

Vulnerability opens the door to connection. If you think of yourself as a house, some people will never get past the front door. Others you will allow to come all the way into the kitchen, and one or two may have access to the entire structure.

It is risky to be vulnerable. There are no guarantees that things will work out for the best. Being vulnerable means we lower our guard, drop our protection, expose our belly, so to speak. And that can have devastating results. Yet not opening up can create our own personal prison, which can lead to an unfulfilled life of loneliness, fear, and bitterness.

Here are two helpful tools you can use to protect yourself while being vulnerable.

First, be wise. Prudent. Discerning. It is not necessary, for example, to share your soul with someone who has not earned that privilege, someone who has demonstrated that he or she is not trustworthy or respectful. Wisdom also includes taking sage precautions against potential disasters in every area of life, such as self-defense and financial management courses. Wisdom means knowing who to allow into your house, and setting limits on how far they can explore.

Second, be strong and resilient. To change analogies, think of a suit of armor. Many times, life circumstances have resulted in our donning a suit of armor that is all but impenetrable. That keeps out the arrows, but also keeps out the love. So think about slowly moving that protective shell from the outside, where it protects the soft core, to the inside, where it becomes an indestructible core of steel. At the same time, start slowly moving your soft core to the outside, where it will elicit human connection. If you have a core of steel, then you can risk receiving a painful flesh wound because you know it will not destroy you.

So go ahead and allow yourself to be wisely vulnerable. To take judicious risks. To know when to hold up a shield or keep someone on the front porch, and when to open up.

Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.sacreddreamscoaching.com

# 7. Healing past hurts and wounds is the key to be open to both giving and receiving love

Chris Adams Hill

Why on earth would anyone want to be vulnerable? Why take the risk? Why let people into my inner world and risk rejection? These questions may sound familiar. If they do, chances are very good that you’ve been hurt before and have put up your walls or shields to protect your wounded self. Perhaps in the past you let someone in. You let them see the real you and then they rejected you or wounded you in some way. So you vow, “never again!”, “If I don’t show my true self to them, when they reject me it won’t hurt as much because they never really knew me.” When we take this path, we do indeed keep our true selves hidden away and protected, but we also miss out on opportunities to deeply connect with people. We can’t fully love others or receive their love because we’re closed off and guarded.

If you are wounded and hiding your true self away, perhaps it is time to heal your wounds. Brené Brown is well know for her work on vulnerability and shame. You may not think that shame has anything to do with it, but actually it does. We hide our true selves when we feel that we are unloveable, to imperfect to be of value or that somehow we deserve to be treated badly. Sometimes when we’re wounded by others it hurts because their words or actions confirm our worst fears about ourselves. We come away from the moment thinking, “yeah, I knew I wasn’t worth their time”, “I knew I was ugly and annoying”, “Why did I ever think someone would love me, I’m such an idiot”. At this moment we raise our shields higher and stronger than they’ve ever been. We protect our wounded hearts and vow that we won’t ever make that “stupid” mistake again.

These wounds are rooted deeply in shame and when these beliefs feel true, it is nearly impossible to risk being vulnerable. But, there’s a way out of this cycle. We can heal our wounds, release ourselves from crippling shame and learn to love and trust ourselves again. When we do this work, we can begin to trust others as well and figure out how to decide who to share ourselves with and how vulnerable we want to be with them. Then we can develop deep connections with other human beings who have earned our trust – both as friends as romantically. Check out Brené Brown’s book, I Thought it was Just Me, But it’s Isn’t. Heal your wounds. Then you will be able to truly be present in your relationships and be open to both giving and receiving love.

Chris Adams Hill, LCSW – www.southvalleytherapy.com

# 8. Follow the 8 tips below

Kris-Gooding

This is a complicated topic with a web of issues attached. When I talk to clients and friends I hear about self esteem, shame, courage, fear, childhood wounds, relational experiences, and cultural expectations. Often there is a negative connotation attached to the definition of vulnerability.  Like, “Vulnerability feels like an open wound”.  Another, “I feel weak. It’s like I exposed too much of myself”. Why does vulnerability get wrapped up so much in feelings of weakness? So many reasons.  One is that we get vulnerable and needy mixed up. One way to sort some of this is to learn and address the way you are placing appropriate boundaries in your life.

Healthy connection requires healthy boundaries. To be vulnerable in affirming ways, we need to be able to set boundaries, and to choose and create respectful relationships. With the basics of this life template, we become free to be open and to do so in appropriate ways with appropriate people and for the right reasons.

Some of the strongest and most emotionally mature women I know are very good at boundaries and also very good at intimate connections. It’s all about judgment. But even those of us who have been practicing, counseling and teaching about boundaries and relationships for years will not always get it right. We make miscalculations. We trust when we should have limited, or we limit where we could have been more open. Taking emotional risks and being vulnerable requires courage, and that is precisely because it is often scary. But with awareness and respect for these endeavors you can create a full and rich relational life.

Moving toward healthy vulnerability in relationships requires getting in touch with what’s going on within you. So here are some practical steps to get started. Take time and revisit these activities, and feel free to adjust them to your unique needs:

  1. Write down five areas where it’s hard to practice openness.
  2. Write down three people in your life with whom vulnerability is easiest. These can be actual people, or if that is too hard move on to step three.
  3. Write down qualities (at least 5) in an intimate relationship that would make being vulnerable feel like a good choice; traits that attract your openness and allow trust to form.
  4. Write down actions, behaviors or gut feelings about someone that would suggest having more boundaries around your emotional availability would be the best choice. You are getting in touch with what feels right and what doesn’t.
  5. Come up with 3 things you can do each week with a loved one, partner or new relationship to try out vulnerability. Choose with your wisdom and courage. Start small. Maybe your new boyfriend takes an interest in something about you that you also hold dear. Share your passion about this part of you. Let your deeper feelings glow from a place of confidence and pride.
  6. Keep a journal on your vulnerability work and your work on boundaries.  Note challenges and fears. Recall memories from childhood or past relationships. Note feelings of courage as well as shame.
  7. Make goals. Where do you need to preserve your emotional privacy and where can you be more open? Are there people you need to limit? Is there a relationship where you want to risk being more vulnerable?
  8. Get help. A therapist is often useful for relational growth. Read about it. A great writer on this topic is Brené Brown.

Intimacy, connection, vulnerability and relational growth is a lifelong journey and we never arrive. We will feel like we are getting the hang of connection sometimes and at others we will feel insecure and detached. Pay attention. Seek support. And keep learning.

Kris Gooding, LCSW – www.find-within.com

# 9. If you are scared of being vulnerable, start small

Brett-McDonald

Being a woman is not what it used to be. The major changes that gender roles have undergone in the past 40 years have been wonderful, but there are also downsides to these changes. For example, many women have internalized some rules about what it means to be a ‘good enough woman’ in today’s society. We often feel that being emotionally vulnerable is a sign of weakness, self-indulgence, or is a burden upon others. Sometimes we react to our feelings and needs with resentment and contempt, and would rather remain quietly ‘strong’ than speak up about emotional hurts.

The ability to ask for nurturing from others is impaired when the communication of vulnerable feelings is stifled. This lack of nurturing inevitably leads to lack of fulfillment, psychological pain and relationship resentments. This trend, coupled with the fact that many women are reluctant to expose their needs for fear of repeating past hurts, can lead women toward a dead-end in love, and in life.

To reverse this downward spiral, remember that the only way to heal from past hurts and restore trust is to allow others the opportunity to show you they can care for you emotionally. This requires you to expose your need. If you are scared, start small. Let someone know about a minor vulnerability and let them show you they can be trusted with it, then build into more significant levels of sharing. Trust isn’t restored with time, it is restored by taking important opportunities to let another person take care of you. It’s worth it to work toward being vulnerable–it’s the whole point of being in love.

Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC – www.thedragonflyretreat.com

# 10. Follow the 8 tips below

Amy Sherman

Why are so many women afraid of being vulnerable? Indeed, many worry that if they show who they truly are, they will be rejected. Or they fear someone will use revealing information to manipulate. Either reason will keep a woman from being her authentic self and cause her to live life closed and disconnected.

Vulnerability involves a lot of uncertainty and emotional openness. What can you do to embrace being vulnerable and still risk revealing your courageous self?

Here are some steps to take:

1. Allow others to see you as you are so you know they are loving the real you.

2. Any rejection or NO leaves you open to an eventual YES. The growth and lessons that come with this are priceless.

3. Admit your weaknesses and ask for help — Pay attention to how this feels. The support and encouragement is very empowering.

4. Understand that you may have unconscious blocks that hold you back. While “hiding behind a mask” may seem necessary to protect your well-being, it can do the opposite and close you off to being loved and giving love.

5. Think about the risk you take when you love someone and realize the other person is thinking and feeling the same thing. Together you can share your fears which offers you greater intimacy and bonding.

6. Set boundaries, and only let in those who have earned the right to know the TRUE you.

7. It’s OK to fear being judged, questioned, or rejected. Does he like me? Will he understand me? Can he be trusted? These questions are valid, but should not keep you from living, loving and laughing your way through the relationship.

8. Know that the connection you feel with your partner depends on how much you reveal about yourself. If you’re afraid about what you can say, do or think or your message is misunderstood, any meaningful connection will be lost.

Vulnerability shows strength. When you are vulnerable, others can hurt you, disappoint you, rely on you and especially love you.This may make you appear weak if you give up your strength to others, but it is really indicates the opposite. You are putting your heart out there. How courageous is that!

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

# 11. A practical way to minimize the possibility of being hurt is to risk something small by sharing something about yourself with someone new

Daniel-Beaver

To practice vulnerability, an individual needs to understand the risks involved, the downsides, and hopefully the positive payoff of being vulnerable in a personal relationship. The main reason you want to be vulnerable in a relationship is that it allows you to experience emotional and sexual intimacy. Without taking the risk of being vulnerable, intimacy will not develop. The risk of being vulnerable in a new relationship is the possibility of experiencing emotional hurt from being judged or rejected. It’s important to understand that there is no way to remove the risk factor. All you can do is to decrease the possibility of being hurt by being aware and paying attention to the behavior of a new potential partner.

The first practical way to minimize the possibility of being hurt is to risk something small by sharing something about yourself with someone new. Pay attention to their reaction to this information and how they deal with your disclosure. Are they empathetic and validating of your emotions? Or are they discounting and judgmental about how you feel? Did you feel comfortable with your experience of sharing? If your experience was a positive one, then this indicates that you might be able to risk a little more information as the relationship develops. If it’s not a positive experience then you might hold back sharing on a vulnerable level.

It is also important to pay attention to how much emotion your new partner shares with you. If they seem to only communicate superficially or seem emotionally guarded, then I would recommend treading carefully in terms of disclosing any vulnerable information about yourself.

What we are talking about here is the development of emotional trust. Without trust in a relationship it’s pretty difficult to become vulnerable. So it’s important to know what you need in order to trust a potential lover in regards to being vulnerable.

To practice vulnerability essentially means to communicate on a verbal level what your emotional experience is as it relates to the person you’re with or anything else going on in your life. The way I approach the fear of communicating in a vulnerable way in order to create an intimate relationship is this:

If you don’t take the risk of becoming emotionally vulnerable, you will never “be in love” with a partner. Emotional intimacy can’t occur without the psychological risk of vulnerability. At best, your relationship will be good friends, or roommates, but not passionate lovers over the long run.

If both individuals become vulnerable on an emotional level then they will have the payoff for being in a committed relationship. They will experience being in love with each other and not just roommates. It’s what the risk is all about- it’s the payoff.

If you take the risk of being vulnerable and your fear becomes a reality and your partner “plays on your vulnerability” in a deliberate way then this is a good indicator to move on, and to end the relationship. Someone who hurts you when you’re vulnerable is a toxic person and doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

So there isn’t much to lose by taking the risk of vulnerability. You either are going to be apart of a loving relationship or you will find out rather quickly not to waste time and move on to a new possible healthy lover.

Daniel Beaver, MS, MFT – www.danielbeaver.com

# 12. Follow the 4 tips below

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey

A large number of the US female population refuse to be described as “the little lady.” While this was somewhat of a compliment in my mother’s era, in present times it is anything but. As women, we are constantly reminded that we can do anything that men can do and although female pride can be a rewarding experience, there is still room for female vulnerability. The key to truly understanding vulnerability is to view it in terms of strength rather than weakness. I am naturally a strong woman; I have to be. As a wife and mother of four I cannot crack under pressure, otherwise I would always be broken. I offer myself as a personal example because I didn’t always see the benefit of female vulnerability because I thought of it as something predators could use against me. It’s true; predators seek prey, but if a woman dedicates her entire existence to avoiding predators, she also inherently avoids a potential “Mr. Right.”

I offer these four tips:

1. See vulnerability as a strength. It takes strength to open oneself up to the possibility of a meaningful relationship. It takes learning to trust again (even after heartache) and a willingness to be an active partner.

2. Remember your personal values. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you are willing to give up personal values, but it represents a willingness to let down one’s guard eventually. Remember, although a wall may have been put up to keep danger out, it also forces us to “stay in” and live a life of isolation.

3. Set firm boundaries. Investigate and discover who is worthy of the vulnerable you. While many women refuse to open up to anyone, some are at the other end of the spectrum and open themselves to everyone. Take your time and enjoy getting to know others.

4. Be safe and follow your gut. This goes along with setting boundaries. Be empowered enough to end (or don’t start) a relationship with someone who refuses to show respect. You cannot be vulnerable with those types of people; you can only be their doormat.

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey – www.therapysites.com/sites/personallcounseling.com

# 13. Ask yourself: does the reward outweigh the risk?

Brynn Cicippio

To be vulnerable means to share parts of yourself that aren’t obvious, like your height and eye color. To be vulnerable is to share parts of yourself that you consider special. If it wasn’t special you would easily share it with everyone. This is what makes relationships unique and valuable; you expose yourself to your partner to enhance and deepen your connection. On the other side, this is what contributes to the pain and struggle experienced when a relationship ends. So the question is, how can we allow ourselves to become vulnerable knowing that this risk exists?

The question to ask yourself is does the reward outweigh the risk? Let’s review some scenarios to put this in perspective. After dating your new suitor for six weeks, it may feel appropriate to share your long term career plan, items on your bucket list, and something that annoys you about your best friend. You and your partner have invested six weeks into this new relationship and sharing those thoughts can enhance your knowledge about your path in life, your likes and dislikes. In another scene, after being in a committed relationship for seven months, exposing your childhood fears and low points in your self-esteem would be acceptable. The reward at this point is looking to form a future together, and therefore this reward could be worth the risk.

One word of caution: don’t judge the reward based simply on the length of the relationship. You may date someone for eight months that you know you cannot date long term, or you don’t have any intention on marrying. There would be no reward in sharing deep parts of yourself, correct?

Brynn Cicippio, MA, LMFT – www.therapywithbrynn.com

# 14. Trust and support yourself

Laura-M.L.-Rinset

Being vulnerable can feel counter-intuitive if you’ve experienced any type of trauma, rejection, betrayal, or other severe backlash from being open. There is a way to practice being vulnerable that doesn’t require you to rely on the other person to feel safe.

Trust yourself

Focus on trusting yourself instead of whether you can trust other people. People’s anxiety about being vulnerable often comes from imagining how the other person might react to the information or request. You get to control what, when, and how much you share or ask for. You do not need to be at the mercy of someone’s reaction. How do you focus on trusting yourself? Honor where you’re at and only share or ask what you feel ready to share or ask for. Ask yourself: Can I share (ask) this and not feel devastated or rejected if this person doesn’t react, respond, or understand in the way that I would like? If the answer is yes, great, share (ask) away. If the answer is no, great, honor that and refrain from sharing (asking) regardless of whether you feel obligated to. Also, you may not know the answer to this question, so if you don’t know pause and wait until you feel clear.

Support yourself

To effectively work through the anxiety of being vulnerable, requires having new positive experiences to replace the traumatic memories of feeling victimized for being vulnerable. Support yourself through a potentially vulnerable exchange by sharing something significant or asking for something that feels difficult, but not so significant or difficult that you would feel devastated or hurt if the person didn’t understand, react, or respond in the way you hoped. Regardless of the person’s reactions focus on your own personal achievement: “Wow, I shared (asked) that, and I’m okay. I didn’t die and I’m so proud of myself for challenging myself to be more vulnerable.” Of course, we all prefer the experiences of feeling supported, understood and cared for, but that doesn’t always happen, so it’s important to engage in healthy self-care by making a conscious choice about being vulnerable for yourself instead of doing it out of a sense of obligation, which often leads to feeling exposed, resentful, and anxious. As challenging as it can be, being vulnerable allows you to be perceived as approachable, human, and desirable to connect with. It’s worth the risk!

Laura Rinset, MS, LMFT – www.laurarinsetlmft.com

# 15. Understand that you have a choice- heal your past relationship hurts or stagnate and stay miserable

Wendy-Whitmore

When you have been hurt and it feels like you cannot go on, and find yourself questioning your ability to love again; it is then that you must allow yourself to be vulnerable and open up to the possibility of loving again. Crazy right?! Because after a broken heart the last thing you are looking to do is be Vulnerable and Open to Love.

It is almost like learning how to fly with one wing, b/c once your heart has been broken, you often are never the same and there are times when you feel you will never be whole again. A broken heart can often leave us standing on shaky ground and feeling like we have no direction. It is at these times that we have to look within ourselves and re-discover who and what we really are and where we stand. We can allow out heartbreaks to do one of the following: Make Us Stronger and Give Way To Change, Placing Us In the Position To Receive the Type of LOVE That We DESERVE or Break Our Spirit.

When coming out of a situation that has lead to heartbreak, we often cannot see the rainbow on the other side and hold onto the anger, pain and resentment caused by our heartbreak. Often we do not want to forgive, we do not want to hold ourselves accountable for our part in the demise of the relationship and we do not want to look forward to the possibilities of a better tomorrow. We refuse To Be Vulnerable and Open Ourselves Up To the Possibility of REAL LOVE and Instead Stay Stagnate, Angry, Bitter, and Full of Resentment.

When your heart has been broken you can choose to either stand tall, move on, forgive yourself and them for the failed relationship OR stagnate and stay miserable.

Which do you choose?

Wendy Whitmore, MS, LMFT – www.truthhealingevolution.com

# 16. Follow the 5 tips

Karleen Nevery

How many times have you told your partner that some of your personal triumphs include suspicious thoughts, fears that most relationships are doomed, anticipation of rejection based on beliefs you made up about yourself, and that your strongest personality trait is that you are an incurable defeatist, proudly insecure and hopelessly miserable? I applaud you if you have, but chances are, you’ve been quietly held hostage by those plaguing thoughts, afraid to be open, afraid to be vulnerable, and it hasn‘t served you well.

Naturally you want to keep your most intimate thoughts protected and your pride intact, but at what cost? Do you really want to carry your hidden fears into this relationship and remain disconnected, or is it possible you’re tired of the façade, eager to embrace the idea of casting off the heavy armour, and enjoy being understood and loved for who you truly are.

1. Practice being honest:

After all, what is there to lose? You’ve resigned yourself to experiencing dysfunctional behaviour in your relationships through avoidance, and now it’s time to create a relationship that fosters trust, expresses real emotions, and endures a well functioning emotional commitment. Sit down, close your eyes, and imagine feeling secure in your partner’s company, as you share how you feel. Then choose a quiet moment with your partner, to express what you need from the relationship, confess your painful nagging fears, and gently meet him in a place of sincerity and authenticity.

2. Do your homework:

No one comes to the table with nothing to work on! Sharing intimate parts of your self can be challenging but the rewards are many. Your open, honest communication is likely to increase his trust in you. Embrace the opportunity to search his deepest fears and share a trusting collaborate relationship that gives permission to support one another. Once you have provided a safe space to liberate each other from your own fears, you have created a shared emotional connection, reduced the level of anxiety, and encouraged psychological closeness.

3. Set the stage:

You may be ready to share now, but have you asked your partner if he is ready to receive? When we are sharing authentically with another, it is vital that we have the other party’s commitment to hear us fully, without defending or interrupting. Choose a time for this and ask your partner if he is willing to sit with you, and to look into your eyes as you share. Ask him not to interject, and to only say, “I hear you” and to ask you if there is more you wish to share. When you feel complete and fully heard, invite your partner to allow you to hear him in the same way.

4. My partner didn’t respond:

You’ve let your guard down, but your partner didn’t reciprocate. It is very possible that your partner wants to keep her most intimate self protected too. The irony is that your partner is just as anxious as you about what how you will respond to her authentic self. Now that you have shown her your willingness to share and to ask for her support, the climate has changed in your relationship. Let her know if she wishes to practice this way of sharing with you, you will support her, you will not interrupt to blame or excuse, and you will respond only by telling her you hear her. Your frankness and bravado have created an invitation to your partner, but she may need time to participate with her own vulnerability. There is no rush for your partner to reciprocate, but let her know you are there when she is ready.

5. Seek support, comfort and assistance from your partner:

The emotional consequences of being vulnerable in a relationship are frequently complex, further increasing vulnerability. But when two people are committed to allowing each other to express their deepest feelings, a supportive, well functioning relationship will evolve. Choosing to be vulnerable is choosing to be meaningful to one another, with an expression of affection and care. So practice being down to earth, take time to empathetically tune into each other, and allow yourself permission to seek support, comfort and assistance from your partner. Being vulnerable indicates how much you truly care!

Karleen Nevery, MTC, RTC, CPA – www.karleennevery.ca

# 17. Follow the 8 tips

Monica Burton

Vulnerabilities. Such a big word with so much meaning. What does it mean to give our vulnerabilities in relationships and are we always so willing to share them after times we have been so hurt by revealing them in the past?

First we must look at relationships and come to an understanding that relationships are scary. We give of ourselves hoping to be accepted and liked. Once we start to trust we give our vulnerabilities to the other person and say, here take these and keep them safe. When we are hurt or when our trust is broken, we think twice or even three times before giving them up again.

Here are some tips to work on in feeling comfortable when getting back into the dating game:

1. Work on forgiving yourself for past hurts and letting go.

2. Look at past relationships and ask yourself “what do I need to learn about myself from that experience” instead of saying negative things about yourself.

3. Decide what you want in a relationship instead of what you don’t want.

4. Keep a journal of your emotions daily. Writing out comfortable and uncomfortable emotions is a way to practice getting comfortable with expressing them.

5. Learn how to nurture your close friendships, and understand that even in those relationships you are being vulnerable.

6. Learn about health boundaries. There is a great book call “Boundaries: Where you end and I began” by Anne Katherine. This is an excellent book to read and understand boundaries.

7. Learn how to listen to your gut.

8. Speak UP! Your voice is a powerful tool that will show your partners how you see the world and what you are, and are not ok with. If your partner can’t respect your opinion then maybe it’s time to consider a different partner.

These are just a few ideas. Good luck to you.

Monica Burton, MS LMFT – www.monicaburtonlmft.com

# 18. Do your “due diligence”

Sally Leboy

I don’t think it’s possible to be both vulnerable and safe. Vulnerability by definition occurs when you are placed or place yourself in a position where you might have something important to lose. Why would anyone do this?

Let’s look for a moment at vulnerability in a business sense. Successful business people take risks. If we assume that our businesswoman is smart, there must be a very good reason for her to take a financial risk. After weighing it out, she has probably decided that what she stands to gain is worth the risk of what she could lose.

Now lets look at vulnerability and love. Vulnerability in a romantic relationship usually equals some degree of self-exposure and possible loss. The more open you are, the more potential for pain if the relationship doesn’t work out. The businesswoman is probably risking money. Not to minimize financial loss, but’s that’s not the same as the emotional pain that comes from rejection, especially from someone you’ve trusted and felt connected to. That really hurts. It’s just a whole lot more personal when your emotions are at stake.

Let’s go back to the businesswoman. She’s smart. She knows that in any business endeavor there’s a risk that something will go wrong. To mitigate the risk she does what’s known as “due diligence”. That is she investigates all aspects of the transaction. She doesn’t just trust that it will work out. She can’t know everything, but what she can know, she does know. She protects her investment as much as possible, by doing her homework. Does this guarantee success? No, because there really aren’t any guarantees. But she knows that risk is always a part of success. She can’t move ahead if she just plays it safe. If her venture fails, she will be disappointed of course, but she can take satisfaction in knowing that she did all that she could do. She will probably also have learned something to take forward into her next venture.

Relationships require a different kind of due diligence. Anyone you decide to open up to needs to meet certain criteria. You can’t know if they do until you’ve known the person long enough to be able to make a reasonably accurate assessment of his character (at least 6 months-sorry). Then you have to look at this person as he is, not how you want him to be, or hope that he will become. Does he operate with integrity? Is he respectful? Has he behaved in a way that says to you that he is interested in a relationship with you?

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable without due diligence is a risky proposition. Like the businesswoman, there is no guarantee of success. But if you keep your eyes wide open and your brain engaged, you can minimize your risk. If you’re never vulnerable, you’ll never have the big payoff. Safe but lonely isn’t a great way to live.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

# 19. First discover what your attachment style is and then decide who is safe as your co-star

Ana Loiselle

The reality is that we’ve all felt fearful and hesitant to open up our hearts in relationship.

It is extremely risky business to open up and be vulnerable with another person. We cannot control whether they stay or leave, and the future becomes uncertain. It is scary stuff— but it’s part of our human experience.
So, take a deep breath and relax. Fear is a natural reaction when vulnerability and uncertainty are present. Nonetheless by understanding something called Attachment Style you’ll be better able to understand who to allow yourself to be vulnerable with.

Attachment theory is an area of psychology that describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans. Despite what some self-help or dating advice would lead you to believe, developing emotional attachments with other people is HEALTHY.

Do not apologize for your needs. Contrary again to popular dating books, there is nothing bad or wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve and saying: ‘I need someone who’s there for me and who I can I rely on.’ The response will speak volumes about your potential partner’s capacity to address your needs now and in the future.

The fearful or vulnerable feeling will likely be present at the beginning of any relationship, but we can do our hearts a big favor and audition the characters that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with. First discover what your attachment style is and then decide who is safe as your co-star.

Ana Loiselle, Relationship Coach – www.analoiselle.com

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