When you talk to someone, it’s easy to keep it on the surface, to say you are “fine” and not reveal what is really going on. If that is a healthy, relatively safe person in front of you, why do you still find it hard to share what’s on the inside? Well as we’ve talked about before, you learned early on that the moment is not safe, and being vulnerable is even worse. You thus learned to self-protect, to avoid rejection, conflict, or any more minimizing of your experience. Even if your family was loving, they still could have resorted to passive-aggressive behavior and guilt to ensure compliance, and those two things along would keep anyone from sharing their vulnerable truth.
So how do you work toward becoming more transparent and therefore more authentic? You can actually find little ways to be more transparent in the moment, whenever you think of it and whenever you can. This is a process that takes time and practice, but is so worth it. I also like the idea that you can do it when you can. All those moments you try it, add up and build that vulnerability muscle – and your confidence – to do more and better next time. Here are a few things to consider:
First, take a look at how you usually interact with those close to you. What do you usually say? Is it on the surface talking about “that, them or it” or do you use I statements? Do you listen well and respond with empathy? Don’t fall down the rabbit hole here and shame yourself. Just notice with a neutral mindset, realizing with compassion why you might struggle. You and a lot of people and for good reason! Some examples of not being vulnerable are”
“I can’t believe what he did.”
“(This) happened, then (that) happened…”
“Are you going with me today?”
Second, take time on the inside to formulate what you would say if you were braver. What would you share with them? Why? What would it feel like to be able to offload some joy, some sadness, fear, or embarrassment you’ve been sitting on? Then formulate some sentences that seem not-so-terrifying to say, knowing that you will get braver with experience. Here are few examples of what I mean:
“I’m really upset that he did that. Makes me afraid for his future.” (here you reveal what is going on underneath your statement about what he did.)
“When all of that happened, I realized I was mad at myself for allowing it” (Here admitting the embarrassment and maybe the shame you couldn’t set boundaries for yourself. Taking ownership and not playing victim.)
“I’d really like it if you could join me today so we can spend some time together. (Here, revealing and risking rejection by sharing what you really wish for. Later you can get even bolder and say “I miss you!”)
Hopefully this gives you a sense of what I call Going a Layer Deeper as appropriate to the conversation and the relationship. Even if you just spend the next three weeks becoming more aware of not only how you talk but what you are feeling in those moments, you will move yourself forward in life changing ways, because connection is a need, it’s the way we heal and feel alive, and it’s how we show love to those we care about.
So wherever you are on this journey, keep going. All the practice will pay off!