Ever had an epiphany so brilliant that you gave yourself goosebumps? Or an experience so magical that no description could ever do it justice? What about a dream so vulnerable that you’d never dare share it with the world? Or a spontaneous insight so well articulated that it almost seemed to channel through you?
I’ve experienced all of these things, but I’ve spent a lifetime subconsciously pretending that they aren’t real and that they don’t matter.
Why? Because I want what pretty much every other person wants: to feel a sense of love and belonging in the world. And I fear that revealing these deeper experiences, ideas, and dreams will make people think I’m naive, at best, if not downright crazy. I fear being misunderstood. I fear being ridiculed. So I keep it to myself. Most of us do.
Why are we so afraid to speak the truth about our experiences? Why does it feel so dangerous and vulnerable to ‘go deep’ in conversations and share from our hearts? What are we missing out on when we don’t share our deepest visions, most radical ideas, and most sacred experiences with one another? How might our lives – and the world – be different if we did?
What I’m finding is that fear and shame are often the main blocks on the path toward this deeper level of connection. I fear the innate vulnerability of speaking my truth without filters, qualifiers, or escape routes. Yet what I’ve found when I do go deep with people is that they are hungry to go there with me.
Once we get past the inevitable nervous laughter and dismissive language, we usually find ourselves connecting on a level that drops below the surface in some incredibly healing ways. And the friendship and camaraderie that come out of these interactions always feel stronger than what I experience with folks when we keep our conversations at the surface level.
Chances are you’ve tried sharing with people on this deeper level. Maybe you’ve found one or two close friends who can meet you there. Perhaps you’re even fortunate enough to explore these areas with a partner or family member.
Or, maybe you feel totally alone. Maybe you have no one to talk to about what matters most. Perhaps you long to be met in this way by someone. Or maybe you’ve never even considered the possibility..
Wherever you are, consider that you may have barely scratched the surface of a vast inner pool of wisdom – of visions, ideas, and dreams – that exist within you. Consider that you are not a machine made of flesh and bones, but a living and ever-evolving human organism made up of trillions of cells, co-conspiring to be you in this moment.
So why is it so scary to believe that we are born worthy of love and belonging and that our stories and dreams matter more than we can even imagine? As Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.”
Practicing Healthy Vulnerability
Sit for a minute and consider what experiences, ideas, and dreams you have hidden, for fear of being called idealistic, foolish, or crazy. Pick one that you wish you could share with someone. One that feels deeply true to you, but that you’re concerned that no one else would understand or believe.
Now, if it feels right to you, consider sharing it. You might start by writing it down in a journal. Then, perhaps, try sharing it with a trusted loved one. Be sure you share it at a time when both of you can be present and undistracted. Allow yourself to stay present and stick with it, even through all of the nervousness and vulnerability. Don’t let your fears stop you! Be sure not to try to convince the other person of anything – just share for the sake of sharing.
Once you’ve spoken, invite them to meet you in that deeper place by holding the silence and/or asking them a question like, “is there anything you ever wished you could share, but thought no one else would understand?” Don’t demand that they share their darkest secrets! And don’t be attached to the outcome; they might not be ready yet. It may still feel too vulnerable or unusual for them to meet you in that way.
No worries. Healthy vulnerability is like a muscle; the more we practice using it, the stronger and more flexible we become. And the more comfortable we become with our vulnerability, the less power our fears have over us.
How would your life be different if you allowed yourself to truly be seen?
With fierce loving compassion,