Updated: Sep 25, 2018
Why being our most authentic selves is terrifying.
When was the last time you put yourself out there? Showed others your imperfect, messy self? Opened yourself up for criticism and feedback? I feel my heart rate kick up a little bit just thinking about it.
I'm pretty familiar with the practice of vulnerability. Like many others, I got hooked on Brene Brown's work several years ago. Her writing on shame and vulnerability prove to be foundational to my work as a therapist and as a human. The more we stay quiet the more shame we have. The more vulnerable we are the more our shame starts to quiet. But is it this simple?
Well, not exactly. You see, our shame is pretty protective. Its' visceral response in the body reminds us of all the times we've felt humiliated before. The body screams "Please don't take me back there! That sucked! Just stay quiet and we can forget this whole thing ever happened". The body is so convincing, and thank goodness for that! It's designed to keep us out of trouble. So, being vulnerable is much more complicated than simply being open or stating your truth. Vulnerability is a trauma treatment.
The first step towards successful trauma treatment you ask? Safety. We cannot be vulnerable until we feel safe. The mind and body simply won't allow it. You might be sitting behind that screen thinking, "But I don't feel safe with anyone" and that's okay. It doesn't make you flawed, it makes you human. You're job? Find a therapist who does make you feel safe. Therapy is founded on vulnerability! But if you don't feel safe in therapy, you won't be able to be vulnerable not matter how much you want to walk in the steps of Brene.
You'd be surprised what kind of authenticity you can tap into in a safe environment. Everyone deserves to know their truest self and everyone deserves basic safety.