I could give you a quick list of how to have more authentic and meaningful encounters with people. I could tell you how to fix a problem all day long, but at the end of the day, we want to know the why. In my professional opinion, knowing the why is more productive than knowing the how.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are in recovery for something (that’s kind of my niche, hope you’re not in the wrong place). Part of the recovery process that is essential but rarely discussed is the vulnerability factor. Most addicts or people in recovery have spent their lives avoiding vulnerability. Even if you’re not an addict or in recovery, ask yourself. How often have you avoided people with the masks you wear to avoid being vulnerable? I know I avoided vulnerability until I was so desperate for connection that I had nowhere else to turn. Here, I tell you the top 5 reasons we avoid vulnerability and how to change it.
We choose not to be vulnerable because we choose not to connect. If there’s anything I learned in recovery, it’s this: you cannot have legitimate human connection without vulnerability. I get it. I’m guilty myself. We live in a fast-paced world where no one connects…at least not in person anymore.
Technology has taken place of the human connection. It’s easy to tune out people and surroundings with that device in hand. Lines at stores, and waiting rooms are just holding areas where people ignore each other while staring into devices. We’re lonely because we are slaves to technology and no longer connect with others in person. There’s something genuinely authentic about a face to face conversation with others, it’s something that can’t be found on social media or in a text message.
We’re online searching for distraction or connection because are lonely, in a room full of people!
We choose to filter ourselves, and only show our best features to the world. Let’s face it. Most of us are fake. What the average person presents to the world on social media, and in public is not authentic. I’m guilty too. We filter our faces, we photo shop our family snapshots, and we only broadcast the very best family or personal news don’t we? It’s become part of our culture to filter our lives and present only the very best of ourselves, even if it’s an exaggerated truth or exaggerated beauty.
We filter because we struggle with comparison. What would happen if we actually admitted to ourselves and others that we spend a majority of our day comparing ourselves to others? It wasn’t so out of control until social media hit. Now we’re faced with reading the highlights and fake family news reels about the hundreds or thousands of people in our network. Yikes! It’s completely natural to compare when surrounded by others presenting their best selves, but what can we do about it?
Here’s a little bit of back story on my experience with being my authentic self. I made some very poor decisions in the first half of my marriage. When my marriage imploded and we were separated, I found myself in a recovery room full of women who struggled with love and relationship addiction (an extreme form of co-dependence). We went around the room, each having a few minutes to share about our addiction and our week in recovery. My vulnerability fear had me in an internal battle with myself.
I was trembling, shaking at the thought of revealing myself as an addict. I had never even admitted this to myself, let alone reveal it to strangers. My heart was racing, my thoughts were panicked, and my mind was somewhere far away. Before I knew it, it was my time to speak. “My name is Rachel. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, who struggles with love and relationship addiction.” There. I said it. The words fell out of my mouth and there was no turning back. The truth was spoken.What happened next was a mixture of emotional flurries and confusing sobs.
I spent the next 5 minutes confessing everything I had done wrong in my marriage that led it to a place of separation. My words fell out like glass shattering on the floor. I thought about what this moment would look like before I had gone to recovery. I imagined that I would confess my adulterous, inappropriate, and sinful behavior. I imagined being met with judgment. I imagined the world would come to a screeching halt, and that everyone on it would fly off simultaneously at the shock and awe of my addictive behavior. I imagined the earth would open up and swallow me whole, sending me to the fiery inferno I thought I deserved.
My addictive behavior kept me isolated from others for many years, mostly because I was afraid, I lived in fear of being “found out.”
Vulnerability connects the human soul to others which can be a scary thing. So there I was, in that recovery room, confessing the deepest, darkest secrets of my part of the failing relationship. The world didn’t stop spinning. The earth didn’t swallow me whole. What happened next sent Holy Spirit goosebumps all down my body.
Are you ready for it? There I was, in a church, and no one judged me. No one gasped in shock and awe of what I had done to ruin my marriage. No one condemned me. Instead, I was met with hugs, love, and support. They loved me just as I was. They loved the broken, messy, sinful woman I was. Instead of giving me a scarlet letter to wear, they told me I was loved. Some of them even said “me too,” and they became the very best friends I have ever had. I was met in my vulnerability by other addicts that had decided to be vulnerable themselves.
The “me too” moments connect the souls. They connect souls through the very concept of vulnerability and shame.
Vulnerability is not weakness, it is a sign of strength, and society has it backwards. As a recovery advocate, mental health provider, and a soldier in the U.S. Army, there’s a constant battle in my head and life. I’ve been trained to execute tasks flawlessly. Weakness costs lives in one aspect of my life. In the other aspect of my life though, in our weakness we are made strong. I realized after I completed my first step study and gave my fist testimony in front of a crowd, that recovery was going to become a part of my life, a part of my purpose and passion.
I began a journey as a freelance writer and blogger shortly thereafter, telling my story in front of thousands of readers at times. Vulnerability – exposing my journey and self with all my faults and failures – gives me panic attacks at times. The minute after I click on the submit or send button my nerves go haywire. Crap. I’m completely exposed. I’m broadcasting my issues for the world to see. What will my mother think of this? Why am I doing this? I’m crazy. That’s it. I’m crazy because no one does this. It takes balls to put your junk out there for the world to read, in hopes that maybe, just maybe it will reach the one who needs to experience it the most.
Vulnerability is the weakest moment a human can experience, yet through it; we are forged by the fire.
Finally, we avoid vulnerability because we convince ourselves our story doesn’t matter. We convince ourselves the world doesn’t need us. That lie couldn’t be further from the truth.
Truth is, the world needs the messy, fallen, broken you. The world needs to know that it’s ok to fall down, without falling we cannot rise to greatness. The world is full of fallen, ill, sinners like me and we need others to show us that we are going to be ok. We need to share our stories with each other with a sense of vulnerability. We get stronger when we are vulnerable but we cannot do it alone. In the recovery world, accountability partners and sponsors save lives by making themselves vulnerable to the people they are in recovery with. This can mean the difference in life and death choices for some people.
What would happen if you made yourself vulnerable just once? Instead of showing the world how stunning you are, turn off the filter. See what happens. What happens is people get real and some may be judgmental, but to that one person who says “me, too”…well, you’ve made the world a better place to them. They breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’re not alone in their struggle, whatever it may be.
So there you have it. The reasons you need to be vulnerable have been laid out for you. What will you choose to do with the gift of vulnerability? Will you change lives or will you continue to avoid vulnerability because of shame and anxiety? Being vulnerable is optional, and the vulnerable road is full of difficulties, but trust me my friends, when I say it is worth it.
Ultimately those who choose vulnerability choose love, and the world needs more of that.
Stay sober my friends!
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