It always amazes me when people share themselves so willingly- not just their thoughts about a subject, or their ideas, but what is happening in their personal lives and how it is really affecting them. I have quite a bad weakness of hardly ever doing this. It’s too hard, and frankly, I wonder if it is really anyone’s business. But it is healing.
It is healing, not just for the person sharing it, but also for the listener. I am more comfortable being the listener in such situations. But I find myself being changed when someone is sharing some dark, scary detail of their inner life, because they have the courage to put it out there, and it makes me so proud of them, and it gives me the courage to do more of that, too.
We need people. I often forget that. I am quite comfortable being alone much of the time. Especially when hard times are hitting, my natural impulse is to curl up in bed by myself. I think part of this impulse comes from my very wrong idea that showing “negative” emotions like sadness, depression, anxiety, or anger is a sign of weakness. I’ve always felt that I should just quietly “get over” whatever my problem is and move on about my day; there is no sense is burdening anyone with my problems when everyone has enough of their own.
I have slowly come to realize, with time and support from my husband and friends, that this is not true. Vulnerability and asking for help is not a weakness, but a strength. Brené Brown has devoted her life to researching vulnerability and shame, and her book The Gifts of Imperfection has been extremely influential in my life. America is not a shame culture, so it’s easy to believe that I am not acting out of shame when I hide myself and my problems from people. I’ve always thought that my problems just weren’t anyone else’s business, and I didn’t want to bother or burden them by asking for help. Instead, I kept them to myself or (even worse) tried not to think about them. But Brown says, “There’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing…when we numb the dark, we numb the light” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p 72-73).
This small phrase has become more and more self-evident the more I share myself completely with people. I find that when I share the “negative” emotions, I exorcise them a bit, and that creates space for healing, light, and love that the other person is trying to share with me. In order to receive that positive, I have to expel the negative. But boy, is it hard.
I really want to learn how to accept and feel the “negative” emotions in my life, but to also begin to share them with people whom I trust and cherish. This morning I was talking with a friend and she used the phrase “become comfortable being uncomfortable.” I really liked that idea- I want to become comfortable with the uncomfortableness of sharing my fears and anxieties, when I’m feeling a little blue, or when someone has hurt my feelings. I want to learn who I am, and I am really beginning to see that in order to do that, I have to recognize not only what I am feeling, but share those feelings with people. I need to make myself vulnerable in order to grow personally, and to deepen my existing relationships.
I’m going to need to work really hard on not letting my pride get in the way of my vulnerability. My wish is that I grow softer, kinder, and warmer as I share myself with others.