Vulnerability And The Missing Piece Of The Connection Puzzle

Vulnerability And The Missing Piece Of The Connection Puzzle

This is one of those TED Talks that everyone should watch. Brene Brown hits the nail on the head when she says we’re all here for connection. Connection is what gives us purpose and meaning. Brown also gets it right when she says that in order to experience true connection, we need to be able to be vulnerable.

However, when she says the only difference between those who experience connection and those who don’t, is that those who do believe they are worthy of it, she is missing a key piece of the connection puzzle.

In addition to feeling a sense of worthiness, those who experience connection also have a positive view of other people. They believe that, overall, people are good, kind, and accepting. They feel a sense of safety among their peers. They don’t approach people with the expectation of being betrayed and hurt. They know that people are imperfect and make hurtful mistakes. They also know that deep down, people are good and don’t want to hurt them.

Those who struggle with connection often expect that people will judge them and reject them. People with this view don’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable. No matter how worthy people feel, unless they believe that others will meet them with kindness, they won’t risk being vulnerable.

If you struggle to be vulnerable and authentic, you probably have good reason to be protecting yourself. You’ve probably felt rejected, embarrassed, or otherwise hurt. Now, you hide who you are and how you feel because you don’t want to expose yourself to people and get hurt again.

The problem is that you may be protecting yourself from people who won’t hurt you. These people may actually accept you, love you, and ultimately help you heal. The pain of the rejection you’ve experienced in the past may have felt like the deepest wound possible to receive. But the pain you will live in if you feel disconnected from people is far worse; the pain of the disconnect leads to deeper and deeper depression.

I’m lucky to be a therapist because my job has taught me, among many things, that most people are indeed kind-hearted and good. They make mistakes and they hurt people, but they feel really bad about it; sometimes they are even plagued by it. Most people would rather not hurt people. Usually, hurtful behavior is due to a lack of knowledge of how to avoid hurting people, rather than malicious intent or even carelessness. Also, most people want to connect with people. Like you, they’re just terrified of being rejected.

In order to have deeper connections with people, you will have to work on changing negative core beliefs about yourself. We need to feel a sense of worthiness in order to experience vulnerability and connection, as Brene Brown explains in the TED Talk above.

In addition, you will have to work on your negative core beliefs about other people. Try the following tips for being vulnerable and connecting with people:

  1. Make a choice. Start by choosing a person you want to risk being vulnerable with. This can be someone you know well; someone you recently met; or you can start with your therapist.
  2. Take it slow. Try being honest about something you’re afraid of being judged for. Perhaps it’s something you do; something you feel; or something you believe in.
  3. Know what you need. Let this person know how hard it is for you to share it with them. Ask them for what you need in order to feel more comfortable. Perhaps you need this person to hold your hand, or to tell you they accept you.
  4. Accept love and kindness. When you are met with acceptance and kindness, make sure you actively choose to believe the person. When people have been rejected in the past, sometimes it’s hard to see (and believe) that they are being accepted in the present. Fear causes thoughts to spin in our minds, and we can convince ourselves that the person wasn’t being honest when he or she received us with kindness. Part of the process of loving others and being loved in return involves seeing and trusting the love being offered.
  5. Reflect on the experience. Don’t let it just come and go. Make it as meaningful as you’ve made all of the hurtful experiences you’ve had in the past. Then, open yourself up to more! In time, you will see that plenty of people will love you and accept you, warts and all.

Everyone is capable of experiencing true connections. It takes time, healing, and learning new skills. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your perseverance!

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