For when vulnerability kicks your ass
So you tried to be vulnerable in some way, whether it was telling someone how you felt, or asking for what you wanted or needed, or sharing about yourself in a way that felt like “too much,” or otherwise extending an invitation to someone to join you in being a little more human together. And for whatever reason, in some way, it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. And maybe right now, you feel some combination of disappointed, sad, hurt, invalidated, anxious, hopeless, worthless, angry, frustrated, and/or other feelings you didn't sign up for.
Those feelings will most likely dissipate, but it might take some time. In the meantime, your brain may want you to believe that the part of yourself that you showed this person was wrong or bad or unlovable in some way. Your brain may try to get you to believe that you shouldn’t open yourself up again any time soon. Or, maybe your brain is begging you to open yourself up to everyone you can possibly find to prove to yourself that you really are okay and valid and lovable. But here’s the obvious secret that a part of you already knows: all humans are valid and worthy of love. Other flawed humans can obstruct the view of that truth, but the truth remains whether you can see it or not. For every person who says, “No thanks,” to your invitations to get a little closer (in whatever form those invitations take), there are hundreds of other people who would RSVP, “Yes! Thank you so much for asking! I’ve been waiting for this for so long!” Just because one person or several people or even hundreds of people say, “No thanks,” please don’t shut yourself off from all the people who would say, “Finally! Thank goodness! Yes!”
Maybe you don’t believe me on that. Maybe you’re skeptical that there is anyone who can understand you, or anyone who could care about what you have to say, or anyone who would be able to handle your vulnerability, or anyone who wants what you want, especially if it hasn’t happened for you in a long time, maybe ever. But I can tell you that I’ve volunteered at a suicide hotline for two years, and I’ve spoken to hundreds of people, both suicidal and not. I hear a huge variety of personal stories, but the one commonality is that most of my callers think that they’re alone in their experience. They don’t think that others will understand whatever they’re going through. They don’t think that other people will love or even like them the way they are right now. They don’t realize that a minute after I hang up with them, I’ll pick up the phone and talk to another person who also wants more badly than anything to be accepted for who they are right now, in the midst of their personal chaos, fully conscious of how imperfect they are. But everyone is imperfect, and everyone wants to be loved, and a lot of people are terrified that those two things are incompatible. As someone who’s seen the slow but steady personal development of dozens of regular callers at the suicide hotline, I can promise you: you are allowed both imperfection and love. Yes, even *your* imperfections. You may have to find different people than the ones who are currently in your life, or you may have to re-prioritize the people already in your life, but I promise you that people exist who would accept and care about you exactly the way you are right now.
So take some time to nurse your wounds. Try your best to remember that you are inherently worthy of love, and that nobody’s opinion changes that (and it's okay if you forget sometimes, too). And when the time comes to be vulnerable again, however long that takes, I hope you can take a moment to acknowledge yourself for trying again despite everything you've been through. Because if I've learned one thing from talking to hundreds of people in their most vulnerable moments, it's that humans are built for trying again.
I’m rooting for you,