What Makes Us So Afraid of Being Vulnerable?
Maybe you want to feel closer to other people. Maybe you also want to be authentic and bold and honest and embrace your truest self. And yet, something stops you from feeling safe. Something causes you to hold back, withdraw, lie, and restrain yourself.
What causes people to be afraid of being vulnerable? And if you recognize that you’re struggling, how can you work through this fear? Let’s get into it.
Why Vulnerability Matters
True emotional connection requires honesty and trust. These elements entail a sense of vulnerability- you must be willing to show yourself to receive the benefits of intimacy.
Vulnerability can, therefore, lead to better relationships. The more you can be open and honest about your feelings, the more others can understand you. Similarly, if you’re comfortable with being vulnerable, you may be more likely to be accepting when others are vulnerable.
Vulnerability can inadvertently help you feel more confident. Being able to stand in moments in fear- to be courageous, even when everything is telling you to hide, creates a sense of resilience. It allows you to tackle life’s numerous obstacles more readily.
What Stunts Vulnerability?
We aren’t born afraid of vulnerability. Just look at an infant child- they cry every time they need something, no matter how exhausted their caregiver feels! Children depend on exhibiting vulnerability to survive!
But, over time, we develop this fear through various life experiences. The more we are taught that vulnerability is dangerous or wrong, the less likely we are to embrace it.
Any traumatic event can impact how safe you feel with others. Trauma inherently makes the world feel somewhat (or very) dangerous- it’s hard to trust that you can be yourself if you’ve been hurt.
This fear may become even more pronounced if someone you love caused your trauma. When this happens, it’s common for survivors to believe they were “too trusting” or that you were somehow responsible for what happened to them. As a result, you may tell yourself that you’re “putting up walls” and “guarding your heart” next time.
Fear of Rejection
Severe rejection can sometimes feel traumatic, but even smaller episodes of rejection may trigger a fear of vulnerability. If you took a leap of faith- and others laughed or shamed you- you might assume you were naive.
When some people suffer from adverse consequences, they shrug it off and focus their efforts elsewhere. Others will blame others or the environment. But in some cases, people blame themselves and feel angry that they tried something bold in the first place.
Vulnerability isn’t universally embraced. Whether we like it or not, some cultures are more accepting of emotional expression than others.
Moreover, caregivers are the first role models of vulnerability. Therefore, how your parents identified, expressed, and worked through various feelings may be a telling indicator when exploring your own patterns.
If you grew up believing that vulnerability was bad or wrong, if people expected you to be tough or brave at all costs, if you felt that emotions were a sign of weakness- it should be no surprise that vulnerability is challenging!
How Do You Overcome Being Afraid of Being Vulnerable?
Healing from vulnerability fears takes time and effort. This work can be challenging, especially if you’ve never done it. That said, learning how to be vulnerable (and allow others to be vulnerable) can be undoubtedly rewarding.
Start With Self-Compassion
You are not broken because vulnerability is challenging. You’re a human. Your fear comes from a place of self-defense, and that means your mind and body are looking out for you!
Instead of beating on yourself, try being kinder. Recognize when you’re feeling anxious. Sit with moments of sadness. If shame creeps in, focus on how you can continue validating yourself.
Embrace Vulnerability In Other People
Try to find role models in people who can embrace who they are. Look for those who know their flaws- and speak on them openly.
Likewise, tune in to your loved ones when they share important details with you. Practice active listening and aim to reduce or stop judging people for their experiences. The more you can sit with others as they reveal themselves, the more familiar you will become with different emotions.
Find Safe People
The journey of vulnerability often consists of thousands of baby steps. One of those first steps includes finding even one person where you can start being a little more honest.
That doesn’t mean you have to delve into your life story immediately. Trust can take time, and it’s okay to feel a bit wary. But, engaging in self-disclosure becomes easier the more you do it. Just make sure you practice with people who can validate, support, and encourage you.
If you’re afraid of being vulnerable, therapy can offer tremendous relief and proactive solutions for change. Your therapist can help you explore your vulnerability triggers. Together, you can identify safe steps for making progress with yourself and others.
At Willow Counseling, we understand how vulnerability fears can affect your quality of life. We’re here to support you unconditionally. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.