When Vulnerability Backfires: How to Move on With Grace and Courage
If you have any type of intimate relationship (intimate meaning close and revealing), at some point you are going to feel violated. When you expose yourself emotionally to someone, raw and wide-open, you risk being hurt. So what do you do when you've made yourself vulnerable to someone or something, only to have it backfire?
They don’t call them “growing pains” for nothing.
Pain is not bad; it is useful and necessary. It warns us to protect ourselves and tells us that we may need to change the way we do things. When an athlete sprains his ankle, part of his treatment is exercise. He protects the ankle but also works it – stretching and strengthening. If he didn’t, it would get stiff and sore, taking much longer to heal.
Emotional pain is the same way. If after heartbreak you make withdrawing to protect your feelings a common habit, after a while you will find it is harder to not only experience emotion, but to express it as well.
Pain is sometimes a part of growth, and growth is an important part of being. Figuring out how to learn from your experience without building walls will help you in future relationships.
The peace of moving forward and rising above a painful experience.
So, back to the question. What do you do when vulnerability backfires?
Three words: You. Move. On.
To put up walls means clinging to that pain and staying stuck in the past. That isn’t healthy and it will keep you stunted emotionally and spiritually. Only by rising above the painful experience and moving forward will you be able to find peace. Leave the past where it belongs. You can learn from it, but don’t carry it with you.
How to let down those walls after you've been hurt.
Vulnerability does not mean indiscriminately exposing all of your personal information. Social media is rife with people spewing intimate details that should be reserved for certain people in their lives. That isn’t being vulnerable; that’s attention seeking at best – at worst it’s a desperate cry for help that usually comes from someone who is incapable of exposing themselves in real life.
Expose yourself to people who have earned the right to receive it. These are people who have been there for you, who love you, who know you. Be selective and treat your vulnerability like the precious, invaluable gift that it is.
If you have unmet needs work on understanding what those needs are, and how to have them filled. If it requires revealing those unmet needs to someone else then don't be afraid to do so.
Don’t go public while the wounds are still fresh. Give yourself a chance to heal. Talk with someone close, journal about it, work through it until you know that you have your feet firmly planted.
Everyone gets hurt at some time in their life.
Emotional pain happens to everyone and is impossible to prevent no matter how hard you try. If you are engaged with people in any way, someone is going to hurt you. However, if you isolate yourself from people completely, at some point, the pain of isolation will creep in. Not allowing yourself to be vulnerable is like walking through a flower garden while wearing dark glasses. You can see the flowers, but you can’t enjoy their rich, vibrant colors. Vulnerability opens you up to the richness and vibrancy of life and relationships that you’re missing when you don’t let people in.
Make peace with the past, learn from the hurt, and own the beautiful empowerment of vulnerability.