Showing vulnerability

I noticed this pattern in myself a few years ago:

I'll say something in email, or in a public post, that exposes more of my personal feelings than I'm really comfortable exposing. I'm okay with it at the time—it feels like stretching, like opening a personal connection, like being open and honest—but as soon as I send or post it, I get scared, because I've left myself vulnerable. Someone who sees what I wrote might react badly. They might criticize or mock me. They might reject me. They might not like me anymore! (I am, as I've noted before, a delicate flower.)

But I think my gut feeling of vulnerability in this context isn't really about any specific thing that I'm scared might happen; it's more a general fear that I've left myself exposed. That someone will know something about me that I usually keep hidden. It's opening up my heart and letting you see it. It's showing you a part of who I am. It's going too far, showing too much, overextending. Why is any of that a bad thing? you might ask. I'm not sure. I know intellectually that a lot of personal connection, and a lot of good writing, comes from a place of exposing one's self. But it's scary.

The actual responses I receive almost never turn out to be bad. (They're sometimes not the outcome that I hoped for, but they're almost never harsh or attacking.) But the fear persists. And because of that fear, after I've made myself more vulnerable than I'm comfortable with, I tend to shut down, to withdraw. Sometimes that means it takes me a while to read people's responses. Sometimes it means I'm tense until people respond, and even tenser after I see that they've responded. Sometimes it means I hold back for a while from saying anything that leaves me that exposed again.

I've been thinking for a long time now about writing various blog entries about various things that feel personal or that would leave me feeling vulnerable. Some of them I've even written but haven't posted. I'm hoping to finish and post some of them in the next few weeks, but I'm not gonna promise anything.

But I figured it might be worth starting with this post as a sort of prologue. And yes, talking about my reactions to feeling vulnerable is indeed something that will leave me feeling vulnerable. So if I don't read or respond to comments on this post, you'll know why.

One Response to “Showing vulnerability”

  1. wild-irises

    I think this is a very brave and honest post. I look forward to whatever else you choose to post as follow-up.


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