Article by Nathan Chai
In the success and personal development sphere, there is an overwhelming sense that being positive is crucial to reaching your goals and making your dreams come true. Unfortunately, this has created a swarm of positivity zombies who will never relinquish that smile, no matter what. They maintain that everything is “great” or “fantastic” to others in an attempt to make themselves believe it to be true.
But it’s inhuman to never feel scared, insecure, or anxious. These are essential parts of our being, and we need to express them or risk our sanity. For me, a huge part of improving myself has been discovering that my loved ones will still accept me when I share my emotions with them.
Being able to share these emotions and thoughts is known as “emotional vulnerability,” and I’m going tell you all the ways being emotionally vulnerable has skyrocketed my abilities and overall performance.
What Is Emotional Vulnerability?
I was at a party recently, talking about my blog, and I found a large number of people (mostly men) had no idea what emotional vulnerability actually meant. They, like me, had heard of the term, but were slightly hazy on the definition.
At its core, emotional vulnerability means sharing parts of yourself that could potentially destroy your sense of self. For example, I have a terrible, dread-inducing, seriously-I-can’t-handle-this level of anxiety whenever I begin thinking about not being able to talk to anyone for a day. The very thought sends shivers down my spine, so it’s uncomfortable to even bring up the subject of loneliness. Similarly, it’s important to my ego that I’m perceived as a confident, strong person, so showing others anything that’s contrary to that feels like I’m destroying that image and my sense of self.
To be emotionally vulnerable is to bare the parts of yourself that are most susceptible to attack.
Emotional vulnerability gives you the strength to figure out exactly who you are. But first, you need to remove the ideas of “good” and “bad” from your mind. You don’t have “good” traits or “bad” traits; you just have traits. It’s all about how you frame them: “stubbornness” can be framed as “tenacity”; “cynical” can be framed as “realistic”; and “optimistic” can be framed as “dreamer.”
Just as the strengths you possess can be seen as weaknesses, so too can your “weaknesses” be strengths. Part of my journey to increase my emotional vulnerability has been discovering more traits about myself and understanding how they relate to the outer world. Let’s go back to the example I gave of being terrified of not talking to anyone for just one day. To frame it as a weakness would be to label it as “needy” or “insecure.” Conversely, a more positive spin on it would be “outgoing” or “extraverted.”
First, identify the things that make you nervous, or that you’re scared of, or that you’re insecure about, and then look at them from an objective perspective. Doing so will give you strength; it will give you the understanding that things you presumed made you weak can actually can be viewed as positive qualities.
It’s also easier to come up with solutions for problems that are removed from ourselves. That’s why we feel that we can offer sound advice to our friends, because we can look at their situations objectively. By learning how to view your fears and insecurities objectively, you gain the upper hand in figuring out how to deal with them.
How Emotional Vulnerability Helps You
Once you’ve identified your vulnerabilities and shared them with your loved ones, you’ll become less scared that people will be able to see through you. One of the things that really held me back was the feeling that one day, everyone would wake up and magically be able to see that I’m not a supremely confident business genius and adult man. Instead, they would see an insecure, inept little boy.
This feeling was produced almost entirely because I had things to hide. My inner world and outer world were out of sync with one another. My outer version of myself (the confident business genius) was fighting with my inner version (insecure and inept) to get in, and my inner self was battling to get out.
As I began to share parts of my insecure inner self with friends and family, I was able to integrate my outer self more properly and vice versa. I became more honest with myself. I stopped feeling ashamed or scared of how other people saw me. Instead of feeling like I had to prove myself to be the opposite of my fears and insecurities, I understood how they were a part of me and how to use them to my advantage.
The First Steps to Emotional Vulnerability
The takeaway from this article isn’t that you should start spewing your negative thoughts and feelings to everyone in your life. Rather, it’s this: The parts of yourself that you’re scared of, when understood, can be powerful forces in your life. Being emotionally vulnerable with others will enable you to make better decisions and become much happier overall.
Understanding yourself is a difficult journey. It will be uncomfortable and frightening, but if you can push through and understand yourself completely, you’ll become more powerful than you could ever imagine.
If you’d like to start today, grab a sheet of paper and a pen, set aside 20 minutes, and answer the following questions:
- List 10 situations that fill you with absolute dread.
- What is it, specifically, about these situations that scares you? For example, are you scared that you’ll lose respect? That you’ll be shunned? That people won’t want to spend time with you?
- In what emotional environment do you feel safest?
Answering these questions will help you to understand what kind of space you need to create in order to share your feelings – and that is the first step toward emotional vulnerability and all the rewards it offers.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Nate Chai is the founder of Five Years to Financial Freedom, a publication dedicated to helping you build success, wealth, and freedom in your life. Head over to his free Financial Freedom Coaching group for daily motivational tips, high-value articles, and entrepreneurial advice.