As we get closer to Thanksgiving, you are
probably starting to kick your holiday preparations into high gear.
But amid your shopping, decorating and
travel planning, I want you to steal a few moments for one simple activity that
will set the stage for a more meaningful season.
Now is a great time to watch or rewatch Brene Brown’s seminal TEDX talk “The Power of Vulnerability.” It will take you only about 20 minutes.
The holidays can stir up all sorts of
feelings and expectations that make you feel more vulnerable this time of year.
You may already be feeling some anxiety and stress in anticipation of all that needs
to be done before year’s end. Of course, looking cheerful while trying to tame
your perfectionism over every detail makes this a much harder task!
Some of you are anticipating sadness and
heartbreak about loved ones who will not be with you this holiday. All these emotions
can be so powerful that it can be tempting to hide from them through
overeating, overdrinking or overspending.
The gift we all really want is to be able to share our vulnerable feelings with others and still feel safe and loved. Unfortunately, many of us — even kids — have had experiences that make us feel unsafe being vulnerable.
Making Space for Vulnerability
You can’t make people be vulnerable with
you. But you can create an atmosphere of love and security that encourages
vulnerability. What might that look like during the holiday season?
Deciding to skip a party you had planned to attend because your husband is at the end of his rope with end-of-year work stress.
Not telling your shy kid they “shouldn’t feel that way” if they voice nervousness about seeing their raucous cousins.
Taking a timeout from holiday activities to be with a friend who’s grieving or going through a crisis like divorce or a family illness.
Giving your aging parents some one-on-one time to just talk to you instead of getting lost in the busyness of the season.
When you show up for others in ways like these, you build trust and intimacy in your relationships which is necessary for anyone to be vulnerable.
Of course, you also need relationships where you can be vulnerable yourself. Before things get too stressful, think about who gives you a sense of safety and acceptance. Who can handle it when you’re not feeling merry and bright? Who would take it in stride if you need to express sadness that your budget is smaller this year or that your parents are having some health troubles?
If you feel that you and your husband are not open and vulnerable enough with each other, think about some small steps that might help bring you closer. You can’t just go from closed off to totally vulnerable overnight — and neither can he. Instead, think about a low-risk way you can test the waters. Maybe that’s something as simple as asking for his help wrapping gifts when you would usually handle the job yourself. You could use that opportunity to connect and find out how he’s really doing. Slowing down your flurry of activity and engaging creates opportunities to share any vulnerability either of you are experiencing.
I hope that this holiday season brings you closer to everyone you care about, especially your husband. To keep strengthening your relationship together, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
Each of us secretly and desperately yearns to be “met”—to be recognized in our uniqueness, our fullness, and our vulnerability. We yearn to be genuinely valued by others as who we are, even that we are.
In the following blog post from The Huffington Post, Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, reveals the pivotal role of vulnerability in sustaining a marriage:
In my over 20 years of counseling couples, I’ve come to realize that vulnerability is the key to a lasting union and that shame and fear are two of the main reasons why couples get entrenched in power struggles that can lead to divorce. Opening up to our partner can make us feel vulnerable and exposed, but it is the most important ingredient of a trusting, intimate relationship. One of the biggest challenges that couples face is being vulnerable with a romantic partner. After all, with over 40 percent of adults growing up in a divorced family, healthy templates for intimacy may have been in short supply. In other cases, many of us were raised in homes where showing vulnerability was seen was a weakness.
What drives our fear of being vulnerable? Dr. Brene Brown, a distinguished author and researcher, informs us that vulnerability is often viewed as a weakness, but it’s actually a strength. In her landmark book Daring Greatly, she explains that vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. She writes, “To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe that vulnerability is a weakness is to believe that feeling is a weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”
In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Given this definition, the act of loving someone and allowing them to love you may be the ultimate risk. Love is uncertain. It’s risky because there are no guarantees and your partner could leave you without a moment’s notice — or betray you or stop loving you. In fact, exposing your true feelings may mean that you are at greater risk for being criticized or hurt.
“Strong women value authenticity, personal growth, and genuine relationships. They are courageous and willing to embrace the truth, even if doing so causes some discomfort. Strong women are deeply committed to keeping both themselves and their relationships healthy and vibrant.
Strong women come from all walks of life. A strong woman might be the CEO of a major corporation, juggling tremendous work and family responsibilities. She could also be a busy, stay-at-home mom who is deeply invested in helping her children become successful, compassionate adults with good character. A strong woman could even be someone whose quiet, steady presence is a source of strength and inspiration to those around her.”
When you have been hurt in prior relationships, it feels natural to be cautious and guarded so you won’t be hurt again. However, the moment that you put walls up, you also wall off what you want most: friendship, love, deep connection. Without vulnerability you cannot have deeper intimacy Remember that reaching out when you are scared is a tremendous act of courage, but if someone loves you, they will cherish you for taking that risk.