I love the quote by Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”. If you think about it, it’s so true.
I have a strong sense of self, always strive to be authentic, and know who I am on a core level. However, this wasn’t always the case. Like many people, I just wanted to be liked and accepted and was terrified of the idea of rejection. As a result, for many years, I protected myself by keeping my guard up and not letting people in.
As a naturally sensitive person, I used to think that “being strong” meant acting cold, disconnected, or distant. As a result, people used to call me “intimidating”. But, over the years, I’ve come to realize that true strength means being yourself, expressing your truth, and not being afraid to show the world how you feel (regardless of how they respond).
In the past, I was afraid to show signs of vulnerability, was very selective about who I allowed getting close to me (out of fear of being hurt), and often projected a cultivated image of who I was (or who I thought other people wanted me to be). All of this led to me feeling more guarded and closed-off, which definitely didn’t make me feel joyful.
Over the years, as I’ve worked on personal growth, I’ve realized that even though it’s scary, learning to show vulnerability actually helps us find our inner power. When we can become comfortable just being ourselves, taking off the “mask”, and expressing our true feelings, we experience a liberating sense of freedom and strength.
When we’re young children, we’re just ourselves. But, as we grow up, we start to project an image or a persona that we think will make other people like us. That could mean, acting like “the cool girl”, putting on heirs, or being an inauthentic version of ourselves. The bottom line is that this “front” doesn’t end up protecting us from getting hurt. Instead, it creates a wall between ourselves and other people, which limits our ability to become intimate and close to others, which in turn, ends up only isolating and hurting ourselves more.
As published in Psychology Today, “While most of us think we want close connections, we resist vulnerability, the very trait that makes that connection possible. In a culture that often praises having a thick skin and staying strong and self-contained, we mistakenly brush off being vulnerable as weak. We believe it will unnecessarily expose us to hurts and humiliations we could otherwise avoid. But what vulnerability is really about is the willingness to truly be ourselves — to expose a softer side not hidden behind our defenses.”
As NYT Best-selling Author Brené Brown says, “We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid, our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind.”
Her message resonated with me, especially during the past several months (as we’ve all faced unprecedented uncertainty). As I began to start showing more of my personality, share my deeper thoughts and beliefs, and express my true feelings (both in my personal life and in the public, via my blog and social channels), I started developing a new level of self-confidence, inner power, and true strength I never knew before. I also started connecting with people on deeper and more meaningful levels, which has been such a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Learning how to express our vulnerability, show our deepest feelings, and find comfort in just letting our guard down helps us become our best selves.
As you learn to show vulnerability and express your authentic self, one thing to remember is that everyone is afraid of something. All of us have been hurt, disappointed, or heartbroken at some point or another. That’s what often leads people to put up emotional guards and barriers – as they’re trying to protect themselves. By realizing this truth, it helps you to view them from a compassionate and loving place. When you take the lead by expressing your honest feelings and true self, you empower them to do likewise, which leads to deeper connections and greater intimacy.
Never underestimate the power of just being yourself. The more authentic you are, the more comfortable others will be around you. Your willingness to show your true colors often inspires them to do the same.
To read more self-improvement tips and advice, check out the Personal Growth section on I&C and shop the below books to learn more about the power of vulnerability.