True Authenticity and Vulnerability – The Powerful Keys to True Connection & Intimacy
Let's talk about the prospect of being vulnerable. For years I thought it was a mortal sin to be vulnerable. I went around saying that people who were vulnerable were weak. The truth was that I was terrified of being vulnerable. And I had good reason to be. When I was a child it wasn't safe to be vulnerable.
Many of us have had experiences in childhood and beyond that have made it feel unsafe and terrifying to be vulnerable in life. These experiences are valid and it would be perfectly normal to rebel or be scared of vulnerability. However, we need to look at what it is costing us to remain in this place.
Committing to the process of drawing love into our lives means standing in a place of radical self-responsibility for our lives as they are right now and for the life we would like to create. It means being willing to grow ourselves beyond our own limitations. And the meaning we have made out of our past experiences.
When we never allow ourselves to be vulnerable, our relationships remain on a certain level. They remain on the surface and lack depth. They can feel superficial and shallow.
We can also give the appearance of being super self-sufficient and having it all together. We give people the message that we don't need them, we don't need anyone and so they don't make themselves available to us and we go through life feeling disconnected, unsupported and alone.
Vulnerability causes connection and intimacy. How can we be truly seen and heard if we never reveal ourselves, if we keep ourselves invisible? When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable it also gives other people the safety and space to open up to us and to make themselves vulnerable to us. This is the space in which we experience the type of deep connection we yearn for.
Being vulnerable is very different than being needy. Being needy carries a demanding energy. When we are needy, we are clingy. There is no space for people to choose to be available to us. Think of a child begging to have candy, crying because he can't have his own way, then demanding to have it and then throwing a tantrum. While this behavior may be appropriate to some degree for a child, it is not appropriate for an adult.
When we are authentically vulnerable, we are powerful. Authentic vulnerability holds the truth of who we are and gives space for choice. When people do something for us from choice rather than from force, the resulting experience is one of connection and love.
So, how can we begin to be more vulnerable and feel safe in doing so? How can we use vulnerability to start to feel more connection in our relationships?
Start small. Know that it will feel like a risk at first and that is ok. When we have been entrenched in these patterns for so long, breaking the cycle will feel like a big deal.
Here are some ways to start:
- Ask for something you need or would like
This may be as small as asking a co-worker for a cup of coffee. The idea is to take bigger risks as you see the experiences you are generating. Generating a different experience starts to sit in our body. Our body realigns with the new experience and the practice of showing up in a new way becomes natural and organic.
- Reveal something about yourself
Choose a friend or someone you trust at first. Tell them something about yourself that you have never said before. It may be that you tell them something that you find difficult to do or a so-called 'weakness' that you have. You may tell them about a challenge you're having and ask for their feedback. You may tell them something that you perceive as 'shameful', something you may have been hiding from people.
- Engage rather than cut off or withdraw
We make so many assumptions and conclusions about other people's motives for doing things. Someone does something or does not respond in the way we would like and we draw the conclusion that they don't like us or are a bad person in some way. We take it personally and never engage an inquiry into what may have been going on for them. We also go through agony in tolerating behaviors rather than engage. In doing this we never give ourselves, or others the opportunity to experience more connection in relationship.
Remember, it is the willingness, the intent and the way that we take the actions above that really counts. We don't want to be too attached to the outcome, we want people to have the space to consider and make a choice. We want to own and express our feelings and experience and also engage a dialogue about what may have been happening for that person. We want to know what their experience may be. We want to use the experience to further grow ourselves. Is there something we are doing that is having them respond to us in a certain way? We want to be open and receptive to feedback and give feedback from a place of partnership and building connection rather than resentment and conflict. Starting with friends and acquaintances is a good practice ground for preparing us for the type of connection and intimacy we are looking for in relationship.
I would like to tell you about an experience I had that demonstrates the point very well.
A couple of years ago I met a man called Phil. We went on a few dates and liked each other. I was due to return to the UK as my visa was about to expire, however I was going to be coming back to the US in a few months time. Phil and I decided that we would like to keep in touch via Skype (a computer video/calling system that allows you to speak and see each other from anywhere in the world).
Phil went to great lengths to buy a new computer with a microphone and downloaded Skype. From this I further felt that Phil was keen to keep in touch.
Phil and I started talking via Skype regularly. He was calling me and I was calling him. If for some reason he was unavailable he would always leave me a message to let me know and vice versa – all was well. Then one day Phil didn't call me when he said he would. Then it happened again. I carried on calling Phil and didn't engage it, I carried on as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile, on each call I could feel Phil become more and more distant. I felt too vulnerable to ask him about it. I soon found myself doing all of the calling while my inner experience was one of growing disappointment and anger as I could feel him withdrawing from me more and more.
I started to feel sad and started to go to those places of taking it personally. Those old feelings of being abandoned and unloved and feeling perhaps there is something wrong with me.
I decided I must defend myself against this pain as soon as possible. I went into an old pattern of cutting things off in an attempt to avoid being hurt. I was thinking "I'll end it before he does". I proceeded to write him a 'nice and correct' and in my mind 'loving and kind' email all about how it had been lovely knowing him and talking with him but it seemed he just wasn't ready for a relationship and wishing him well.
When I pressed the 'send' button the email bounced back. I tried to send it three times, each time it would bounce back.
I had the insight that I needed to be vulnerable. I believe the universe sends us these opportunities and we have the insight when we are ready. I had followed this pattern too many times, I needed to do something different.
I sat down to re-write the email. This time I didn't launch into telling him what was going on for him. I wrote what was going on for me without blaming or judging him. I told the truth. I said I was noticing that he wasn't initiating the calls any more and that I felt sad. I told him that I was committed to creating a relationship in my life and a bit about what that looked like for me. I said I would love to know and was interested in what was going on for him and what he was experiencing.
It took me a while to press the 'send' button. It felt like a risk to send it. What if he didn't respond? What if he thought I was a freak? What if he wrote a nasty email back? What if, what if, what if? However, I was committed to my transformation. I knew that the only way I would generate a new experience was by doing something different, something outside of my comfort zone.
I sent the email (and of course it was sent the first time!). I allowed myself to feel all of the discomfort around sending it and the temptation to keep checking my emails! I allowed myself to feel it all but I trusted that this was an opportunity in line with my commitment to be more of who I would need to be to attract the relationship of my dreams.
The following day I received an email from Phil. It was the most vulnerable and authentic response I have ever received from a man. He told me how scared he was. He told me about the pain he had gone through in previous relationships. He told me how vulnerable he felt, how much he respected me and liked me for writing in the way I did, how much he appreciated my honesty. He told me how sorry he was that he had felt unable to tell me the truth before. He acknowledged that he had a lot of healing to do and was unable to enter a relationship right now. He took responsibility for his actions and he was full of kindness and sincerity in hoping I found the love I was looking for. He had matched my vulnerability.
I responded to his email and we were both left with a feeling of deep connection between us. We both acknowledged that a healing had occurred for both of us in being fully seen and fully heard.
Yes, there was some disappointment that Phil and I wouldn't be having a relationship, however I gained so much more than I lost by the experience.
For the first time I got that it is safe to be vulnerable with a man. That experience went into every cell of my body and something changed within me. While it can still be challenging at times, it has never since been as hard to be vulnerable with a man.
There is a point I would like to reiterate here and that is the point about having an experience go into every cell of our body. When we generate a new experience for ourselves and it is so completely different from anything we have previously known, (for example generating the experience that it is safe to be vulnerable with a man), it is so deep that it literally goes into our cells. We start to embody the experience. With continued practice, the action of being vulnerable with a man starts to become natural and organic until it is our natural state of being. When it becomes our natural state of being we take on and give out a new energy. We find that we no longer attract men who are not safe to be vulnerable with, we attract men who support us to be vulnerable.
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