One of my clients, Brooke (not her real name), tearfully shared with me how dumb she felt about her choice to keep going back to her ex-boyfriend over and over for the last 6 years. Her friends had told her a hundred times to leave him, but it had been too difficult to completely sever ties. Now her ex had moved on and was dating a much younger girl. Brooke felt old and rejected. She wondered if any man would ever want her, and she felt too ashamed to open up to her friends who she thought must be tired of listening to her. As a result, she felt completely isolated.
I encouraged Brooke to open up to a trusted friend. It takes great courage to be open about our vulnerabilities, but it is the best way I have found to start letting go of the shame and start feeling loved.
Brene Brown has a wonderful TED talk about this topic. Check it out if you want to hear more about how to live whole heartedly. In the talk, Brown says that "vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, and love." In other words, if you want to be creative, have joy, and feel a sense of belonging and love, you must first have the courage to be real and vulnerable with those around you.
Brooke came back the following week and told me that she had opened up with her girlfriends over dinner. She was surprised to find out that her girlfriends did not express judgment. They listened attentively, spoke kindly, and supported her in her pain. "I guess I do have support in my life" she said. Brooke's courage to be open about her struggle allowed her to feel loved by her friends.
Brene Brown suggests some ways that you can start to feel this sense of joy and connection in your life.
- Let yourself be seen. Be open about who you are and what you are struggling with.
- Love with your whole heart. Even though there is no guarantee you will receive love in return.
- Practice gratitude and lean into joy even when life is difficult and you feel like catastrophizing.
Being vulnerable seems counterintuitive to what our culture has taught us about not showing weakness and presenting a perfect facade. Don't believe the lie. Your vulnerability is often what makes you beautiful.