Brene Brown calls vulnerability “our most accurate measure of courage”. Being vulnerable means opening our hearts, pouring out the contents and waiting to see what the world has to say. A pretty terrifying thing, right?
So it’s no wonder that after we do this, we feel scared, a little bit sick and shaky. We get a vulnerability hangover. We wonder why we did it, panic over what people will think and tell ourselves we’re idiots for putting our emotions out there.
I was in the garden, shaking and close to tears as I spoke to the camera.
Afterwards I debated deleting it. I went to see Dan but was totally distracted, looking to see how many people had seen the story and panicked about what people would say. And you know what? Nobody said anything.
After I spoke about it the first time, I felt comfortable enough to keep sharing. And this is when people started to say something. I got messages of support, people saying they struggle to, people actually thanking me for talking about it.
Since then I’ve continued to be open about it, sharing any learnings and advice I gather on the way. The vulnerability hangover was totally worth it.
This is, almost always, the case when it comes to vulnerability. When we speak honestly and tell our stories, we give others the permission to do the same. It’s one of the key ways we grow and develop emotionally. It’s how we step out of our comfort zones.
So, how the hell do we handle the awful vulnerability hangover? Because that shit is stressful.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt help….
Plan it, if possible
If you can plan when your vulnerable post/article/conversation will happen, you can prepare. You can consider how you’ll feel after and plan something to keep you busy or get a support network in place.
A common thing for us to do, especially if we’ve been vulnerable online, is to keep checking stats and comments. We’re scared of what people will say, so we look out for it. This is just plain not fun to do. Instead, turn off your phone/laptop and walk away.
Go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, anything. Just get away from the source of your anxiety and breathe. The sky will not fall.
Stop yourself from going over and over what you’ve done in your head with some distraction techniques. Make a phone call to someone, go cook a tasty meal, play some Play Station, have a bath. Again, it’s about getting away from what you’re stressing about.
Tell yourself positive statements
Remind yourself that you are loved. Tell yourself that people who know and care for you will have your back. Say it’ll be OK. Argue with that inner critic making you feel like a fool – that guy just likes to see you squirm, don’t give him the satisfaction.
Get a little support
Yes, it’s totally OK to freak out about being vulnerable and gather your friends to listen to your panics. That’s what friendship is for, right? Supporting each other and holding hands through the scary bits. And I’ll tell ya, Instagram is a lovely place to get a bit of support.
The best way to overcome your vulnerability hangovers, or at least make them not so bad, is to keep sharing. You’ll realise that it’s not so bad, that people aren’t so quick to judge/attack and that it can be healing.
On that note, I would like to point out that sometimes, sharing *isn’t* a good idea. If you’re feeling in such a vulnerable place that your self-esteem rests on other people’s reactions, don’t do it.
Sit on it, let it percolate, give it some distance. Once you feel a little less attached to the reaction, feel free to share. You may still worry about what people will say, but hopefully you’ll be in a stronger position to know you’ll be OK.
I think any of us who create for the Internet will find themselves feeling vulnerable at some point. Sharing is easier than ever before, but remember the amount you share will always ultimately be up to you. Don’t push yourself too far too fast.
If you think you could do with a gentle push though, check out Brene Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability.
How often do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Do you struggle with the ick of the vulnerability hangover?
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