Self

Why The Scariest Thing You Can Do For Your Relationships (And Yourself!) Is Also The Most Powerful

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woman looking into the camera warmly

If you're afraid of letting down your guard and opening yourself up to new experiences, I know how you feel.

The moment I hit send on the message was frightening. What did I just do? I put myself out there with a virtual stranger with no idea whether I'd be ghosted or scorned for the intrusion, or whether my note would be a welcomed surprise to their day.

Then, I took a deep breath and told myself it would be OK no matter what came of it and put it out of my mind.

It was a small yet powerful moment of vulnerability.

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I've never considered myself a risk-taker. The thought of taking physical risks like rock climbing terrifies me, but I once stood up to a work bully and instead of getting verbally attacked, she stated quite unexpectedly: "You're an emotional risk-taker."

I realized at that moment that it was true.

Ever since that altercation, I've gotten better at consciously sticking my neck out. It helps that I can walk the talk with my clients as I work with them to build self-awareness and self-worth, and help them realize that the only thing in the way of what they want is themselves. This is the path to more joy, meaning, and success.

What is vulnerability?

Vulnerability, as Brené Brown describes it, "is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences."

Putting yourself out there is revealing a little bit about yourself to someone else, to connect on some level. It's honest and pure and it is the ultimate in being human.

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Despite the myths, getting emotionally naked with someone doesn't have to involve sharing your deepest desires, failings, or secrets. Sometimes, it's the little things you do to unveil who you are and take action that can change your life forever.

Here are 13 ways in which you can show your vulnerability in everyday life:

  • Say hello to a friendly face on your daily commuter train.
  • Share your elevator pitch at a networking event.
  • Request an information interview for a job you're considering.
  • Email an expert to obtain information or support.
  • Message someone you've been interacting with online.
  • Invite someone out on a date.
  • Try something you've never done before – something you suspect you'll completely suck at.
  • Get involved politically.
  • Disclose an uncomfortable part of your past.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Say you're sorry.
  • Give an unexpected earnest compliment to an acquaintance, with no agenda for reciprocity
  • Tell someone how you feel about them  maybe even say, "I love you."

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The context doesn't matter; it's the same experience of divulging who you are and risking negative consequences on some level.

Yes, being vulnerable is scary. Choose to do it anyway.

Everyone's been burned a few times. Maybe you've also been left, hurt, betrayed, or humiliated. You might have had your confidence shattered or your heart trampled on. Who wants to subject themselves to doubt and agony again?

We can't know for sure what will come of our daring greatly. Disappointment, pain, and suffering are unavoidable in life. The best way to thrive is to push your boundaries and keep standing up more times than you fall down. And when you fall, fall fast.

When you let fear of rejection rule you, you give up your power. Avoiding doing frightening things might seem easier and safer, but if you do nothing, you gain nothing. You'll never move forward or get what you want in life.

Getting vulnerable opens the doors to new possibilities, and you're worth taking a chance on.

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Do some people do vulnerability better?

Introverts indeed have an easier time opening up with people they trust. To avoid it feeling even scarier, start with smaller actions within your inner circle.

Otherwise — extrovert or introvert, putting yourself out there takes one part confidence, one part inspiration, and one part 'screw it' attitude. 

Follow this prescription for how to take chances with your heart more easily:

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1. Know yourself and be comfortable with who you are.

Tap into your strengths and identify your growing edges. Accept that you're not perfect; you're perfectly you. You don't need to prove yourself to anyone or be someone you're not.

2. Don't overthink it.

You can plan, prepare, and logically think through what you might do but don't analyze to the point of paralysis. Trust yourself, and when it comes time to act, or when you're inspired to go for it, lead with your heart.

Be unfiltered because this is you at your most authentic.

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3. Accept whatever happens next.

I recommend a no-regrets, look-forward policy.

You cannot control anyone's reaction or the outcome. Vulnerability isn't about manipulation or fulfilling your own neediness. It's giving yourself without expectation and then letting go. This is the time to let the universe do its thing.

Once you practice putting yourself out there, your success can be simply about the math. The more you do it, the better your odds.

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Occasionally, you get disappointed with the outcome of your vulnerable act, along with feeling discouraged. That's ok; there is usually some kind of personal growth that comes out of even the most harrowing experiences.

Every so often, you get what you thought you wanted when you put yourself out there, and sometimes, you get something even better.

So, as Stephen Russell, author of The Barefoot Doctor's Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior advises, "Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable."

Who knows? You might create a mutual understanding or a deeper bond, land a new job, forge a rewarding business relationship, make a brand-new friend, or possibly, find a kindred spirit or the love of your life.

Beyond what you might tangibly gain, allowing yourself to be vulnerable can give you an immeasurable gift: the freedom to be yourself.

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Lisa Petsinis is a career and life coach who works with individuals who want to be their best version of themselves and go after their goals with gusto. Contact her to learn more.

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This article was originally published at Lisa Petinsis's website. Reprinted with permission from the author.