Thought provoking questions tend to find me during ordinary moments.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a dear friend. We were catching up and sharing life. She was pouring out her heart and mid conversation stopped and asked, “Do you feel the same way?” A simple question. A profound meaning behind the question, one I have been simmering on ever since.
I have asked that same question to friends over the years, as I’m sure you have as well. Stop! Without realizing it, right there I made my case in point! It is second nature to want to relate to others, essentially searching for the same comfort that underlies my friend’s question: We want to know we are not alone.
But to have this connection, we must share. We want affirmation and at the same time fear being too transparent because that leaves us feeling vulnerable and possibly weak. And a wrestling of this dichotomy begins: Do we protect the stained glass masquerade or risk being dirty laundry real that we open ourselves to possible rejection? How do we balance the two?
It has been my experience that most of the time being real breaks down walls and leaves both the sharer and sharee stronger than before. Of course, there must be discretion when sharing certain parts of our lives. Before we move on to the benefits of being transparent, let’s look at a few considerations to being transparent. These are taken from the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown.
- You can’t use vulnerability to discharge your own discomfort, or as a tolerance barometer in a relationship (“I’ll share this and see if you stick around”), or to fast-forward a relationship-it just won’t cooperate.
- When it comes to vulnerability, connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them-people with whom we’ve cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story.
- I only share stories or experiences that I’ve worked through and feel that I can share from solid ground.
- I only share when I have no unmet needs that I’m trying to fulfill. I firmly believe that being vulnerable with a larger audience is only a good idea if the healing is tied to the sharing, not to the expectations I might have for the response I get.
- Questions to consider before sharing:
- Why am I sharing this?
- What outcome am I hoping for?
- What emotions am I experiencing?
- Do my intentions align with my values?
- Is there an outcome, response, or lack of a response that will hurt my feelings?
- Is this sharing in the service of connection?
- Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
Once we have established that said event should be shared, what are the benefits? Is it even worth it? While a short response is nearly impossible to provide (I recommend reading the book “Daring Greatly”), I would summarize with this: to have deep connections we must be vulnerable. To be able to ask or respond to, “Do you feel the same way?” both parties must be exposed. Very simple. Possibly terrifying. Entirely worth it.
Stuart and I experienced this deepening of friendship with another couple in one of these vulnerable moments. We had been friends for several months, mostly hanging out, having dinner, and sharing fun things in life. But without a doubt, the turning point in those relationships happened the night they opened up to us about a profound struggle. Though they were terrified, contemplating the spectrum of our possible reactions, they opened up with tremendous courage. And guess what? We were actually struggling with a very similar issue.
And the walls came down.
I could recall countless encounters of healing and grace because of gut level vulnerability. I wish I could express just a glimpse of the healing that came. I wish I could tell you of many friends over the years like Erin, Lexie, Triston, Lauren, Sarah, Carolyne and many more who literally changed my life because of transparent living. But for now, remember that when shared with the right people and in the right context, being vulnerable brings liberation. Wounds are healed and acceptance, true acceptance, shattered stained glass masquerade acceptance, is experienced. Relating to one another helps us to keep running this race and gives us courage knowing that we are not alone.
Take off the mask. Welcome vulnerability. Walk in the light. And you may just find you are not as alone as you thought.
Own your story.