DARE TO BE VULNERABLE!
--Condensed from "Go For It! How to Win at Love, Work & Play!"--By Irene C. Kassorla
A few years ago, one of my friends starred in a new film, & every review criticised his performance. He was distraught: "I'll never be able to hold up my head again. How do I live through this nightmare?"
"You are a fine actor," I assured him, "& you have an outstanding record to prove it. But your life was in chaos during the filming of this picture. You were going through a difficult divorce, & naturally it affected your work. Now you're putting your life back together."
I convinced him that he should go public with his problems as the way to inner peace. With knees shaking, he held a press conference & explained why he had been too depressed to make a successful film. Before long he was laughing at himself & revealing silly blunders he'd made on location. The reporters, impressed with this star's candor, wrote about him sympathetically--& his popularity at the box office actually increased.
In treating thousands of patients--successful or struggling--I have found that inside every adult there is a vulnerable part that never really grows up. Most of us are too afraid of disapproval or rejection to express our deeper feelings. We worry that, "If you knew all about me, you wouldn't like me." We're certain that others are happier, wiser, more fulfilled. We cannot risk being compared unfavourably.
But withholding our emotions makes healthy communication impossible & creates distance in relationships. The part we hold back--our authentic selves--constitutes the very richness that others would find appealing. There is hidden power & magnetism in vulnerability--& in the willingness to share deeper feelings, whether to express love or to acknowledge fears & needs.
The most difficult time to express vulnerability is when you're in love. Many of my patients are concerned about being too dependent on their partners for attention & love. They have a fear of appearing desperate or ridiculous. This is nonsense. Sharing with others how important they are to you makes them more loving & loyal, more thoughtful about your needs.
Jennifer had been seeing Cliff for about a year. At a weekly group session she told us what was troubling her: "We really enjoy each other's company. But in all this time Cliff has never once said, `I love you.'"
Someone in the group spoke up: "How many times have you expressed your feelings of love?"
Jennifer started crying, "I'm too scared. What if he says he loves me just because I said it first? I don't want to force him to love me."
I interrupted, "One of you slowpokes has to start being vulnerable. I know of relationships that broke up because one partner believed he wasn't loved, & then left. You have been telling us how much you love Cliff. Tell him. If it's too hard to say `I love you' right away, start slowly giving him cues. Send him one of those funny romantic cards. Or put a note in his pocket saying, `I really think you're wonderful.'"
The following week Jennifer arrived early & put a note on everyone's seat: "I told Cliff how much I loved him. Save August 18th--you're invited to our wedding!"
Men in our society have the most difficulty in communicating vulnerable feelings. Many believe if they expose their weaknesses, they won't be considered manly. This fear prevents them from expressing themselves when they feel inadequate, troubled or lonely.
One 45-year-old, six-foot-five former athlete sounded sad as he explained, "I was brought up to believe that boys never cry. I have been too busy pretending I'm macho to feel anything."
When a man escapes this early conditioning, there can be a stunning portrait of a healthy male, secure in his masculinity. Look at baseball star Steve Garvey.
"Do you ever cry?" an interviewer once asked him.
"Yes," Steve replied, "I think you can be more of a man for shedding tears in some situations--because you're showing that you're human & capable of loving."
People who display not an ounce of problems or weaknesses may think they will win esteem this way. But the reverse occurs: they are avoided & disliked. Many juvenile delinquents I worked with as an intern for my doctorate talked of hating "perfect" parents because they were always right, their children always wrong.
A parallel can be seen in marriages in which one partner acts like a righteous, scolding parent, & the other a misbehaving child. "Parent" spouses who emphasise that they are always responsible, considerate & correct can't understand why what they offer is not returned. Who could live up to the stellar performances they feign?
Remember that you are a person, not a machine. Sometimes you are going to make mistakes, be confused, say things you'll regret. Acknowledging errors can earn you admiration: "I think I acted too hastily"; "I said something in anger that I'm sorry about"; or "I was wrong."
When you are honest & open, you will find others inviting you into their private worlds. Years ago when I first met actor Jack Lemmon, I was moved by his willingness to share so much of himself with a new friend. His ease in talking freely about his fear of rejection--as a performer & as a man--helped me to understand the qualities that have made this two-time Oscar winner's film characterisations so memorable.
"If you want to be an actor who can satisfy himself & his audience," he explained, "you need to be vulnerable. You must reach the point where you can go out stark naked, emotionally, in front of an audience--with or without fear. I used to cover up my fears & frustrations. Now I'm not as worried about my shortcomings, & I'm on much better terms with myself. Whatever your qualities are, let them fly. People respect, & empathise with, vulnerability--because we all have it."
Think about the people you enjoy & admire. They are not superbeings. They err, they cry, they despair. They are real--& vulnerable--human beings.
Once people begin exposing their true selves, you can't help but care about them. Being vulnerable is infectious. Others will "catch" it & follow your lead. When they do, you will become more sensitive to the many facets of their personalities. It will be like wearing three-dimensional glasses, providing new insights & understanding.
Vulnerability has startling beauty & power. When you let the real you shine through, you will enjoy more love & acceptance than you ever dreamed possible.
Never apologise for showing feeling. Remember that when you do so, you apologise for truth.--Disraeli