My New Year’s Resolutions: #3 Be More Vulnerable

December 17, 2012

I am scared of being vulnerable.

Digital Image by Sean LockeDigital Planet Designwww.digitalplanetdesign.comI want to impress people. I want them to think I’m better than I am. Stronger. Cooler. Richer. Smarter.

  • When I’m asked how many people go to my church, something inside me wants to round the number up as high as possible.
  • I put 6’1” as my height on my driver’s license, though it was probably closer to 6′ at the time.
  • I would like for everyone to think thousands of people subscribe to my blog. Actually, the number is closer to two hundred.
  • When someone mentions something in a conversation that I know nothing about, I just nod along as if I knew exactly what they were saying.
  • When someone is taking my picture, I stand on my tip-toes and suck in my stomach.

Why do we feel the pressure to be someone we’re not? Why are we so driven to make people think we’re something we’re not? Why do we care so much about what people think about us?

Why are we so scared of being vulnerable?

We try to hide all our weaknesses and showcase all our strengths.

We don’t want people to see us cry. We don’t want people to know when we’re struggling.

Why? The only logical answer seems to be this:

We will only try to create a fake us if we don’t feel like the real us is good enough.

Think about that for a minute.

In every area of life (finances, appearances, abilities, knowledge, vocation, etc.), the only reason I try to create the impression of a richer, more beautiful, smarter, stronger version of me is because I don’t think the real version is good enough.

We long for people to think we’re good enough. We long for people to love us. But it’s difficult for people to love us for who we are when we’re busy trying to make them love us for who we aren’t.

And while we try to avoid our own vulnerability at all costs, it’s the vulnerability in others that causes us to emotionally connect with them. We are intimidated by people who appear to have no weaknesses, but we connect and identify with people who are vulnerable.

Take a public speaker, for example. If they get up there and quote statistics and seem to have all the answers, they come off as a little arrogant for some reason. But if they break down and cry and share their life struggles, we immediately connect with them and think they are a great person. So when we try to impress others, our pathetic attempts to appear perfect have the exact opposite effect we want.

So how can we overcome the fear of vulnerability? Here are four steps that might help:

1. Understand how silly it is to be anything but authentic. – Even if we could succeed in getting people to fall for our masquerade, it would not satisfy. It leaves us feeling empty and disconnected.

2. Let people see your hurts. – Share your struggles and pain. Be honest. Be real. Be you. You might be surprised how often people will think more of you for it, not less.

3. Discover the joy of authenticity. – Like confession, vulnerability is painful at first, but followed by a strange and wonderful peace and sweetness.

4. Refocus on God. – This is the most important step. If I am trying to impress you, it means I’m consumed with YOUR opinion. I don’t know about you, but the more I saturate myself in God, His presence, and His Word, the less I care about what others think. When I strive to please God, I find that everything else falls into place. An unhealthy sensitivity to others’ opinions of me is a sign I need to spend more time in prayer.

What other steps can we take to overcome the fear of vulnerability? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments today.