Take a deep breath and brace yourself, friends. This one could get a little uncomfortable, because today, we are talking about vulnerability.
A lot of people are resistant to vulnerability. There’s a lot of fear and apprehension surrounding vulnerability, and that makes a lot of sense—after all, it leaves you open to rejection, to potential mockery, and all kinds of other negative things we’ve turned into our worst nightmares.
Oftentimes, we end up believing that vulnerability is the most dangerous place for us to be. But in actuality, I find it to be one of the most liberating things we can allow ourselves to explore.
We’ll talk about that a bit later on in this post. First, I want to sit down and speak to my avoidant attachment style and fearful-avoidant/disorganized/anxious-avoidant attachment style folks.
Firstly, if you didn’t know, there are four main attachment styles you might have. They’re secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant (or fearful-avoidant, or disorganized).
Let me give you a quick definition of the avoidant attachment style. The term “avoidant” describes those who are emotionally distant when it comes to relationships, and those who are uncomfortable with emotional intimacy when it comes to others being vulnerable.
Those with the avoidant attachment style feel highly, highly uncomfortable when someone opens up to them, and they themselves hardly ever show vulnerability unless they really, really, really, really trust someone. And that takes a very, very, very long time.
Those with the avoidant attachment style want to feel the other person out first. They want to know everything about the other person before they share anything with them.
So that’s the avoidant attachment style, and then there’s fearful avoidant, which is a mix between anxious and avoidant attachment styles. What happens here is that the anxious-avoidantly attached person greatly desires closeness, and their instinct is to form an intimate bond as quickly as possible to avoid the potential of rejection. So they’re open to being vulnerable, but they actually end up lacking discernment around who is safe enough to receive their vulnerability.
Once the closeness is formed, once that person starts to respond to them with emotional closeness, they freak out. They get avoidant. They start finding everything wrong with that person and do their best to pull the cord on their escape parachute. They want to end this thing right away. And despite the fact that they might have led with their own vulnerability, they often feel squeamish when the other person offers the same. When that person actually shows them that they like them, they get squeamish.
It’s the same thing with the avoidant attachment style: those individuals often get squeamish around somebody who’s actually open with them. They usually want to be physically close to them rather than emotionally and wish they could just keep it surface-level.
With the avoidant attachment style, there is a real fear of being taken advantage of.
If you ask me, this is really a fear of—and this might be triggering—being on an equal playing field. I found this out through doing a lot of shadow work on my own because my attachment style most of my life was fearful avoidant. That’s the attachment style that’s usually associated with trauma; only about 20% of people have that attachment style. And after a while, I went all the way to the other side, which meant I was completely experiencing the avoidant attachment style.
After really examining these parts of me, I was like, “Oh my God. Avoidance is partly fear of an equal playing ground on a very deep, very unconscious level.” Now, there’s so much more to the avoidant attachment style, but that really is a big part of it.
Reason being, there’s this idea that when it comes to avoidance, you have the upper hand as long as the other person doesn’t know anything about you. They don’t see your vulnerability. As long as you can keep those parts hidden from them, you have some kind of upper hand with avoidance. There’s this need to be above in some way, because there’s this deep fear that someone is going to take advantage of you. Someone is going to use what they know about you against you.
Here’s the thing that a lot of people with the avoidant attachment style don’t understand: most people aren’t looking to hold something over your head. Most people are not looking to take advantage of you when they’re interested in you romantically. When they show genuine vulnerability and a genuine desire to get to know you, they’re actually just interested in getting to know you, not collecting information so they can use that against you.
So, if you have an avoidant attachment style, notice where you might be projecting that. Maybe you’ve experienced other people using your vulnerability against you, and it’s natural to put up walls in response to that. But actually, most people are looking to actually get to know and connect with you. That’s the only reason why they want to know more. To an avoidant person, that’s pretty shocking information.
A lot of avoidants also avoid opening up emotionally because they think, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, they know too much. I’ve laid it all out. I can’t do anything about it. They’re running around with information about me.” But again, what if people are not actually looking to get to know you more deeply and see you for who you truly are because they want to take advantage of you, but rather because they just want to connect? They just want to connect.
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With the avoidant attachment style, it becomes a thing where you feel you have to hide parts of you. But what if there’s actually safety within visibility? Because if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else.
What happens with fearful avoidants is they actually have trouble believing someone can genuinely love them. That they can genuinely depend on someone. With fearful avoidance, they’re used to a little bit of chaos where they have to “earn” someone’s love. They have to do things to “get” someone to love them, so when somebody opens up and is vulnerable and desires to connect to them by their own volition, they literally can’t believe it, because they think they have to do work to earn that kind of vulnerability. It feels too easy to them, and it makes them really uncomfortable that somebody voluntarily wants to be in their life.
Here’s why I believe vulnerability is liberating and allows you safety. Here’s why I actually always, always, always desire to lean into vulnerability anywhere that I can.
I choose vulnerability over stuffing my feelings, and I actually feel immense safety in vulnerability and in visibility, because I get to show up as the person I truly am. Full stop. That is so freeing to me. I don’t want to be anything else other than who I am.
I trust and believe that I’m well received. I actually believe my vulnerability is very highly regarded by people. I believe people really care about what I have to say, and even if they don’t agree with me or they don’t see things my way, they highly respect what I have to say. I believe people actually want to hear my feelings and my thoughts. I believe people are curious about my inner world.
I have a lot of supportive beliefs around vulnerability. To me, at this point in my life, it actually feels more unsafe to not open up. It actually feels more unsafe to me to hide things. I feel like I would suffocate if I could not be vulnerable, because to me, that’s me not showing up as me. It’s me showing up as someone different.
Now, there are cases and places and scenarios where it makes sense to not fully share my vulnerability, or there might be people I determine are not safe holding places for my deeper levels of vulnerability. But vulnerability is definitely a spectrum.
For example, telling someone on a date that you enjoyed the date, that’s vulnerability. It’s honesty, right? But it’s not you telling someone about your deepest, darkest secrets. Oftentimes we think of vulnerability as 0 to 100, but I trust myself to know how deep I want to go with my vulnerability and with who I want to go that deep with.
I actually trust myself to sense who can hold what. And then if I was wrong, no big deal. That’s how I see it. No big deal, and the reason why it’s no big deal is because I’m frequently honest about who I am and what I feel. It’s only going to feel like a really big deal when that’s not a frequent experience.
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