“Don’t show your weaknesses to anyone”
Sound familiar? I grew up in a culture where expressing your emotions and voicing your opinion would not be appreciated:
- “Show up” — be strong, numb your emotions;
- Talk about your achievements, your status and always be sure to avoid controversial topics;
- Follow your traditions, culture or religion;
- Meet the expectations thrust upon you by people around you;
- Don’t make your boss mad.
In school you’re a student that should follow your teacher, at home — you’re a kid who needs to listen to your elders.
For society and relatives — you should grow up to be someone on the “right path”.
I hated this culture: wasting time on talks that don’t matter, maintaining relationships that do not provide fulfilment, making choices because it is “good to do it” in the eyes of society.
Hiding things, stressing out if you’re not perfect.
It’s a culture of shame. A culture of fear that we’re not good enough.
Dr. Brene Brown — a research professor, spent the last thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame.
(she is my teacher, guiding me on the path to becoming a “wholehearted” person, and I recommend that you study her work).
She found that shame is the most powerful emotion. It stops us from being vulnerable and authentic.
Her research shows that for both women and men, shame feels the same way,
but is triggered differently — there are certain expectations that society dictates, that if you don’t meet, cause you to feel shame.
For women, the main trigger of shame is: “Do it all, do it perfectly and never let anyone see you sweat.”
It’s about looking perfect, having the perfect body and appearance, being perfect in all roles — as a wife, a mother and at work.
Women are supposed to be small and quiet, submissive and agreeable, the desire for sex is seen as shameful.
For men, the number one trigger of shame is being perceived as being weak.
It’s the fear of not being wealthy enough, tough enough or smart enough.
It’s also about emotional control, primacy of work, the pursuit of status, and displays of violence.
I went through my journey of escaping the trap of shame triggers and being vulnerable.
During University, I felt tired to prepare “speeches” for my parents, thinking twice about what to tell them about my life.
We would talk about exams, but not about social work or friends.
Sharing plans but not dreams.
We would talk about achievements but not learnings.
I was running a show called “Everything is on Track”.
But I wanted to be able to share anything — quitting a job, falling in love, failures, crazy dreams.
For a long time, I was scared of changing my relationship with my parents.
On a very deep level we all want to be loved, supported and appreciated, and being imperfect and not matching expectations is a risk that seems to be unacceptable.
A risk that may involve losing their respect.
But when I opened up, it wasn’t that dramatic. All those societal triggers were just stupid bullshit!
Yes, it was hard for them initially to accept something that they might have preferred not to hear.
It was hard for me to accept that I was not matching my parent’s vision for my life.
However.. people who love you — won’t give up on you.
Our connection completely changed and became really strong.
Since then I started to be authentic. It really changed the way I experience life.
6 simple steps to vulnerability and honesty
When you’re vulnerable and honest — you don’t hide anything, you have only people around you who accept you, you have only meaningful conversations, you spend energy and time on what matters, you simply live a life that you want.
The contrast is like moving from a cloudy and hazy city to an environment filled with mountains and clear skies and fresh air, enjoying every colour, sound and smell.
It feels as though if you were to die tomorrow — you won’t regret any moment you spent on your well-lived life.
It’s not an easy path, because you need to be ready to hear the truth. To lose some relationships or jobs…. but if you want to have only true connections and meaningful projects — It’s the only way to live.
The good news is that you can build a habit of vulnerability.
Here are 6 steps based on my experience:
- Know your values and connect with them daily.
- Express emotions.
- Observe and notice.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Empower others.
- Move your body.
An explanation of these steps is in this infographics
Enjoy! I promise you, it’s an incredible journey.
I changed from being a person who didn’t know how to share my opinions and express my feelings to someone whose friends tell me “I know you’ll tell me the truth”
It’s a fun, colourful and meaningful life!
Thank you to every teacher I have met along my journey. Thank you for giving me feedback, thank you for accepting me. You’re the reason I have become a more wholehearted person
P.S. Photographs by Snaps N Straps Photography