You decided to finally speak your mind. Maybe you told your boss that you don’t feel appreciated, your sister something that has bothered you for years or confessed your romantic feelings to that special person. You feel relieved but almost immediately a pit in your stomach followed by obsessive thinking and regret. ‘Did I overreact?’ ‘Why did I have to tell them everything?’ ‘They probably think I’m a loser’ Sounds familiar? This, my dear friend, is what they call a vulnerability hangover.
By sharing our emotions we can connect deeply and authentically, yet by being so vulnerable we can also get hurt. And, that pain usually triggers an old memory. As children, we were open, free and raw. But we often early learn that we can get hurt easily. The wall building begins. We feel like we have to protect ourselves and can have a hard time finding a safe space to be vulnerable.
The shame epidemic
In addition to pain we can also experience shame after being vulnerable. This can feel similar to the shame we feel after a night of heavy drinking. We feel overexposed. Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behaviour, says Brené Brown, author of the Power of Vulnerability.
So why do we feel shame? Brené defines shame as ‘the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging’. And there are three things we really need to know about shame: we all have it, we’re all afraid to talk about it, and the less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.
Recovering from a vulnerability hangover
Next time you are ready to open up, these tips could help you deal with the overwhelming emotions after.
Remember that showing up as your most authentic self is not easy. It’s completely normal to have a hard time expressing how you truly feel. Speak about and to yourself in kind, positive and encouraging words.
Practice makes perfect
Make a conscious choice every day to accept and show not only your beautiful, but also your negative sides. Accept every day that you are imperfect and make mistakes. Vulnerability is hard work.
Allow yourself to feel
If we avoid emotions like shame, guilt, anger or pain, we don’t get to fully experience all the ‘positive’ emotions as well. Feeling our emotions allows us to heal and move through painful experiences.
Risks are part of the game
Being vulnerable also means: taking risks. It’s saying “I love you” without knowing if they will answer the same. It’s s apologising without knowing if the other person will accept it. It’s admitting you’re not happy at work, even though you don’t know how your boss will react.