“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” -Brene Brown
In order to have an authentic connection, both people in a relationship must be willing to be vulnerable. They must be willing to step outside of their comfort zones and allow themselves to be truly known. If most people desire authentic connections, why is allowing oneself to be vulnerable so difficult?
The answer: The fear of rejection.
No one wants to open up to another person and receive criticism, judgment, rejection, and/or abandonment in return. We don’t want to walk out there on a limb just to have another person or people come up and cut that limb out from under us. We want to keep ourselves safe and in order to do that we hide what just might be the most amazing parts of us. The parts of us that really connect us to other people.
Having the courage to be vulnerable and risk rejection is the very thing that bonds two people in an emotionally intimate relationship together. You see, it is the fear of vulnerability that often creates a fantasy bond rather than an authentic connection. How can we be authentically connected if we are hiding our authentic self?
Many times people who have been married for years have no idea that a fear of vulnerability steals from their relationship. They become angry at their partner without expressing the hurt behind the anger. They may get angry with their spouse for spending so much time on their smart phone without telling their partner it makes them feel hurt and unimportant.
Hesitating to tell your partner what it is you really need because you do not want to appear “weak” or “needy” is a good indication that a fear of vulnerability and rejection are at play. Your ego never comes from a place of vulnerability and can wreck the chance of true connection. When you have the courage to express your vulnerabilities, you may find that your partner is better able to empathize with your need, rather than becoming frustrated with your anger.
Opening up does put us at risk for judgment and rejection, and we may have to use caution when deciding who to trust with our intimate disclosures. (Some people, we know from experience, are just not safe and will quickly cut that limb out from under us) Know that these people may not change. Instead, surround yourself with supportive others who are able to be vulnerable themselves. These are the people who are less likely to judge you because they are in touch with their own vulnerabilities.