As an introvert, I struggle to be vulnerable and open up to other people.
I’m a little bit shy (although I’m moving past this as I get older), a little quiet—at least around people I don’t know.
Even writing this is a HUGE, scary leap out of my comfort zone. To be 100% real with you: my comfort zone has never been further away.
I think a lot of it comes from years of insecurity and not feeling good enough. I’ve told myself that I’ll never be good at small talk; I don’t have the “it” thing that makes it seem so effortless to everyone else.
I’ve felt different ever since I was a little kid—I like to think I was “4 going on 40.”
I’m an old soul, but that’s just something I’ve come to realize in the last decade or so. What little kid understands that?
Um, they don’t. So, I’ve felt a little different from my peers for a long time, which is super fun.
I’ve always felt that if I let people see the “real” me, that I wouldn’t be well-received. My peers would think that I’m weird, awkward…not worth knowing. Hard to understand—too quirky…and not in the cool way, either.
I’ve never had a large group of friends. A lot of introverts only have a small circle of people with whom they’re really close. I’ve always had that, but I used to want more. I used to want to be that person who knew everyone and was always getting invited out to do stuff. Of course, as someone who loves their time alone, who’s to say I would actually go out? Mmm, probably wouldn’t happen. 😉
I would try to be more social, but it always felt like literal work. It’s a struggle, and definitely not something that comes naturally to me. I’m usually always conscious of it feeling…a little forced, a little fake, a little try-too-hard.
And now it’s raining as I type this, and I can’t help but feel that it’s perfect for this topic. I felt a little gray and gloomy when I was a teenager. My social anxiety sometimes felt like a heavy, dark cloud was following me around constantly. I couldn’t seem to break free of it.
Why am I saying all this? Because all of this was true, until a few years ago.
Why are we so afraid to be vulnerable?Why are we so afraid to vulnerable?Click To Tweet
Why are we so desperate to be understood by others and yet so afraid to do what it takes to reach that mutual understanding?
A lot of times it’s because we’ve been burned in the past. For me, I’ve been shy ever since I can remember. You know that clingy kid you saw in the supermarket who wouldn’t let their parents move 5 inches without waddling closer to them and hanging on for dear life?
Yeah, that was me. Hey.
However, when I started school, I was bullied from the age of 4 up until around the age of 9 or so. 5 years of grubby little jerks in tacky school uniforms calling me names and making me feel bad about myself for no reason. Of course now I can (almost) laugh at it. We were all young. Kids are mean. About 98% of the world’s population has been bullied at some point. You grow up and realize that it wasn’t as big of a deal as it seemed to be back then.
Except that it was, because I know it shaped me into the person I am today. If you’ve ever been picked on, then you know it had a lasting effect on you, too. It shaped me into a painfully shy pre-teen and an insecure teenager. Add to that the fact that I seem to be the only true introvert in my family.
With the addition of social media being what it is today, there are also a lot more people oversharing like I am right now, which is awesome. But now there are even more people getting burned. And it’s not just grade-school bullies stoking the flame.
It’s strangers on the Internet having a good time, not realizing the harm they’re causing. But I’m not getting into all of that because I frankly don’t care that much about them, and it’s not the point I’m trying to make right now. I personally find it a lot easier to shake off what strangers say. It’s harder to shake off mean things when people you know are saying them all up in your face.
Before I left for college, I was so tired of letting my shyness hold me back from things I wanted to do—or things I thought I wanted to do. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed all the things I imagined I would because I’d never actually done them.
Anyway, I knew I couldn’t go on the way that I had been. Something had to give. I had to give in—dismantle bits and pieces of my personality. Analyze them. See what was working and what wasn’t. Throw away the parts I didn’t like. Keep the important stuff that was unique and makes me who I am, like my aversion to sports and sassy quips here and there.
So I did just that. Some stuff was tossed; some lucky elements of me got to stick it out.
I graduated from community college and took my still shy, still sassy self to a four-year university where I was determined to “break out of my shell”—in all of that cliche, teenage movie melodrama.
It kind of…worked. Away at school, away from the social pressure I felt from my family and friends back home (real or imagined, it didn’t matter…I still felt it), I decided to “reinvent” myself as a lot of people do when they move away to college.
And like happens with most people, it doesn’t exactly pan out like you expect it to.
When you try to change who you inherently are, well, it’s almost pointless. It’s hard and pretty much impossible. There are parts of you that make you who you are as a human being, and those things are special and sacred—even if you hate them, which I did. I hated my social anxiety, my shyness, my insecurity when talking to new people (which I felt was obvious). Why couldn’t I just interact like other people my age? Why did I have to constantly second guess every single comment or gesture that I made?
Eventually, I hit my stride, womaned up, and realized that everyone around me was faking it, too. Everyone has their weirdness and their anxiety, but some of us just wear it more out in the open instead of tucking it away inside themselves.Everyone has their weirdness & anxiety. Some of us just wear it more out in the open.Click To Tweet
I guess that’s the one thing introverts are more open about then extroverts.
Once I understood this, it was like a dam broke, and I just kind of let go of all the insecurities and worries I’d had and just focused on being true to myself—personality flaws and all.
Being around new people, finding my “group”, and being thrown into new situations almost daily opened me up in ways that I hadn’t experienced before. This changed me in a way that I hadn’t been able to accomplish on my own. I didn’t completely abandon the parts of my personality that I disliked, but they were molded into a new version of myself, a person who was no longer shy—a young woman who grew to know herself better than she ever had.
But why did it take so long? And why was I so incapable of making the change earlier?
Authenticity, “realness”, vulnerability—call it what you want. If you haven’t noticed, it’s trendy right now. Super trendy. Everywhere you look, people are begging, no, demanding, that people “just be real” with one another. Just keep it at 100%. “Be real with me.” “I just want someone who’s genuinely themselves.” “I’m seeking someone who can be as vulnerable as me.” “I hate when people are fake and inauthentic.”
That’s all well and good, but for those of us who have always struggled with finding that vulnerability, who have yearned for that safe space to be themselves and open up, you would think this surge of trendy realness would help matters along, right?
Mmm, not so much. At least for me. There’s a whole lot of people opening up now, but still not that much depth. Sure, you can open up to others, but your story has to still be pretty and cool and not too weird and not too uncomfortable for the other person and not too embarrassing and not too pathetic and not too gruesome.
There’s a certain way you have to go about it, and it can’t be too much or too icky for other people to take in.
But that’s life. It’s too much and there are icky parts. Parts you don’t want to have to say and parts that other people don’t want to hear.
Parts you don’t really wanna talk about. And for those of us who have struggled for so long just to open up a little, who have finally found the courage to do so, there are now parameters on how we have to go about it.
Well, that sucks. And I give up. I’m doing it my way. And even though I can throw together a cute outfit in less than 10 minutes, I can’t throw my life’s story together in a way that remotely resembles “cute.” But I’m okay with that. I can no longer worry about how I look to other people. Yeah, I’m still concerned about that, but I’m going to try not to be, and this is the first step.
Want to read more posts on personality?
- Understanding Your Love Language as an Introvert
- Confessions of an Introvert (Part 1)
- Confessions of an Introvert (Part 2)
- Confessions of an Introvert (Part 3)
I think another reason why people are so reluctant to open up is because they’re usually doing so to those they are closest to—family and friends. If you ask me, that’s the hardest thing to do. Looking in someone’s eyes who’s known you the longest, who knows almost everything about you? That ain’t fun—just coming from personal experience.
I don’t enjoy it.
But opening up to new friends with whom you don’t have a past? Opening up to people online? Pssh, easiest thing ever, amiright?
It can be embarrassing to show those closest to you your true, true self. Why? Because there’s all this pressure associated with it. Again, in my experience. Whether we realize it or not, we put pressure on other people to always act the way they’ve always been. This isn’t so bad because we usually do continue to act a certain way for most of our lives. But there comes a point where sometimes we change—either on purpose or on accident—but we still continue to feel this pressure to act like we always have.
And it’s absolutely stifling. This is no one’s fault; it just happens. I’ve done it; you’ve done it. I think everyone’s guilty of this at some point.
So we think we can sort of have it both ways; we try to act like our past selves, even though we’re finding our true selves and starting to act differently. We try to juggle both, but it’s honestly impossible.
You may end up disappointing some people…or confusing them. Or confusing yourself. It can be a hot mess.
This is how it was for me when I left for school. I made a new group of friends, and I felt really comfortable to be myself. But the “home” me and the “college” me were a little different. It was sometimes hard to reconcile them.
Eventually, you need to do what’s good for you and not worry about how other people will react.
This whole vulnerability thing is still really foreign to me and still goes against parts of my personality, but I’m not entirely mad about it.
That’s not to say that I’m typing this as a super confident, young 24-year-old, with charming wit and great hair.
I mean, that last part is true…
But I’ve come to realize that it’s a journey, and I stumble a little less every day.Eventually, you need to do what's good for you and not worry about how other people will react.Click To Tweet
Read this next: 4 Epic Ways Introverts Can Improve Their Relationships
I’m not going to leave you with some inspirational quote to end this. I just felt like you should know that you’re not alone, and at least one other person has felt the way you’re feeling right now. And it’s okay to be more vulnerable, if that’s what you feel like you need to do. Worry about yourself for a moment. Be your true self.
It’s worth it in the end.
Have you struggled with vulnerability? Still working on it? Did I completely miss the mark or could you relate to parts of my story? Share your thoughts below in the comments.
I have a feeling we’re going to be friends—let’s get to know each other better.