Does this sound like you?
You love seeing the raw truth and openness in other people but are afraid to let them see it in you. You have past experiences that left you unhealed and open wounds that you don’t let other people see. Sometimes you want to be open, but you feel a wall of hesitation, so you stay closed off. We have this deeply embedded in us where our thoughts are this..
“vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first I look for in you”
But why? Why do we crave the vulnerability of someone else but hide ours from them? I think it’s a product of trust, and trust is a product of vulnerability. We want these people to feel like they can trust us, it helps us feel like good humans. But at the same time, we feel damaged, and vulnerability is so hard to share.
When we think of being vulnerable we like to think about our traumas, tragedies, our dark thoughts, but it isn’t just this. It’s also joy, gratitude, and leaning into these things in the moment. A few days ago my brothers and I were playing our question card game where we drew a card that said “describe your favorite moment in life. How does it feel now?” I’d never thought of my favorite moment, but I realized my favorite moments are never extraordinary.
I answered by saying my favorite moment was when we would all work out every day after school with my coach, that’s it. At the time it didn’t feel like my favorite moment, but now it feels so nostalgic. It helped me realize that joy comes to us in moments, ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we look for extraordinary moments.
If your mom were to pass away, what would you miss most about her? It would probably be the ordinary moments you overlook now. You would miss the things you underappreciate or even the things that annoy you.
If my brother were to pass away, I would miss just sitting in his presence. I would miss walking into his room seeing him on his MacBook and just laying on the bed next to him. I would miss waiting on him to get ready so we can finally leave, even though this annoys me now.
But for some reason, it’s hard to feel this joy at the moment. It’s only in hindsight that we realize these little moments are meaningful to us. But how can we actually start feeling it at the moment?
I think it starts with gratitude. It’s a shift in perspective. Almost any person who goes through tragedy will say the way to show them compassion is not to shrink away what you have. If I were to lose my parents, you might feel like you are doing the right thing by not talking about your own parents. You want to be able to empathize, help me not think about it, and relate so I can feel better. But this is the opposite of what I’d want.
If I heard you saying “man, I fucking love my mom,” that compassion would be exactly what I want to hear. I’d want you to embrace it, celebrate it. People who go through tragedy, that’s what they want more than anything now they’ve lost someone. They want to express the gratitude they lacked, and it’s because now they have that perspective.
So I think if we want to feel more joy at the moment, we should practice presence, and a big part of presence is feeling grateful for the moment. But feeling grateful in the moment and expressing it feels hard, and it’s because it’s vulnerable. You let your guard down when you say out loud “I’m grateful to be here with you right now.”
That guard is the very thing that helps you feel safe, it keeps you from feeling hurt. But it's also what makes you miss out on the now. Sometimes joy can almost feel like a setup from these feelings of never feeling safe and certain.
When everything is going well we tend to think "what's the catch?" We don't want to be blindsided by hurt or caught off-guard, so we practice self-inflicted disappointment. We keep trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. Leaning into joy and gratitude is uncomfortable, but every time we allow ourselves to lean into these feelings and give in those moments, we build resilience. But what about our struggles of getting vulnerable with people?
Being vulnerable is about sharing vulnerability with people who have earned the right to hear it. This is almost like a growing marble collection. Each time we share an intimate side of ourselves it adds to the collection of marbles. Eventually, the marble collection is filled and we have that bank of trust with this person. But I think we’ve found a way to facilitate this growing marble collection faster.
I remember going to FSU and playing How Deep Will You Go with a complete stranger, Noah. He’d DMed us earlier that day asking to meet us since he was a supporter of us. I decided to play a round of our game with him in the grass, on campus.
It turned out to be a bro-to-bro conversation, and he told me things most people don’t share. I remember asking him about how he felt a few days later and he responded with this:
“I've actually been thinking a lot about why I was able to open up to you guys so easily. I kinda realized when these insanely deep and thought-provoking questions are framed as a "game" they become much less intimidating. Because I thought of it as playing a game, I subconsciously was able to let my guard down and was more open to answering the questions even though these are topics of conversation I'd usually try to avoid with my closest friends.”
This is the focal point, “let my guard down.”
We know that trust is built when we are vulnerable, but it’s hard to be vulnerable when we leave our guard up. This makes it take longer. This is when you keep the lid on the marble collection. When you frame vulnerability as a game, the lid is open. It becomes easier to be vulnerable because both parties are adding to the marble collection. This builds trust back and forth, which is the epitome of what healthy vulnerability looks like.
Have you ever overshared to someone and thought about it the next day thinking of how ashamed you feel because you were so open? Did you ever think of how maybe you feel this way because it wasn’t reciprocated?
I’ve realized this exact thing is what HDWYG helps to solve. We feel like we overshare when we just let off everything to someone as a dump, then they have to carry that dump of thought with them.
We didn’t get anything from them, we just dumped our stuff and left. But when it’s gamified where both people let it out gradually, this is where growth happens. This is when it feels relieving and a stronger bond is built. But if you’ve recently overshared, don’t be so harsh on yourself. I want to help you realize what really happened. See if this sounds familiar.
You don’t know someone very well or you are in front of a big group, or it is a story that you haven’t processed enough to be sharing with other people. You share it and they immediately respond "hands up; push me away" and you go, "See? No one cares about me. No one gives a shit that I'm hurting. I knew it." It's how we protect ourselves from vulnerability.
We just engage in behavior that confirms our fear. We tell ourselves being vulnerable leads to pain, and we find ways to prove ourselves right. Maybe you have a habit of oversharing with people, getting a bad response, and then confirming that no one really cares.
But what if it wasn’t them? What if it was you doing that on purpose? I don’t say this to attack you, just to maybe question your intent. You might be trying to prove yourself right over and over again so you can confirm beliefs you made for yourself, but these beliefs are built from past pain.
Let go of the idea that you need to prove yourself right. Let go of the idea that vulnerability leads to pain. Let go of these agreements you made with yourself. Leaving your guard up will only lead to pain within yourself that you never get to let out. Allow yourself to let your guard down and let go of the habits that keep your guard up.
It’s not about getting comfortable with vulnerability, it’s about normalizing discomfort.
- Stain (co-founder)