Ah, vulnerability… that sometimes scary state where we open ourselves up to hurt, and take a chance without knowing the outcome in advance. For most of us, the very thought of it is terrifying.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to live in one of two emotional realities – so open and vulnerable that our well-being and mood depend on those of everyone around us, or closed off to connection altogether and disaffected. But there is a happy medium.
If you’re wondering just what sort of vulnerability balance to strike, look no further. This quick, score-it-yourself quiz will help you assess your relationship in regard to boundaries, communication skills and willingness/resistance to change. Plus, it will give you tips for finding that sweet spot where you can connect and grow without sacrificing yourself… or your sanity!
1. When something gets screwed up at work, my immediate reaction is to…
a. Figure out who’s to blame (and it’s rarely me)
b. Smooth things over, often taking responsibility for situations I have nothing to do with… keeping everyone happy is paramount!
c. Look for constructive ways to help prevent the problem in the future… starting with any role I may have played.
2. When I’m upset or sad with the person I care about, I…
a. Keep it to myself. I don’t like people seeing me cry – I hate emotional conversations!
b. Sometimes I skirt the real issue. If I do bring it up, I can become emotionally needy or fish for validation that they love me.
c. Address the situation as openly, honestly and calmly as I can. I’m not always perfect, but I try.
3. How do you feel about meeting new people?
a. If they’re the right people, it’s a chance for me to show my strengths. Fantastic.
b. It makes me nervous, I tend to be shy… or wind up saying too much.
c. I usually enjoy it.
4. True or false: I need a relationship to feel complete.
a. False. I don’t need anyone!
b. True. Without a partner, I feel worthless.
c. False… but it would be nice to have someone to share life with!
5. Think about times you’ve been hurt in the past… How do you feel about the people who did you wrong now?
a. I hold a grudge. Am still angry or am completely unfazed like the person doesn’t exist.
b. Devastated and triggered. Even the thought of it can be enough to bring up questions of my worth and what I did wrong.
c. Sad sometimes maybe, but mostly resolved. It may take me a little while, but I make peace with my emotions and my own responsibility for my life situations.
6. When someone close to me is angry, upset, sad (or anything other than happy), I tend to…
a. Find it annoying and weak or brush it off.
b. Take it on as if it’s my fault or do anything I can to make them feel better.
c. Acknowledge it without judgment (though I admit it, occasionally I draw my own conclusions… that most of the time have little to do with me!)
7. I ask for what I want…
a. Ask? I demand it… and anybody who can’t comply isn’t worth my while.
b. Rarely, if ever… I’m too scared of rejection or upsetting the person.
c. When necessary, yes. I also try my best to provide it for myself and treat others in the way I expect to be treated.
Mostly A: Vulnerability is for the weak!
You sure put on a tough face. In fact, people probably find you competent and confident (if not actually cocky). You have little problem making requests (nay, demands) and hold others – including yourself – to extremely high standards. Odds are, you take little responsibility for your involvement in other people’s emotions (you’ve probably hurt some people along the way without even noticing) and have yourself convinced that you can do anything on your own… The truth is, you most likely can do everything for yourself, but life would be a lot more fun (and rewarding!) if you didn’t always feel that you have to.
As strong as it seems outwardly, this state of being indicates that you were probably hurt badly at some point in life. And at that moment (or after several of them), you learned that erecting walls was the way to avoid being vulnerable again. You decided (however subconsciously) that being guarded and trusting no one were the real secrets to survival and they became your life MO. Now that disconnection without reflection is just your status quo. The good news is, you don’t have to settle for the status quo – and you shouldn’t!
In order to open yourself up to deeper connections and more fulfilling relationships (including with yourself), try reframing your perspective. First, accept the truth that vulnerability is not weak, it is strong. Admitting your wrong on occasion increases others respect for you, it doesn’t diminish it! Same with tapping into other people’s emotions – or at least being conscious of them. Take a chance at something where you may not succeed and even if you fail, you’ll grow stronger and more capable of reaping continued rewards for the long haul.
Mostly B: Heartloose and Boundary Free
Whether you’re generally shy or always smiling and friendly, one thing is for certain: you rarely – if ever – put yourself first in any situation… While this may sound selfless (or at least that’s what you tell yourself), your need to please people doesn’t stop you from resenting them when they fall short of your expectations. It just stops you from saying anything about it… and the frustration builds, making you seem irrational or hyper sensitive, which truthfully, you often are! In fact, you can be so sensitive to other’s emotions that you assume they always have something to do with you, even when it makes absolutely no sense. We all have individual thoughts, feelings, fears and motivations, and no one else can control us or our reactions.
Basic translation? You’re way too vulnerable. It’s time to take a step back and set some boundaries.
If setting boundaries seems like the opposite of being vulnerable, look at it this way. Once you define what is and isn’t okay for you, you’ll be free to be sensitive again, without depending on anyone else for your well-being. You’ll also be acknowledging that you’re worth setting boundaries for, which will go a long way to improving the way you’re seen and treated – as someone with self-respect. And finally, by accepting that you’re only human – and so are the other people in your life – you allow for failures as well as true successes that are unencumbered by resentment for the past mistakes you’re still holding onto.
Mostly C: Venerably Vulnerable
Congratulations! You understand that you control your own emotions and as a result, have found a way to express them that isn’t abrasive and lets others in, without relying on them for approval. You’re willing to try new things and get to know new people, sometimes, risking hurt in the process. Odds are, people find you approachable, empathetic and relatively non-judgmental. Also likely is that you’ve done the work to achieve the growth that has gotten you this far!
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