How many times have you opened yourself up to someone, only for them to reply with just love yourself or just be positive? Yet, despite this advice, they never actually suggest how to love yourself or how to be positive as though doing so is obvious and straightforward. After break ups, friends seemingly offer these “one liners” – phrases that have the best intentions, but absolutely poor execution. This following Buzzfeed article summarises the things not to say after a break up http://www.buzzfeed.com/shannonrosenberg/we-get-it-theres-a-lot-of-damn-fish-in-the-damn-sea#.ofWl94vja8

I could go through each individual phrase, but I think Buzzfeed does a pretty splendid job of explaining why they really aren’t overly helpful. One of the biggest reasons those phrases aren’t constructive is because they fail to validate the individual’s feelings. Yes, break ups do happen, and yes, almost everyone goes through them, but that doesn’t detract from the pain the individual is experiencing. Stating things like, “everything happens for a reason” or “you’re going to be okay” invalidates the heartache the individual is feeling now. And chances are, the individual already knows that they’re going to be okay, but right now, they’re not. And simply knowing that doesn’t prevent or minimise the feelings in the now, which is the only moment we ever really have. So instead of offering these one liners, validate your friend’s feelings. Empathise with them. Spend time with them. Sit with them, talk with them, and most importantly, be patient with them. Grieving doesn’t have an expiration date. And it ought not to either. We feel what we feel for however long we feel it, and often, there’s not a lot we can do to stop it. We have a lot of control in this life, but we can’t really control our heart or our feelings.

Speaking of validation, when someone says that you need to love yourself, what does that mean? Or better yet, what does that look like? I think loving yourself starts with validation. Validate the way you’re feeling. And don’t make yourself feel bad for feeling it either. Two superfluous phrases that need to be eradicated from the English language are “should” and “should not”. Should insinuates guilt. It insinuates remorse. And it insinuates suffering. Either you have or you haven’t, you will or you won’t; accept it and move on. When you already feel like shit, you don’t need to feel bad about feeling like shit. One of the things that really stuck with me in Ridgeview when I was institutionalised was, “Don’t should all over your life” – a play on words for “Don’t shit all over your life.” When I was in group therapy last year for DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy), one of the things my therapist said is that if you want to be liked by anyone, all you need to do is validate them. Validate what they’re saying and chances are, they’ll like you because they’ll feel like they are being heard and seen, both of which are important for establishing a connection. The last girl I was seeing was excellent at this. And to no surprise, she was very well liked. People loved her company because of how she made them feel. Given that this is the secret to being liked by others, it seems like a logical place to start in liking and ultimately, loving ourselves.


Secondly, embrace your flaws. Your flaws are what make you uniquely you so there isn’t any need to change them, instead, work on your strengths. A lesson I learnt playing in college is that as a player, it’s more important to work on your strengths, the things that set you apart from everyone else, than it is to work on your weaknesses. At the end of the day, a coach is going to play you for what you can do rather than what you can’t do. Also, if you only work on your weaknesses and neglect your strengths, you’ll merely become average in all domains and nothing will make you unique. Life is no different. We all have flaws. We all have things we don’t like. I have a big nose. But I embrace it. I didn’t always, particularly when I was bullied for it, but now I realise it’s a part of who I am and a part of my Dutch heritage and, it is my Opa’s nose. So it’s a way for me to remain close to him despite him no longer being here. One of the reasons that embracing your flaws is so important is because often times, we can’t change them. So, accepting them then becomes the first step. Once you can accept them, then you can start loving them.

We’ve all probably heard someone in our lives tell us to think positively or to be positive because positivity is a requisite for being happy, but rarely have people offered suggestions on how to do that. I liken “thinking positively” to my experience after surgery when I was trying to contract my quad; my brain knew it was going to be painful so refused to do it. So I would lie there, motionless. Willing my quad to contract, but nothing would happen. Telling yourself to think positively, then, is no different. Just willing yourself to do so isn’t practical. It requires work. It requires conscious effort and discipline. I suspect that one of the reasons thinking positively is so difficult is because it has to override the ego; the ego feeds off of negative energy and survives through unconscious awareness. Having said that, one of the keys to thinking positively is awareness. Catching your thoughts is essential. What do I mean by this? Using the principles of meditation, becoming an observer of your thoughts allows you to catch them and ultimately stop them before they propagate and contaminate all of your thoughts. When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it and state, I am thinking about <insert thought here> right now. This awareness becomes crucial in eradicating the feelings associated with the thought because you are no longer thinking about the thought but the awareness of the thought. So the thought loses its power. It loses its momentum. And it disappears. As I said, thinking positively takes effort; you have to retrain the dominant neural pathways in your brain by first creating new ones and then by strengthening those new ones through practice and discipline. Essentially, you’re creating a new habit.

So as a friend of someone who is going through a challenging time with a significant other, what can you do? Challenge your friend. Merely agreeing with your friend and taking their side doesn’t offer any opportunity for growth, rather, it encourages this individual to continue festering in the negativity they’ve already created, in the reality they’ve already construed. In order to grow, individuals need to be challenged on how they think. Helping the individual consider things from their significant other’s perspective can help diffuse the situation and create compassion rather than frustration. Do this however, after first validating your friend’s feelings because what they are feeling is valid given the reality they perceive. You can help alter their reality, though, by challenging them to consider another perspective.

One of the difficult situations friends find themselves in is the negative portrayal of an individual’s significant other. Often times when things are good between a partner, we rarely feel the desire to share that with a friend. Either because we don’t want to boast about how great things are, or more commonly, because we don’t want to share this happiness – we want to maximise and savour this joy by keeping it contained within ourselves and our partner. This becomes a problem though, when an individual and their partner develops problems. When the individual confides in their friend, their friend only knows this side; the negative one. The friend has not witnessed the individual and their partner in their “happy” state, so instead, the friend’s perception of the relationship is very negatively skewed. It is no wonder then, that friends are often quick to encourage individuals to “move on” or “dump their significant other”, because to them, there isn’t anything worth sticking around for. If you’ve been the individual in this situation and a friend has responded that way, have you ever then tried to convince your friend that things were really good before and you’re just going through a “tough patch”? Yet, the friend seemingly doesn’t believe you? That’s because talking about the good times when things are bad has no credibility – it appears to be a hopeless plea to redeem the seemingly (in the friend’s perspective) doomed relationship. A possible solution to this dilemma is being proactive rather than reactive. Share your partner. Show them off. Let your friends see how you act around them. Let your friends witness the positive side of them. When your friends can formulate their own opinions of your significant other, it might encourage them to be less dismissive of them and your relationship when things become challenging. As a friend, being dismissive of this individual’s relationship invalidates their invested feelings and often times, makes them feel conflicted and retreat within themselves or back to their partner. Going back to my vulnerability post, an individual needs to feel safe to express themselves, so when friends become dismissive of something or someone important to an individual, it contributes to a feeling and desire to isolate oneself.


When you’re an individual in this situation, it’s easy to construct a reality that tailors the hurt you presently feel. The problem with this however, is that this reality isn’t an accurate depiction of the relationship, but it’s often the one we communicate to others. So one of the most important things you can do is to check yourself. Ask yourself if the way that you are perceiving this is an accurate representation of what is happening or whether you are merely focusing on the negatives, thus creating a waterfall effect? Checking yourself, in combination with friends challenging you, will likely contribute to a more balanced depiction of the situation. I recently had to do the former and check myself quite significantly because I realised the internal dialogue I had been narrating to myself was an unsuccessful attempt at explaining why my heart disconnected. Logically, my explanation made sense. But emotionally, it didn’t. This was my heart’s way of communicating that my mind was being unreasonable and inaccurately conveying the situation. Which leaves me in this current state of not knowing and not understanding, something that is typically uncomfortable and unsettling, but something I am learning to accept.

Anyhow, back to advice that is practical. Fortunately Buzzfeed has also written an article on 27 Things You Really Need To Hear After Getting Your Heart Broken and I think some of this advice is extremely constructive because it not only validates the individual’s feelings, but it does so while offering compassion and empathy. http://www.buzzfeed.com/caseygueren/breakups-suck#.klL2lpN5Ld ​(I was unable to link this article, so unfortunately copying and pasting the URL in a separate tab is the only way to view it).

I also wanted to share a text message I received from a guy who I sought comfort in during a difficult time. The reason I’m sharing this message is because I was blown away with the consideration, time, effort, and compassion that he invested in his response. But especially because I didn’t think there was anything that could be said in my situation that would be practical while still offering comfort. Here is the message:


If you took the time to share that with me then of course I'm going to reply. Anyways...

I think what you're feeling / what you did is completely normal; a lot of us remain attached when sometimes it's better to just move on, despite how difficult it may be. I think it's natural that you feel upset and hurt; she means a lot to you. Yet remember that you still don't know for certain; there could be any number of reasons why she hasn't responded. But even if you are right, then what? Relationships come and go with amazing rapidity; just because she's in one now doesn't mean she'll always be, at which point she may have a change of heart and come back to you. But it also makes you wonder if someone who cuts you out of her life just to accommodate herself even deserves you. I'm not saying anybody's actions are wrong, but usually one shows more consideration for the feelings of someone whom he/she holds so dearly. Want my advice? Start to try to seriously accept the worst case scenario; have your mind grow accustomed to it. It's like an enveloping sense of contentment and relief comes over you. And just try talking to people; it's always helped me. It takes your mind off it because once you become attached to another person, I think you may find it difficult to continue thinking of the former interest. The brain and mind are amazing things, but one thing they are not very apt at is simultaneously focusing on more than one thing when you're putting conscious effort to think about someone/something, and by that time I'm sure you'll start to think of that new person with greater ease and intimacy. As another person enters, so another goes. So remain open / welcoming of interpersonal interactions; don't live with one individual in mind. There are over 7 billion people in the world; surely that yields more reason to hope than to despair. And while that is a valid insecurity, just remember that what was meant to be will be.

People come and go, but life will go on.

As you can see, sometimes there are things we can say that will help others. This message was so profound because he validated my feelings while gently offering suggestions for change. He did so so delicately, compassionately, and thoughtfully that it was easy for me to resonate with his advice and attempt to implement it. I encourage you then, to avoid using one liners. Instead, invest. Take time to consider what advice you might like to hear in a similar challenging situation. Take time to challenge your friend. Take time to empathise. Be supportive, not dismissive. Be a promoter of growth, not of stagnation. But most importantly, validate them. And don’t forget to validate yourself, either. Because the secret to others liking you and you liking yourself is just that: validation.

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  • nicole calder

How many of you have really struggled to move on with your life after a break up? Perhaps you’ve struggled to let go, or perhaps you’ve struggled to stop thinking about them. Chances are, you’re not alone. Now, I can’t speak for the past because I wasn’t around 30-40 years ago, but I have some theories that suggest break ups in the 21st century are excruciatingly challenging and often times, prolonged.

There’s no question that we live in an instantly accessible society. We hear older generations talk about how this current generation is all about “instant gratification” – but can you blame us? Communication nowadays is essentially instantaneous. We now no longer have to search through 32 volumes of encyclopaedias or, heaven forbid, go to an actual real life library to find an answer to a probing question; we have Google. We’ve been conditioned to receive reinforcement essentially instantaneously. Now I don’t use the term “conditioned” lightly either. For those of you familiar with Pavlov’s dogs or classical conditioning, I’m talking about that.

The first conscious decision you have to make is do you have hope that you and this individual will get back together or are you wanting to move on, because you can’t have both. You can’t hold on to the hope that you two will end up together and move on and in order to move on you have to accept that you are not getting back together. This might seem like a challenging decision to make, but I urge you to consider the reason(s) that you two broke up. If it really was as good as your mind is trying to conceive in order to keep holding on to this hope, chances are, things wouldn’t have ended. In order to justify our hope, we have a tendency to reflect only upon the good times. Doing otherwise creates a thing called cognitive dissonance; tension that arises when we are simultaneously aware of inconsistent thoughts (Myers, 2013, p. 733). So instead of the tension, we choose one thought and forget the other; we choose the thought that supports hope, we choose the good times. Because of this, I challenge you to adopt a more balanced outlook; consider what didn’t work just as you might consider what did work.

So you’ve made the decision to move on, now what? Now you have to create an environment that is conducive and compatible for you to do so. It took my last break up for me to realise why people delete their ex off Facebook. I always thought that it was an immature approach, but after going through a painful break up myself (what break up isn’t painful if you’re truly invested) I realised it’s not only the smart thing to do, it’s also necessary. Every time we check in on an ex on Facebook or Instagram or any other website, we reopen those wounds; we never actually allow ourselves a chance to heal and move on. Our wounds do not scar, instead they stay wounds and continue to hurt and prevent us from moving on. Each time we check their webpage, we’re self-harming. Emotionally self-harming. We’re torturing ourselves. For me, just deleting my ex off Facebook and unfollowing her wasn’t enough, especially given that her profile wasn’t private. So I took it a step further and I got rid of Facebook and Instagram altogether. I didn’t delete them, no, but I deactivated them and deleted the apps off my phone; in other words, I made them less accessible. I did this as a compromise to myself – I knew myself enough to know I couldn’t trust myself to keep active accounts and not check in on my ex, but I also knew I wasn’t ready to lose all of my photographs and data from each account. That way, if I desperately needed to check something on Facebook (like a friend’s birthday), I could reactivate my account, retrieve the information I needed, and then deactivate it again. This is what worked for me, but it might not work for you; spend some time figuring out what it is that you need and then implement it. Another reason I deactivated Facebook was because of the mutual friends that my ex and I shared – just deleting my ex wasn’t enough, I would have to manually go through and delete everyone who was friends with her in order to prevent an accidental image or tagged status appearing in my news feed. That was too much effort for me.


Part of the reason people might remain friends with their ex on Facebook and social media alike is because of hope – we hope that they might post something about us. Or perhaps we hope to see that they’re struggling and miss us and will ultimately make their way back to us. Stop. Not only is this idealistic, unrealistic, and our fantasy, it’s not constructive. You made a decision to move on and I’m here to help you stick to that. More often than not, we see images of our ex with someone else or being totally okay after our break up and that just crushes us more. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. And this is one of those times.

The ultimate question many of us have – can exes be friends after a break up? Personally, I don’t think they can. Not without someone suffering immensely. Were you and your ex ever “just friends” before you got together? Or was there an immediate attraction? If it was the latter, then isn’t it unrealistic to expect you to behave like friends when you’ve never done that before? Especially given the potential nature of your relationship and the break up? For me, I can’t be friends with an ex immediately after a break up. It’s too painful. And I believe it hinders healing. Let me explain why. Say you’ve been dating someone for a year and during this time you’ve exchanged many messages, many of which are lovey dovey and affectionate. Your phone, through the process of classical conditioning, has now been conditioned to be a source of comfort from your ex. Through acquisition, this association is extremely strong. Now you break up. And the communication changes. The communication is no longer lovey dovey, but hostile and short. Each time you receive a message from them during this break up period, you’ve been conditioned to feel a sense of comfort and affection, but what you receive is polar opposite. So each time their name pops up, you have hope that it will be “just like old times” but it’s not. And it’s not going to be. And each time it hurts just a little bit more. It crushes you. Disappoints you. Breaks you.

Ah but what if this ex of yours does still send you those lovey dovey texts? I urge you to consider why they’re doing this. Look at their past relationships – have they been able to let their exes go while seemingly moving on? Some people like to keep their exes strung along until they find someone better; a source of comfort and familiarity without the commitment. Others, selfishly, don’t want you to move on. Because they want you to want them. They need you to want them. If your ex is one of those people, run. Run as fast as you can. Run until you can’t run anymore. Okay just kidding, but I dated one of those people. They’re called “headfucks”. They don’t know what they want so they keep you strung along as an option. No one deserves to be treated like an option and you are no different. So back to our earlier decision: move on.

Our phones are no different than social media; they prevent us from healing. But what makes phones so destructive is that we can’t exactly get rid of them. And because of instantaneous communication, we know how accessible we are to our ex. We’ve become so conditioned to hearing from them regularly that even when they don’t text us, that hurts too. This is one of the primary reasons (along with social media) that I think makes break ups in the 21st century so difficult; the accessibility. Thirty odd years ago, before cell phones and the internet, once you broke up with someone, that was invariably it. There were rarely any repercussions. Sure, there might be the possibility of running into them in person, or perhaps the estranged phone call, or maybe a hand-written letter, but it wasn’t expected. Nor did you live in a way in which it was. Break ups were clean. Individuals could continue living without constant reminders of their ex other than the environment in which they perhaps shared. But they didn’t take these reminders with them everywhere they went, unlike today with our phones and technology.

Am I advising you to get rid of your phone? No, not at all. But I think that establishing clear boundaries with your ex is something that is necessary for your growth. And by clear boundaries, I mean no communication. No communication severs those aforementioned associations with your phone. It severs hope. It allows you to begin extinguishing your thoughts because you’re not being constantly reminded of them. Nor are you waiting to hear from them. When you stop talking to them, you also stop talking about them. Because there’s no new information to discuss with friends, you’re forced to talk about things other than your ex. And not talking about them means not thinking about them. And not thinking about them means there’s opportunity to heal. I was fortunate after my last official break up that my ex made it clear she didn’t want to keep in contact. She cut me off. She stopped replying. No message was a message. She killed any hope I had that we would get back together. And you know what? That was the greatest gift she could have given me because it allowed me to move on. Let me pause here for a second because I feel like I’m perhaps glorifying this situation - did it hurt when my ex went cold turkey on me? You bloody bet. Could I understand it at the time? Not at all. It broke my heart. Shattered me. Destroyed me. But the pain was short and intense; acute if you will. It lasted a month. Remaining in contact with an ex, however, produces chronic pain and prolongs the heartache; it prevents you from truly healing. It takes great strength to remember that what you want is not always what you need – perhaps you want to keep in contact with your ex, but that isn’t what you need. In the words of The Fray in their song All At Once, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

If you’ve communicated with your ex that you would like distance and they cannot respect that / continue to message you, stop replying. Don’t reinforce their behaviour. Each time you reply, you’re reinforcing them texting you. And each time you reinforce that, you deny yourself the opportunity to move on because you’ll continue thinking when are they going to text me again? If you still can’t decide whether you need to cut off communication with them, observe what your energy does after interacting with them. Do you feel energised? Motivated? Inspired? Or do you feel hostile? Bitter? Sad? If they disrupt your energy and homeostasis, politely excuse yourself from interacting with them. This is your journey and you’re in control of who accompanies you.

Okay, so you’ve cut them out of your life, now what? Delete their number. Delete their conversations. Save whatever pictures you want to save (and transfer them to your computer or something less accessible), but then delete everything. Put all of their belongings or notes or clothes in a box and put that box somewhere less accessible. Going over old texts, pictures, or letters will not serve you. It will continue reopening those wounds and will prevent you from moving on. Establish clear boundaries with friends and family too. Ask them to not discuss your ex with you unless you bring them up. The purpose of this is to create a safe environment for yourself; an environment in which you feel ex-free. An environment in which you can heal.

Because you’re no longer receiving reinforcement from your ex, I’ve found that finding someone else (or multiple people) to communicate with regularly (yes, even via texting) helps. You’re not replacing your ex, more so replacing the reinforcement you were receiving from them. Another tip: don’t force moving on. Create an environment that is compatible with you doing so (like the aforementioned online exorcism* of sorts) and be patient. When you force yourself to move on, or tell yourself things like, “I just want to let go already”, what you’re really doing is thinking about your ex. Thinking about your ex keeps them active in your life. It keeps those wounds open. And worse, it makes you feel bad for not being where you want to be which then creates feelings of bitterness, anger, or frustration; all of which are destructive to your growth.

Having said all of this, I urge you to take an active approach when attempting to move on. Will it happen naturally regardless of what you do? Probably, yes, but can you save yourself a lot of time and heartache by being active in your recovery? Absolutely. I strongly believe that we prolong this process because we’re unable to execute a few crucial steps. I also believe that we somewhat prevent ourselves from healing in our entirety when we remain friends with our exes. When we can’t heal entirely, we also can’t give ourselves entirely to someone else. And your next lover deserves to experience the beautiful completeness of you in your entirety; with scars, not wounds. So don’t cheat them. And don’t cheat yourself.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that I fully understand the need for certain things to happen naturally – I know all too well that our heart will let go when it’s ready to let go and that it is not something we can force. The purpose of this post is not to force anything, rather it is to lessen the pain of the process of moving on and to create the best possible environment in which to do so. I have recently had to take this approach, an active one, in order to minimise my suffering. Am I emotionally detached from this person? No. Has my heart let go? No it hasn’t. And I can’t make it. But I can control how much I suffer during the process in which it does. And that, my friends, is what I want you to realise; we might not have complete control in this life, but we do have control over this.

*I borrowed this phrase from Lisa Steadman in an interview she had with Lois McCullough from her Unstuck and Unstoppable Summit.

Reference:

Myers, D. G. (2013). Social Psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

  • nicole calder

Before reading this post, I encourage you to check out the Ted Talk I posted above. Brené Brown is a phenomenal speaker who has devoted the past decade to researching stories and connection and what did she find? She found that vulnerability is essential for connection, “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Four years ago in my sophomore year I recall approaching a mentor and stating that relationships are the most important thing in our lives. Life is less about what we do and more about who we do it with. Recall a favourite memory of yours, are you alone? Or are you sharing that experience with someone? Relationships are present in every aspect of our lives whether that’s in our relationship with our friends, our family, our significant other, our teammates, our mentors, our co-workers, or even just strangers. Everything that we do in society, we do by interacting with other people. Because relationships are central in everything that we do and are consequently a core component of our happiness, don’t you think it’s time we spent some time investing in them?

One of the tragedies of the 21st century is that we are governed by superficiality; social media, cell phones, computers (ironic, I know), televisions - all of this technology was created to increase connection, but I believe it’s doing the opposite. We might be the most accessible society to have ever lived, but we are certainly not the most connected. We no longer see strangers conversing on public transport, instead we see adults with headphones plugged in and their faces glued to a screen. Instead of real, authentic connections, our connections are limited to words on a screen. Even the art of letter writing has all but disappeared, an art that was sentimental, authentic, vulnerable. I believe we’ve become addicted to superficiality. That’s why anyone true, anyone deep, anyone with substance feels so lost, feels so alone. Because the truth is, they are. And nothing is worse than ending up with people who make you feel all alone.

So how can we change this? Well, we can start by having a conversation about it. Vulnerability is difficult because it’s a risk and a risk that leaves us susceptible to getting hurt, BUT, it also allows us the possibility to make a connection. And a real, authentic connection. The kind of connection where you feel understood, seen, loved. But the only way to rid yourself of feeling misunderstood is to give others the opportunity to understand you. That means, making yourself vulnerable.

 

Let me tell you a story. Around this time last year, I was in a pretty dark place. The people I had reached out to in my inner circle and asked for help seemed to reject me, they told me to just be happy and to snap out of my depression. I felt let down. I felt misunderstood. I felt rejected. Reaching out for help was my attempt at making myself vulnerable; I was in a dark and desperate place and I was abandoned. After hitting rock bottom, I recalled meeting an individual at A Very Gay Turkey Day late in 2013 (basically a lesbian thanksgiving for all the lesbians in the Atlanta region). The reason I remembered this individual was because she actually took an interest in me. She was entirely present and entirely genuine; she wasn’t distracted by anyone else nor was she trying to determine my relationship status. She was enjoying my company and I hers. Out of the 100 or so people I met that night, she is the only person I remembered. Apparently I even met my ex, but I have no recollection of our interaction. I remember this girl, though, because of her energy. She carried, and still does to this day, such a compassionate, vibrant, loving, and genuine energy and that resonated with me. I remember following her on Instagram and continuing to feel the intensity of her energy - the positivity, the love, the kindness, the tenderness - and I decided I needed some of that in my life. So during this dark period, I reached out to her on Facebook. These were my exact words: “hey, so i know this is extremely random, but i've been an avid fan of your energy for a while now. basically i'm in a pretty bad place right now and have been struggling for a few months and i think i could really benefit from your energy and good vibes. so if this isn't too forward, would you be willing to meet for coffee or something?”

Why am I sharing this story with you? Well, ironically, one of the reasons I reached out to this individual was because she had recently posted the aforementioned Ted Talk The Power of Vulnerability on her Facebook so I thought to myself, cool, she knows how important it is to make oneself vulnerable in order to establish a connection. I asked myself, what do I have to lose? Granted I was in a fragile state of mind at the time, so perhaps I might not have received rejection well, but I had decided that at the very least, she would decline my offer for coffee. No real harm done right? She ended up replying and to this day, she is one of the few people my souls have genuinely connected with. I would consider her a soul mate. I would even go as far as to say I’m platonically in love with this girl. She helped me significantly last year; her words of support and understanding catalyzed my healing process. She has seen all of me, and I, all of her. Our hearts, souls, and minds are so intrinsically intertwined. And all of this because I made a conscious decision to make myself vulnerable.


One of my favorite quotes (I have a lot) is, “It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does.” Peter McWilliams. To me, love is synonymous with vulnerability. To truly love, you have to make yourself vulnerable. Without vulnerability, without being your authentic self, you’re essentially in a superficial relationship. Lust, perhaps, but not love. Love takes courage, compassion, connection, and most of all, vulnerability. I understand these are all words and words are a lot easier to say than to implement, so instead, I urge you to begin to allow yourself to feel. When you’re angry, be angry. When you’re sad, be sad. Be the best version of sad you can be; embrace your sadness. When you’re happy, be happy. Embrace it and run with it. Please don’t buffer your feelings. Like in my former post, the beauty of feeling things so deeply or of knowing darkness is that it makes the light, lighter. I have been told numerous times that I put all my eggs in one basket, that I’m too vulnerable and that that is why I get destroyed. But to me, there’s no other way to live. Because when things align, the beauty and serenity of that experience is what makes me feel alive. And because without my vulnerability, I would not have loved. And my soul would still be searching for a mate.

 

So let’s get practical. How can you make yourself more vulnerable in a world that is so guarded and sheltered? Take an active approach. When a friend comes to you and they are upset, instead of offering what I call “one-liners”, phrases that perhaps have the best intentions but terrible execution, ask questions. Often we hear people say, “I’m here if you need anything,” but that’s almost a dismissive statement. It’s almost as though you, as the listener, are not wanting to invest any energy into figuring out what is upsetting your friend, instead, you expect them to come to you. We do this despite the fact that we both know how difficult it is to make oneself vulnerable, let alone to someone who doesn’t seem overly invested in our wellbeing. So let’s change that. Let’s invest in people. Ask questions. And ask the difficult ones. I’m a firm believer that you can get almost anyone to open up if you ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions either; if it’s too personal, chances are, they’ll tell you. I’m also a firm believer that everyone has a story they want to share, but often they do not have anyone who is willing to listen. Be that person. Listen. Help others help themselves and in turn, it will help you. When we create a safe environment for others to express themselves, we in turn create a safe environment to express ourselves.

I acknowledge that one of the difficulties of making ourselves vulnerable is this vicious and challenging cycle in which we live - being vulnerable has become so rare that people don’t know how to respond when someone is vulnerable. Because of their response (or lack thereof), people are then less likely to become vulnerable in the future because they received an unfulfilling response; a rejection of sorts. Vulnerability takes courage and when we don’t seek the response we desire or at times, even need, we retreat back into our shells of comfort and superficiality. So what can we do when someone makes themselves vulnerable to us? At the very least, we can validate them. Tell them that what they’re feeling is warranted. And all because they are feeling it. Feelings don’t have to be contingent on anything; if it’s real, it’s valid. Proceed to acknowledge the courage it took them to be vulnerable and ask questions. Try to understand. Be empathetic. Listen. Invest. Encourage.

So for those of you wanting to establish a connection, I challenge you to be courageous. Tell someone how you feel. Take a risk. Will you experience rejection? Potentially. But will you experience love? Just as likely. When you live your life vulnerably, you’re living authentically. When you live authentically, you’re living to be understood. When you’re understood, you feel a sense of contentment within. All of which contributes to an everlasting sense of peace and joy and an overarching feeling of happiness. But let’s not stop there. I not only challenge you to be courageous, I challenge you to invest in others. Create an environment in which others feel safe and secure. Create an environment that is governed by love and compassion. Create an environment of validation. Create an environment in which vulnerability can flourish. Create the environment that would make you want to be vulnerable in.

In the words of Bob Marley, “Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” So be courageous. Be bold. Be vulnerable. And in turn, you’ll allow your heart to feel true pleasure.


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