I’m a pretty open person. I welcome questions about myself and happily share stories about my life. I’m willing to put myself and my thoughts online after all!
I nearly didn’t tell you that I’ve been divorced.
It wasn’t a conscious choice at first. It’s simply a chapter of my life that’s dealt with and closed for the most part.
When it occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned it at all so far on More to Mum, I questioned whether I wanted to.
And it made me feel a little vulnerable.
No one gets married with the intent of it not working out. It’s not that I have a problem with the concept of divorce. And it’s certainly not uncommon these days. So, what was it that made me feel uncomfortable?
Well, I pride myself on being determined and committed to things that are important to me. I also grew up with a significant fear of failure and so, I felt ashamed when things didn’t work out in my first marriage. I felt like a failure, even though divorce was the best path forward. I couldn’t say the word ‘divorced’ without feeling uneasy.
I made peace with the idea of being divorced over the following months and years. These days, if it’s relevant, I talk quite openly about it. I appreciate the good years in that relationship and I’ve made sense of the bad. To be honest, my divorce opened the door to a life that I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on and has added to the person that I am.
Yet I still almost didn’t tell you.
It’s hard to be vulnerable and let yourself be really seen.
What are we really scared of?
Brene Brown has done some fantastic research on vulnerability (you can see her TED talk here for a summary). She talks about how being vulnerable can trigger a fear of not being worthy of connection. We feel shame because we think we aren’t ‘good enough’ in some way and if others see that, then they won’t want to connect with us.
The irony is that Brene’s research shows that to really connect with others, you must have the courage to be imperfect and be who you really are. This authenticity requires that you can let go of who you think you should be, to just be yourself.
Motherhood often feels overloaded with expectations of who and what we should be.
- be a ‘good’ mum (whatever that means)
- be fun and always present
- raise children who reach all their milestones, are well behaved in public, who don’t watch too much TV, who share and have wonderful manners
- keep the house looking beautiful
- prepare amazing healthy meals every day
- keep our husbands happy
- look our best all the time
- manage work as well as caring for our family.
And the list goes on.
What are the ‘should’s that make you feel like you can’t share your authentic story?
What are you worried that people will see as not being good enough in you or your life?
Why you should allow yourself to be really seen
In reality, no one needs you to be perfect.
In fact, it can be hard to relate to perfect – sometimes people don’t trust what looks perfect, others feel intimidated by it, or admire it but feel it’s out of their reach.
Here’s the key, lovely mum:
You are good enough.
You just need to be you.
We all have imperfections, mistakes, flaws, quirks and things we wish we were better at. Plus, life doesn’t always go to plan (and boy, did I have a fantastic plan!)
Sometimes it’s tempting to pretend that these things don’t exist and in doing so we push away the opportunity for authentic connections.
But if you can find the courage to be vulnerable and authentic with others you’ll deepen your relationships and build trust. You’ll create real connections. You’ll be able to ask for or simply receive (without asking) the help that you need. Over time, as you receive love and empathy in return for your vulnerability, you’ll feel more confident in being your authentic self. And lastly, you may open the door for you to help someone else who finds your story resonates with them.
As a mum who’s working parenting and life out on the go, it’s always comforting to know that another mum is struggling with something too. It helps us feel less alone and provides opportunities to learn from each other.
When to be vulnerable and how much to share
Being vulnerable and authentic isn’t about shouting your darkest secrets from the social media rooftops. I’m talking about sharing wisely – where it’s relevant and for the right intentions.
The right intentions could include:
- To build a deeper level of trust and connection with someone
- To help someone
- To ask for the help you really need (even if that’s just having someone listen while you get things off your chest).
This isn’t about sharing because you want to grab attention or sympathy. It’s also not about oversharing – which can make people feel uncomfortable and actually create a disconnect.
The depth of trust and connection and the situation at hand will influence how much is appropriate to share. You will usually be able to feel that in the moment.
When it’s something really personal or impactful, the best person to be vulnerable with is someone who loves you for your imperfections. Someone who has your back and will be there no matter what. Someone who will respond with empathy and love.
Brene says that when we share with people who have ‘earned the right’ to hear our stories (through trusting relationships) then we are deepening connection, compassion and courage and intimacy.
Do you sometimes worry about getting a negative reaction?
Think about a time someone told you something about themselves that would have taken great courage to share. How did you feel about them?
I’ve almost always regarded the person as courageous and authentic when I’ve been in those situations myself. The fact that they trusted me with their story, generated even more trust. Sometimes I’ve learned things that I can apply to my own life, even if I wasn’t in the exact same situation. And I wanted to help them if I could.
Generally, being vulnerable with the right people for the right reasons will result in an empathetic and loving response. However, you may sometimes bear the brunt of a reaction that is negative or critical.
Negative reactions are often more a reflection of what’s going on for the other person than what you’ve shared. Their own insecurities or hurts may trigger the unhelpful response. In saying that, you should absolutely reflect on whether what you’ve said or how you’ve said it could have reasonably triggered a negative response – that’s just taking ownership of your own actions. And while you can support them in dealing with their own reaction, you don’t have to give it too much weight in terms of your own situation, if it’s unhelpful.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable to build confidence and deep connections
Relationships are built on a series of conversations. Authentic, honest conversations, create deep trusting relationships where we are able to be ourselves.
When you have the courage to be imperfect and be really seen, you give yourself the opportunity to live freely and authentically. You’ll develop real connections with people and may also find opportunities to help them. By outwardly accepting who you are, over time you’ll release some of the pressure you put on yourself to appear a certain way to others. And you’ll build your confidence in being yourself as you share and receive empathy and love in return.
Personally, I want to live as authentically as possible. And I want to connect with mums like you and offer my experiences and knowledge in service to help you.
So, I’m telling you that I’ve been divorced. And it makes me feel a little vulnerable putting it out there on the internet. But I’m just being me.
One of the reasons I created More to Mum was to help you believe that you are enough just the way you are.
Today’s action plan will help you take another little step in the right direction. This one might need a bit of reflection. Here’s a worksheet to record your answers if you’d find that helpful.
Take some time to think about and answer the following questions:
- What part of your story aren’t you sharing?
- What are you worried that people will see as not good enough in you or your life if you did share it?
- How would you feel if you were able to share this with someone appropriate?
- Who would be the best person to share this with?
If you’re interested in an extra challenge:
Next time you miss an opportunity to be vulnerable, reflect on why you didn’t share openly in that situation. You could use the same questions above to figure out if and how you might handle it differently if it comes up again.
Remember, you just need to be you.