“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~Ernest Hemingway
In love and in life, our vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths. We often believe that we risk too much by being vulnerable, but, in fact, the opposite is true. When we build a wall around us to protect ourselves from our big, bad fears, we miss out on so much.
When we live with the mindset that something may be taken from us (physically or emotionally), or that we need to be in control of everything that happens, we endure fear on a daily basis.
It’s exhausting to live this way. It makes us cynical, suspicious, and unable to follow our hearts because we are afraid of what might happen.
So what exactly are we protecting ourselves from when our walls are up?
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being ridiculed
- Fear of failure
- Fear of being wrong
- Fear of committing ourselves and having to follow through
- Fear of being taken advantage of
These fears are so normal that, unless we become self-aware, they can permeate our everyday interactions. It’s not just about trusting people either, but also life situations and opportunities that come our way. When the barriers are up, our lives become needlessly limited.
We don’t bother talking to that person because we’re certain they won’t be interested in a date. We don’t show how much we care about a person because we’re afraid they won’t love us back. We don’t go for that job or that course because we’re scared we won’t get an interview.
Nobody likes to feel exposed, but if you are someone who has suffered at the hands of betrayal, trust issues become even further magnified.
Learning to be vulnerable after deep pain can feel impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. If you consciously choose to stay open and trusting, you will find that your world changes for the better in ways you may never have imagined.
Of course, it is always right to use our instincts as our guide. You should never set yourself up to be shot down emotionally by someone who doesn’t deserve your trust. But equally, you should not let negative past experiences allow you to believe that it's not safe to trust again.
My ex-husband left me three years ago after having an affair. It cut deeply, but I healed and moved on.
I’m now in love with a man who was also cheated on, by his ex-wife. When we got together, the bond we found at the beginning was never one of bitterness and mutual wallowing, and that was a big attraction for us both.
It could have been so easy for our common ground to be past pain, but we had so much more. What we have now is an amazing relationship filled with love and trust; but that only comes from allowing yourself to be vulnerable, despite what has happened in your past.
We could never have found each other or shared such depth of love if we’d had protective walls built up.
Because I am so happy now, my joy makes me very aware of all that I could have been missing, had I let any of the big, bad fears stop me from finding love again.
I've also had to restore trust in my ex-husband because he is the father of my children. When someone has betrayed you, it can be easy to see their every act, decision, or motive as suspicious in some way. But to do so is to build up that wall again, which blocks the possibility of positive as well as negative outcomes.
I’ve had to trust that he wants the same as me when it comes to our children, and dare to be vulnerable and speak up when things are not right for them. As a result, they have handled the divorce and the changes to their lives relatively smoothly.
In order to get to a place where you are comfortable being vulnerable and trusting a person or situation, you must first be honest with yourself.
It is not weak to admit to ourselves that we fear rejection. Better to admit that than to tell yourself, “She’s not my type,” “I don’t have the time/money to do that course,” or “Men can’t be trusted.”
Once we look the big, bad Fears in the eye and see they are simply trying to protect us from being hurt, we can simply say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’d like to see what’s beyond that wall.”
Photo by Damian Gadal