Overcoming the Fear of Vulnerability and Unlocking Your Power

Open Heart

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~Criss Jami

Wanting to avoid pain and shield ourselves from it is natural—and, by the way, completely not possible, because as we close up to protect ourselves against pain, we also block out the light that reflects from it.

Despite our best efforts, the boundaries that we’ve built around our hearts to protect us from feeling pain, discomfort, and hurt are the very chains that keep us tethered to it, disallowing us from feeling the opposites—joy, love and passion.

Only in embracing our true nature, at our deepest core level, as emotional, vulnerable, and feeling beings are we able to tap our resilient inner strength.

Have you ever tried to cross your arms in front of your heart while smiling or laughing at the same time? Try it. It feels weird. You may be aware that you’re smiling or laughing, but you sure don’t feel like it.

Or, try throwing your arms up wide with a big open heart like you just crossed the finish line of an amazing race, and see if you can wear a frown or angry face. It simply feels unnatural. This is because we are feeling beings and our heart center is our core feeling center.

When we block our heart, we block the feelings as well, and when we open our heart it feels unnatural to be anything but joyous.

Our feelings are indicators of our current alignment with our soul’s path and higher energy source.

I used to stuff feelings down deep, especially negative ones, not understanding that by doing so I was suppressing my unique intuitive guidance system.

Feelings are there to teach us something about ourselves and reveal to us our true desires. It is only in a state of vulnerability, when we drop the armor around our hearts, that we can truly access these feelings and lessons to become centered, strong, and wise.

My early childhood and adolescent years were largely dysfunctional. I grew up broke for the most part in an unstable household, where my father, who was an alcoholic, was also verbally or physically abusive.

This environment imprinted on my young developing mind a perception that the world was difficult. I viewed the world through a lens smudged of struggle, and this perception became my reality as I felt I had to muscle my way through life in in an effort to not end up like my past.

As a result, I spent the better part of three decades unconsciously building walls to protect myself from these fears and insecurities I knew as a child.

Vulnerability meant emotional pain, so I developed thick skin growing up. From the vantage point of others, I had a good front of just being strong-willed and determined; and my fear of being judged by my dysfunctional upbringing was somewhat minimalized.

As I made my way through life, I’ve always seemed happy enough, pretty enough, and smart enough, yet I grew acutely aware there was a happiness ceiling I was hitting my head on, fully conscious of the fact that it simply was not high enough.

While I experienced happiness regularly, when it came to feeling joyful, there seemed to be a disconnect. I was too guarded and allowed myself to become hardened, stiff, and in a state of resistance.

I thought that in order to be strong and powerful I had to be tough and put up a good fight, putting up protective layers of resistance. Ironically, in an effort to be strong, I was giving up my power.

My happiness was largely contingent on other things happening or not happening as if it was out of my control. I now can attribute this disconnect as a result of resisting my true authentic nature and not staying open and vulnerable to the calling of my inner Higher Self, due to the layers of walls and blockages I have built.

There came a point in my life after my father’s traumatic death to cancer when I decided I no longer would accept going through my days hardened, disconnected, or defensive. I had not fully forgiven him at the time of his passing, but I made a conscious choice then, and now it’s a daily evolution, where I choose to surrender to my vulnerability instead of hiding from it.

Through yoga, meditation, and a lot of conscious intention setting, I began to shed these walls one layer at a time, revealing each time the softer side that I’ve always known to be a core part of my being—the side that is moldable, connected and resides with a deep inner knowing; the part that changes, grows and allows.

These days I choose to take my power back and wear my heart on my sleeve, where it belongs. This doesn’t mean I’m overly emotional, but I do allow myself to be vulnerable, to drop my resistance and feel my way through my experiences, reflecting as needed in pursuit for higher meaning behind anything that would otherwise cause me pain.

I’m acutely aware that everything is fleeting or temporary, and because of this I try my best not to take things for granted. With this awareness I feel I have no choice but to completely absorb the moment by allowing myself to be vulnerable and truly deeply feel.

The challenge lies in discerning what beliefs no longer serve you and understanding that, while you have emotions and deep feelings, you are not these emotions or feelings, and rather they are there to help guide your life’s experiences.

If we move through life mistaking vulnerability for weakness, or build walls to hide from our vulnerability, we stifle the fruition of the very experiences we long for, and true love, joy, passion, and freedom will fall painfully at our feet, appearing out of reach.

To be vulnerable is to be in a state of trust and courage. From this state, all things are possible and our drive, willpower, and strength align with who we really are, not what we fear.

Any strength that lies outside of vulnerability is a façade built by fear. It must be shed to allow our completely raw and unrefined truth to shine through, so we can deeply experience all of life’s’ beautiful sharp edges.

Joyful woman image via Shutterstock

About Sarah Rose

Sarah Rose is a writer, yogini, teacher and Reiki Master. She shares her passion for a holistic mind-body-energy-spirit lifestyle approach to clean eating, self-care and daily living on her blog. Born in the Midwest, Sarah now resides in Arizona with her two dogs where she’s an avid mediator and nutrition junkie working on her first book and hosting wellness workshops.

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  • Talya Price

    Our thoughts shape our world. We have to be careful about the words that we use and what we think. Fear is just an indicator on where we need to go in our lives.

  • Yes, our thoughts are energy that create feelings, our feelings are our soul’s compass.

  • Sarah C

    i was wondering, what would you tell your dad, knowing what you know now? my father is also an alcoholic, physically and verbally abusive. he’s had cancer for a while, and he doesnt have much longer. i struggle telling him how i feel. that i love, care, and forgive him. we dont talk like that in our family, im not used to it. everyday i think how id regret not telling him. i dont know what to say. how to say it.

  • I would tell my Dad the same thing I tell him now (bc I know he can hear me). I love you, I forgive you, and thank you for being the best dad you knew how to be. Knowing what I know now, I see at the root of alcoholism (or anything for that matter) lies self-love and worthiness issues. He was unable to openly give and receive love, and with that he did the best he could. Everyone is always doing the best they can with what they got, even when its not ideal. Follow your heart, it knows what to say. There is no right or wrong way to say what your heart is guiding you to say. Just like this article suggests, you’ll find strength in your vulnerability. Many blessings to you and your family during this difficult time. namaste.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “Have you ever tried to cross your arms in front of your heart while smiling or laughing at the same time? Try it. It feels weird. You may be aware that you’re smiling or laughing, but you sure don’t feel like it. Or, try throwing your arms up wide with a big open heart like you just crossed the finish line of an amazing race, and see if you can wear a frown or angry face. It simply feels unnatural. This is because we are feeling beings and our heart center is our core feeling center.”

    WOW; I never thought of it that way…thank you for sharing your story…:)

  • thank you for reading and sharing 🙂

  • HM

    Thanks for sharing this article, it really resonates with how I have been feeling lately. For a long time now I feel like I have been building a wall around myself, not revealing the real me, thus closing myself off to new experiences such as dating, friendships or new career paths. I was afraid that if I let myself be vulnerable then people would reject me because I wasn’t the perfect person (inside and outside) that I told myself i had to be in order to be accepted. It is through reading articles like this one that I’m realising being vulnerable and showing your true self, flaws and all isn’t such a bad thing, in fact it can be the opposite. Its still a daily struggle breaking down this wall but knowing there are other people feeling the same definitely helps 🙂

  • I’m so glad you connected with the material! Breaking down the walls we’ve built around our hearts is a very courageous and rewarding process, blessings to you on your amazing journey! Namaste 🙂

  • Trey Stroble

    What are the steps you took to achieve this…

  • Hi Trey, I had to start taking courageous steps despite fear, this allows more vulnerability because fear only holds you back up until the point that you pass through it. Lots of meditation and self-reflection, and I prayed/asked for guidance. The first time I prayed for guidance my answer came in a dream that night. And that answer was forgiveness. So I started my process of softening, letting go and releasing based on guidance I received upon asking.

  • Eugene Collins

    I loved this so very much. I was in a relationship with someone that was very emotionally abusive to me, the results of which didn’t come to true fruition until years after as I realized I no longer felt worthy of love. I felt I wasn’t rich enough, attractive enough, successful enough to be worthy of another love. Even us having brought an amazing child into this world wasn’t enough to warrant kindness or support from her. It devastated my view of myself and my worth to others. I hid my vulnerability after that relationship and to the outside world I seemed happy, positive, fun, but inside I felt horrible. I didn’t want to be part of this world. Learning to be vulnerable and true to myself and others about how I really saw myself was the first step to reclaiming my self worth, becoming ok with who I am. Sarah, finding your work has helped me in ways beyond description. Thank you.

  • Eugene Collins

    In fairness, I too wasn’t always there for her. Toxicity became us. Both at fault, both needing to grow.

  • Hi Eugene, thank you for your comments and I’m glad you resonated with the article. It’s been 3 yrs and I’m still overcoming the fear of being completely vulnerable and authentic and remove the walls to love that I previously built for my protection. And yes the degree to which I had to self-heal, forgive, let go of resentment, etc did not come to my awareness all at once. It took time for my real need for healing to reveal itself to me. It’s a process. And I learned through this process that I don’t need to be perfect and had to forgive myself as well. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we know at the time. The main thing is to keep growing and evolving. So go easy on yourself. Toxic energy breeds and attracts toxic energy. Sometimes it is necessary for growth. Namaste!