Sometimes being vulnerable can reap huge rewards.
You might come across a time in your life when a situation becomes so desperate that you’re forced to open up to others — even people you wouldn’t normally confide in. It might go against your personality. It might seem like it will make you feel weak or vulnerable, or worse still, a failure. But in fact, sharing your deepest worries or upsetting events that have occurred can be exceptionally liberating. It can feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. As I recently discovered, it is also rewarding, in a way you might never have imagined.
Coming from a large family meant I’ve always had a selection of loving people with whom to share my woes. They’re the people who know me best and have watched me as I raise my own family, and go through the many highs and the occasional lows that have come my way. They’re my greatest blessing after my own kids.
Yet, the problem with family sometimes is that their overwhelming love and concern can make them a little tunnel-visioned. When something goes wrong, they may have a hard time being objective, or they might be so worried that you no longer want to confide in them for fear of stressing them out — which in turn will add to your own stress. So sometimes you need to look elsewhere for comfort.
While of course you can seek spiritual help from a priest, your favorite saints in heaven, or from the Great Man Upstairs Himself, sometimes you need a different sort of comfort, or practical advice from professionals. This is when you can turn to friends, or an expert in a particular field.
But it’s also when you’re at your most vulnerable as you have to relate your stresses in a way that is comprehensible, and doesn’t make you look like you’re totally losing your mind — which can be pretty difficult if you feel that you actually may be losing your mind! You lay bare your inner-most thoughts for people to advise you or give you comfort and this can leave you feeling a little raw, judged, or sometimes plain stupid.
Yet the beauty in opening up to people you’re not particularly close to is that you can make them feel worthy — worthy of your trust and confidence in them. While this might give them a feeling of responsibility to help you — and sometimes a sounding board is all you really need — it can also give them an opportunity to open up to you in return. And this has been the surprising gift that has brought me through my own troubles.
When people who are not in your innermost circle feel they can confide in you, it feels like an honor. It allows you to focus on something else and, sometimes, to put your own issues into perspective.
In the throes of some recent worries I had to share my situation with the mom of my son’s best friend, who was a complete angel. When I bumped into her the following week I asked how she was and she said, “Well, you know, I found out my cancer is terminal so not great …”
My knees wanted to give way. Not only had she never shared with me that she had cancer, but she was a young mom with limited time left with her sons. She could see my shock, but said that she felt she could share her story with me since I’d opened up to her. My worries literally melted away, albeit temporarily.
While this was the most dramatic example, other people told me about their own problems. We’d sometimes cry, sometimes laugh, or even discuss solutions together. Although confiding in others is not always comfortable or desirable, it’s an experience that can be truly humbling and rewarding. After all, none of us escapes hardship and we are all in this together.