“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
-Brene’ Brown, Daring Greatly
I can honestly say that vulnerability has been one of the greatest keys to battling social anxiety in my life. However, when I initially identified social anxiety, my first instinct was to avoid vulnerability at all costs.
For people who struggle with social anxiety, vulnerability is especially terrifying. After all, social anxiety centers on a fear of being seen, known, and rejected by others.
Additionally, I know from personal experience that people who struggle with social anxiety tend to also battle shame. And shame likes to stay in the dark. However, the interesting thing about shame is that it loses its power when it is brought into the light. I’ve found this to be so true in my own life.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed by my social anxiety. I felt stuck and trapped. Honestly one of my greatest fears was that someone would find out about my anxiety. It made me feel defective and unworthy.
However, one day I mustered up the courage to talk about my anxiety with my counselor. Next, I talked with each of my family members. Not long after that, I let several of my closest friends and a dear older mentor in on my struggle.
Although this didn’t immediately fix my anxiety, I felt so much lighter. I now had people lifting me up in prayer. I also was touched by how each of these people responded to me. Rather than condemning or rejecting me, they expressed deep love, empathy, and compassion. Their gracious responses reflected to me the love of Jesus which was exactly what I needed to combat the shame that I felt. That was such a gift.
Although I believe that vulnerability is an important step in battling social anxiety, I would like to give a word of caution. Vulnerability is a powerful force that must be used carefully. As research professor Brene’ Brown wisely suggests:
“Share with people who have earned the right to hear your story.”
When I was in the midst of my struggle, it wasn’t wise for me to share about my social anxiety with anybody and everybody. I only shared with people whom I truly trusted and knew would respond with empathy and understanding.
Vulnerability can be so terrifying, but I have become convinced that it is such a powerful tool for healing. I have also discovered that it is such a powerful tool for connection. Over the past couple of years, I have been amazed at how God has used my vulnerability to give others a safe place to share their own vulnerability and pain.
Vulnerability begets connection and that is such a precious gift.