Whatever will they think of me?

I’ll begin with a true story. When I was about 16 years of age I went round all the shops I could think of in Stratford-Upon-Avon asking for a summer holiday job. I landed myself a job in the kitchens of a café and came home excited to tell the news. My mother was furious: “You’ve been round town begging for work. What will people think?” So as you can see, I was trained at an early age to second guess what others might think and portray a spotless image of myself. Being vulnerable, showing weakness or needs was simply not an option. Apparently. Though I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on you!

This audio is inspired in part by that story. I’m going to talk about the counter-intuitive idea that making ourselves vulnerable can help us to achieve what we want—whether it’s about improving a relationship, our work goals, or a hobby or sport.

If we’ve come through trauma or highly charged negative experiences we may feel that vulnerability is a constant companion. We may believe that people can wound us at any time; and therefore we spend our lives avoiding vulnerability.

In the audio I talk about some of the ways we feel vulnerable, and I offer some antidotes in the belief that our life experiences help us to draw on inner courage.

Highlights of the audio:
  • Ask for what you want and find your voice
  • Don’t be afraid of being ridiculed or ignored: it’s easy to believe that people out there are going to feel bad about us when we’ve experienced rejection and loss of control in the past
  • Understand that other’s reactions are about them and “their stuff”
  • Recognise that media and social norming put a huge amount of pressure on us to conform and “look the part” or to be an overnight success

Some solutions

  • Practice finding your voice by asking for small things that don’t matter, or taking small risks
  • Stop being so self referential—you’re much harder on yourself than on others
  • Remember that when you’ve announced publicly or disclosed to a few friends that you’re embarking on a grand scheme you always have the right to change your mind
  • You have a right to fail (and of course, try again!)
What is your experience of vulnerability?
Will you risk being vulnerable in the future?


PS the picture is taken at Chatsworth Park, July 2009 

12 Comments Add yours

  1. amommasview says:

    The what might others think always was a big thing for my mother. And still is. It’s something I’m working hard on growing out of.


  2. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    From Talking of incest


  3. I feel vulnerable all the time…it just comes with being raised by an abusive Mother in an abusive community. Oddly, I feel more vulnerable as I get older. I know that this is a common theme with aging but for a man with PTSD the loss of physical strength is a trigger.

    Thank you for a thought provoking post.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I sometimes think that it’s those things in life that are out of our control that make us feel so vulnerable. Ageing and loss of physical strength are high up on the list of what makes us vulnerable–especially in a society where youth and prowess are celebrated. Keep up your corageous work x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. I’ve read that men generally experience trauma symptoms later in life than woman. This may have something to do with differences in physical strength.


  4. I giggled at the remark, “Just stuff it.”
    So many important thoughts, ideas and suggestions in this post/talk. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pleased it helps Patricia–yes, “stuff it” is a good response sometimes isn’t it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am also struck by ‘asking for small things.’ That stuck with me, and will continue to. It is said that ‘it can’t hurt to ask.’ But sometimes it does when I’m more vulnerable and in a sensitive place, as if the no is a rejection. Starting with small requests feels less risky.


  5. Liz says:

    Growing up at home, I don’t remember ever being encouraged to like follow my dreams, or you can do this for example. I was quickly judged all my life by others, even though they did not know me, or problems I had at home. So confidence has been something I have not had and when I did gain it as an adult, fighting to keep my confidence. So this is my vulnerable side.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laura Black says:

    This is spot on. That vulnerability is a hugely difficult load to bear. And so hard to work through. But I do firmly believe that we have to be vulnerable to make authentic connections with people. I don’t think we can truly have a meaningful relationship if we don’t make ourselves vulnerable with someone else.

    In my experience, my vulnerability has rarely landed badly. On the whole, people appreciate it when I am real with them. This has been a really important tool in my recovery – telling people I’m not close with (e.g. colleagues) that I have suffered from depression. I’ve received so much kindness from people I barely know. This is truly a gift and I have continued to take these little risks because on the whole it really pays off.

    Laura x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alexis Rose says:

    Very interetsting post. I agree about taking the risk and being vulnerable. My biggest moment was publishing my memoir. Because I write about PTSD on my blog, I feel vulnerable every time I hit the publish button. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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