We’re taught that it’s good to be vulnerable (file under Brené Brown,) but bad to be needy (file under “People – especially men – run screaming in the other direction.”) But it seems to me that it’s a fine edge I’m exploring in some of my relationships. So humor me while I try to figure this out.

The Vulnerability of Need

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been renegotiating sacred contracts with the people closest to me, and one of my requests in my relationships is that those I love share with me what they want and need so I don’t have to read their minds. I’ve spent too many years feeling like I’ve disappointed the people I love, but often, it’s because I didn’t even know what they wanted, so I failed to meet their desires.

I set out to change all that. My terms were these: Tell me honestly how you’d love to have me show up in our relationship, and as long as it doesn’t conflict with my own needs, I’ll do everything I can to meet that want or need. Seems straightforward, right?

Then I realized what I noticed is how many of my loved ones responded. Dead silence.

Why The Silence?

I was willing to share what I wanted and needed in my relationships – at least with superficial things, like how often I’d like to see a friend, what expectations I have if I call and leave a message, whether or not it’s important that they show up for holidays. So why were some of my people clamming up?

Finally, I realized I was asking something very vulnerable of the people I loved. When we ask someone to share what they want and need from us, we’re asking them to get naked emotionally.

The Discomfort Of Honesty

For the sake of argument, let’s make it super sticky. Imagine you’re dating someone new, and you’re really into that person. Then the object of your affection asks you to share what you want and need in that relationship.

Gulp.

So you get brave and make yourself vulnerable. You tell the object of your affection that, although you understand the relationship is new, you’re enjoying that person’s company so much you’d be happy to get together… well, not every day (‘cause jeez, that might seem needy), but maybe every other day. And wow, it sure would be great if you could count on Saturday nights together. And really, you’d love it if neither of you were dating other people. And it would fill your cup if you could spend Valentine’s Day together. And just so you know, you like your coffee with sugar but no cream.

Then you finally look up from the floor and notice that the object of your affection looks totally freaked out. Said object then mutters, “Hmm… well, I’m busy this Saturday, but maybe the third Saturday of next month.”

And suddenly, as Brené Brown would say in her book Daring Greatly, you’ve just lost a lot of marbles from the trust jar.

Fear Of Rejection

I think we fail to express our wants and needs because we’re terrified of getting rejected or being judged or being perceived as needy. I had an experience like this recently.

I had gotten very close to a friend, and we had a lot of marbles in our jar. But then a point of conflict came up, and it left me feeling vulnerable and insecure and threatened, and I was craving reassurance, so I expressed a desire that we get together to talk about what had happened. Only my friend was feeling overwhelmed, not just because of our conflict, but because of other personal issues. My friend needed time alone, time to digest, and with great kindness, my friend rejected my request to process.

I felt devastated. Here I had made myself vulnerable, made my desire known, made it clear how insecure I felt, and my friend had chosen to prioritize a personal need for space above meeting my need for reassurance.

Ouch.

The more my friend pulled away, the more insecure and graspy I felt and behaved. Until I finally woke up from my self-absorbed state of neediness to realize that my friend had every right to prioritize a personal need for space over my need for reassurance.  As much as we care for others and want to meet their needs, we all have the right to meet our own needs first (file under “I fill myself first”).

Duh.

I apologized. My friend met my need two days later. I got the reassurance I needed. And our jar of marbles is safe and overflowing.

The Vulnerability of Need

The true vulnerability comes in being courageous enough to make your want or need known, knowing that the person you’re sharing with might choose not to meet your need because it comes into conflict with their own – and that’s okay.  Can you sit with the excruciating vulnerability of having your need sitting out there – exposed and raw – knowing that the person you’ve made yourself vulnerable to has every right not to meet it?

I get queasy just writing this.

We All Have Needs

None of us want to come across as needy, and yet we all have needs, whether we like to admit it or not. Even the strongest and most independent among us have moments when our childhood wounds get triggered or we feel scared or we feel unloved. How often have you suppressed the desire to ask someone to just drop everything and give you a hug because you’re feeling lonely or insecure?

We live in a culture that values independence. We scorn those who appear clingy or dependent. It’s a John Wayne/Marlboro man culture, but the truth is, sometimes we just want to curl up on someone’s lap, have them run their fingers through our hair, and get rocked to sleep. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

How Needy Is Too Needy?

So it leaves me back with my original question. It’s good to be vulnerable. As Brené teaches in her TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability, vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy. When we express a need and the person we’re vulnerable with chooses to meet that need (hopefully because it doesn’t conflict with their own needs, otherwise, they may be at risk of overgiving), we get marbles in the jar. Trust and intimacy grow, and we feel seen, heard, loved, nurtured.

But in order to gain the intimacy we desire, we need to risk having our needs not met, and we need to learn to soothe ourselves so we’re not making our happiness dependent upon someone else.

I asked this question on Facebook, and here are some answers I really resonated with.

Laura Moliter: I think it is all about being honest with others and with ourselves. If we put our vulnerabilities out there in order to get attention or pity or in hopes of gaining love from it, we will likely be disappointed. The right motive needs to come with it. Why am I sharing this? Am I doing it because I am humble enough to be honest and because I am even open to receiving love, without pride involved? Or am I revealing in order to get someone to do something for me, manipulate them, which really isn’t loving at all.

Daphne Petersen Brown Being vulnerable is about being open and honest with our needs and emotions, and remaining true to our essential selves. Being needy is being attached to the outcome of the situation and/or the other person’s response/behavior.

Linda Eaves If someone has a need then the bravery is in putting it out there no matter what the outcome. When we are attached to a certain outcome, then pile a value judgment on top of that, we invite stress and discord. When we share our needs simply and cleanly, stating what we want, then we can be open to the response, even if it’s the sound of crickets chirping. Direct communication and arriving at a mutual understanding isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Attaching To Outcomes

I think that’s the ticket – being brave enough to be vulnerable and express our needs, but being self-assured enough not to make someone wrong if they can’t or choose not to meet the need. We all have the capacity to make our own sunshine. Our error comes when we mistakenly make someone else our sunshine, and then we feel dark and shadowy when our sunshine pulls away, not necessarily because they don’t love us, but because they have needs of their own.  For some of us – especially introverts like myself – we may need a lot of space to brighten our own sunshine so we have more to shine on those we love, so we may pull back, not because we don’t love, but because we recharge alone.

It’s okay if your sunshine grows dim. It happens to all of us. And it’s okay to ask someone else to shine their light on you when you’re feeling dark. But if you do that all the time, the person you’re seeking support from may start to feel depleted. In a perfect world, I think we’d all take turns. When my sunshine is bright, I can shine it on you when you feel dark. And then when mine feels dim, I can ask you to lend me some sunshine. But it has to be reciprocal. If one person is always depleting the other’s life force, it becomes unbalanced, and that starts to feel like neediness.

I also think we become too needy when we don’t respect someone else’s right to meet their own needs first, not because they’re selfish, but because none of us can truly give when we deplete ourselves.

The Art of Discernment

So it’s a fine line. Be vulnerable. Make your wants and needs known with those you can trust. But be willing to sit in that place of excruciating vulnerability when your wants and needs can’t be met, at least not at that moment. Learn to soothe yourself in those moments. Go for a hike in nature. Pray or meditate and let the Universe give you a hug. Do something you love – like dance or paint or read or take a hot bath. Let yourself just feel what you feel, and in time, you will find your own sunshine.

If someone perpetually chooses not to meet your wants and needs, you’ll lose marbles in the jar. I was fortunate with my friend because we had so much trust that one incident didn’t threaten the marbles in our jar. But I have another friend with whom I made myself vulnerable, and every time, my wants and needs were not met. This eroded the trust, and now, the friendship is only a superficial one.

What Do You Think?

I’m still figuring all this out in my mind. I feel like I’ve got a handle on some of it, but the question that remains is this. I don’t want to feel like I have to be strong all the time. I want to be allowed to fall apart, to freak out, to get scared, to feel insecure and need reassurance. And I don’t expect those I love to keep it together all the time either.

But I also want to have relationships where we can both be sunshine choosing to bump up against one another from time to time, while also letting it be okay that we sometimes grow dim.

How do you keep the balance? How do you stay vulnerable without being needy?

I’d love to hear your wisdom, guidance, and stories of how this applies to your own life.

Walking the line,

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34 Comments

  1. Shasta Nelson

    Love your musings and examples on this one Lissa! Thanks for showing up with some vulnerability and helping give words to all of us as we all try to find that intimate and meaningful space with each other! I shared it with my community since I write about vulnerability a lot and love your processing of the subject! Thank you!!

    Reply
  2. ADiening

    Love your blog:) Right now, Whenever I feel I need something from someone I apply Byron Katie principles and use the Judge Your Neighbour worksheets. Have you read her book or tried the Judge Your Neighbour worksheet?

    Reply
  3. None

    Great summary of a tricky topic. Seems like the bottom line is, if after an appropriate period of time, both party’s marbles are depleted, it’s time to realize the relationship isn’t going to be what you thought. Then, as yo said, you take the relationship to a superficial level. For me, I’ve found a lot of people are very intimidated, kinda like you said, and become uncomfortable when expressing their needs or hearing the needs of another. Also, the thing about realizing and accepting that many people need to replenish (or recuperate) on their own is a great awareness to have. I used to feel rejected and sometimes criticize others for doing that! UGH… that was not allowing them to be who they are. I would be upset because they weren’t like ME! Reading your post was a great reminder for me to behave! LOL

    Reply
  4. J.L. Luton

    For me the main point is where you wrote that we need to be self assured enough to not make the other person wrong for not meeting our need(s). How?

    The best thing we can all do is to let go of old garbage that no longer serves us, and keep growing, as you wrote, becoming more self-assured. The more we heal our own aches, the more we recognize when others are struggling with their own, and we can be supportive. AND, when we don’t see it’s not about us, and we get hurt/annoyed/freak out, that’s an opportunity to stop and look inward to find out why.

    Whenever the universe pushes our button(s) (triggers) it’s telling us, look, here’s an issue (wound if you will) RIGHT HERE, and voila, there’s the door to walk through. In general our society looks at those button moments as essentially a bad time, but they are huge gifts to learn and heal.

    Reply
  5. Rebecca Pyne

    I’m so glad you’re writing about this and looking forward to what you say next. I have another question to throw in this mix. I tend to think that not all of our relationships are best served, at all times, by complete and total transparency and vulnerability around our needs and wants. True connection and intimacy is not our highest goal at all moments with all people. You mentioned the early stages of romantic relationships, which is an especially complicated one (clearly). I’m not sure that sex research and the anecdotal evidence gathered by sex therapists and other counselors is very encouraging in terms of being totally transparent early in a relationship. I think the role of desirability and rejection is especially big here. It doesn’t seem skillful to pursue vulnerability in instances when it is almost sure to shoot you in the foot. Are there guiding principles we can create around when it is skillful to be vulnerable and when it is actually more loving toward ourselves to not be?

    Reply
    • Julian Joyenki Michels

      If the measure of transparency is whether it increases others’ desire to be with me, then in the short run, I think you’re right that transparency is not a very good strategy of attraction. I can get a lot more action by telling people what they want to hear (and more to the point, not telling people what they don’t want to hear).

      I’m not transparent and “vulnerable” because it’s the best strategy for recruiting validation and interest from others. I’m transparent because I know that being myself is nothing to be ashamed of. When I love someone else, I would never ask them to please just hide who they are a little bit so that we could fit in better or be more liked. When I love someone else, I know that it’s my job to confront myself in the ways that I feel ashamed, so that I can encourage the one I love to blossom and shine as whomever she really is.

      For me, the practice of self love is the same. Haters will hate, as they say. My transparency is not for them – they probably would prefer for me to stuff it. My transparency is for me, and for those who are ready to be present with ME.

      Reply
  6. Catherine Storing

    what a great post Lisa. What I took from it was that I need to take care of my own needs first before I can take care of someone else’s. It does not matter how much they need my help, I cannot help them if I am depleted myself. There is so much wisdom in this post. There is a fine line indeed between neediness and vulnerability.

    Reply
  7. Mindy

    Needing seems very different than vulnerablity to me. First let me explore Neding with you. Needing is a word I reserve for extreme situations. How much do we really need? If we can do without, how could it be a “real” need.

    Wanting however is a very different situation. Wanting seems fine to ask for and probably even easily requested. Who expects to get all that we want? I would feel very sad for a person that feels deep pain in simply not getting a want fulfilled.

    Isn’t needing the difference between starving and longing for that apple in someones hand? 2) do people WANT or NEED an APPLE iPHONE or TV set. How could that ever be a need.

    To me, vulnerability is sharing and showing my truth, my inner self. Someone might or might not like what they see. Sad but true. Inside I know I was being truthful and giving it my best. Showing the parts under my skin no longer being as protected. It is clear that I would be sad if they didn’t like or care about what I shared. But no person is really loved that is not seen, so what choice would I have in reaching for love than vulnerability.. Vulnerability is placing someone else’s needs just as high as my own. Who would expect another to automatically do whatever we hoped? I would hope none. It would seem so selfish. We need to know how to self care, strongly enough, that we can meet delays, and self satisfy and care enough to sustain ourselves.

    What do you think about that?

    Reply
    • Nicolas Santi Quartermaine

      I think this is going in the right direction. Need, I believe, is a strong word and deserves to be used only is certain situations. If something is truly the need of someone we love and care about, then I would imagine most of us would do what we could to meet this need for the other. In the case that we couldn’t, I think it would make us sad. If it is a desire, or “want”, that is a different matter. If someone is just trying to use us to get what they want, then this person is probably not someone we would like to have around us for very long. I do not think that it is a light matter to deny a true need of someone we love, but I think it is necessary to know the difference between want and need, and to know who are the people in our life who we would be willing to sacrifice our own comfort and happiness for and who are the people we shouldn’t deign as a true friend. In the end, a friend is someone who loves you and that you love. This is the context for friendship. Other words should be used to describe other kinds of relationships, which definitely have their place in society. If they are our friends, however, and they truly are in need, I would hope we would do what we could to help them.

      Reply
  8. Kirsten Harrison

    Gosh I love the things you think about and put into writing. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.
    The concept of “not being attached to outcomes” has become a theme in my life. I’m hearing it over and over again. But I don’t seem to know how to remove my expectations/desires in order to get to the place where this is even within sight. Any wisdom?

    Reply
    • Isis

      I think one helpful tip is to come from many different possible directions regarding a need. E.g. if you wish to have an intimate chat with your partner for 10 mins, think about what you can do if he’s not available — will you request to chat at another time? read a book? do something else? or request for 5 mins instead of 10? Call a close friend/ family member? If you can see the many options to go about it, it wouldn’t seem so ‘intimidating’.

      Sometimes we get so bent on what we want/need in exactly the way we want/need, we lose track of what else is available out there. (I am guilty of that.)

      PS: Thanks for posing this question, I was thinking of how to solve a problem and your question helped me to gain some insights 🙂

      PPS: This article is so helpful, many thanks to Lissa for writing this piece. It made a huge difference in my life today.

      Reply
  9. Julian Joyenki Michels

    Thank you for this. I loved the article. In the end, you ask yourself about the “I don’t want to feel like I have to be strong all the time,” question.

    Here’s my own intentions around that theme. I am okay with asking myself to be strong all the time. For me, strength is different from guardedness. Strength is being present and owning my experience of this life. I don’t want to be guarded. I do want to be present, self-confronting, and owning my experience. I like to be close and intimate with people who share those values in their own lives.

    Reply
  10. Jen Lean

    It’s funny (or not) that the recurrent theme for me over the last 6 months is really “find your strength in your vulnerability’. SO..when I am constantly being lead to explore this aspect of me via you, Brene, Martha, my loved ones, my kids…I am finally paying attention.

    Usually, in the past, when ever vulnerability has been tabled as the ‘topic’ of the day..my go to response was something like “urgh, again…come onnnnnn…can’t we just power up and move on..come on charge baby, charge..” and yet now, when I see anything to do with it, I am drawn in and magnetised.

    So far in this experience, I have peeled back to this: vulnerability is the arm open position to which I expose my whole self – and lead with my heart WITHOUT ANY EXPECTATION OF A RESPONSE FROM OTHERS. I lead with my truth. I don’t prepare for rejection. I don’t prepare to be hurt. I don’t prepare to be laughed at. While all of these things ‘may’ happen, they just as easily may not.

    Being vulnerable I have come to see, isn’t for anyone else. It isn’t to bring people closer to us. It isn’t for them to really ‘see’ us. It is for ourselves to just BE the full expression of ourselves….REGARDLESS of the response of others.

    On paper, it just seems so effortless this practice..and truthfully for me, it is just that.

    When I am a full expression of me, and the silence at the receiving end hurts my ears, or the eye roll is on play, or the ‘holy cow she’s crazy’ face is turned on…it gives me the next foundation to go further into vulnerability. To discuss the silence, to discuss the eye dance, to discuss the crazy face…to really go there. That space of unpredictable outcomes and responses. No expectations, just exploration.

    I once saw a process where Byron Katie was exploring a stressful thought with one of the participants. She said something that struck me and use so often when I feel rejected. This isn’t the exact quote but along the lines of…Your business is YOUR business. Their business is THEIR business. Gods business Is GOD’s business. Being in anyone else’s business is separation and separation causes suffering.

    Thus, we have to deal with ourselves and not others (exit rescuers)..

    Here is to practicing, practising, practicing…arms stretched wide, committed to our truth with no expectation of others! Breath in, breath out. Thank you! <3

    Reply
  11. Amy Lesher

    Lissa, you wrote my thoughts in a way that makes those sometimes embarrassing feelings of relationship confusion sound so human and heartfelt in one. Regardless of our knowledge or intention, we all do struggle at times with this type of thing. Thank you for admitting and sharing your heart and your mind.

    What I have found to be true is that usually in the beginning of a relationship we are open and ready to love – we have no judgments about how the person will treat us. Our expectations may change after repeated behavior on their part that makes us feel insecure. Consequently, our “expectations” then create this pattern of dysfunction and dissatisfaction. We are no longer open to positive thoughts of love coming from them – we tend to expect the worst, usually getting it.

    Paradoxically, I have come to the conclusion that when some relationships do not work out or go as we “think” we’d like them to, that it is really our soul leading us away from a person that just doesn’t mesh well with our energy or is ultimately not good for us or our soul growth. This is hard to swallow, because we always want to think that we of course want all these great relationships, when really, deep down, we may not.

    This is where trust comes in. We must trust that when things don’t appear well, and true connections are not made or kept, that it is for our best. We have called it into being. We are not good for every person, and every person is not good for us. They can still be loving children of the Universe, yet just not “in” our lives on a daily basis.

    Reply
  12. Amy Lesher

    Lissa,

    You wrote my thoughts in a way that makes those sometimes embarrassing
    feelings of relationship confusion sound so human and heartfelt in one.
    Regardless of our knowledge or intention, we all do struggle at times
    with this type of thing. Thank you for admitting and sharing your heart
    and your mind.

    What I have found to be true is that usually in the beginning of a
    relationship we are open and ready to love – we have no judgments about
    how the person will treat us. Our expectations may change after repeated
    behavior on their part that makes us feel insecure. Consequently, our
    “expectations” then create this pattern of dysfunction and
    dissatisfaction. We are no longer open to positive thoughts of love
    coming from them – we tend to expect the worst, usually getting it.

    Paradoxically, I have come to the conclusion that when some
    relationships do not work out or go as we “think” we’d like them to,
    that it is really our soul leading us away from a person that just
    doesn’t mesh well with our energy or is ultimately not good for us or
    our soul growth. This is hard to swallow, because we always want to
    think that we of course want all these great relationships, when really,
    deep down, we may not.

    This is where trust comes in. We must trust that when things don’t
    appear well, and true connections are not made or kept, that it is for
    our best. We have called it into being. We are not good for every
    person, and every person is not good for us. They can still be loving
    children of the Universe, yet just not “in” our lives on a daily basis.

    Reply
  13. Debra B.

    Great article, well articulated. I like the part about need vs. needy is being attached to the outcome. And, it sounds like you’ve never heard of NVC (non-violent communication), aka compassionate communication. That teaching is all about learning to express your feelings and needs and then asking for a need to be met without being attached to the outcome. It is the best tool I’ve found for this exact purpose, truthfully. It sure has helped me open up more in my intimate relationships.

    Reply
  14. Becky Adams

    I was intrigued by your post today, as I am in a relatively new relationship (well, a year now, new enough and constantly evolving). I have had to screw up my courage quite a few times already to ask for what I need. My feeling is, one of his needs, which he fully admits, is for me to TELL him what I need from him. No more expecting a man to read my mind. Men are typically not cut out for that anyway. He needs to fill my needs as best he can, and I need to fill his as best I can, because we love and that is what love is about. Yes I feel naked, open, vulnerable and it’s hard. But it pays off in a big way. He can’t always give, of course, what I ask. But he knows I am asking. And asking, for me, is a big thing. As I often told my kids, you don’t ask, you don’t get. Now I know how to ask.

    Reply
  15. Nina Geraghty

    Hi Lissa, this resonated with me so much; have been going through exactly what you describe so well. Something which came to me yesterday via gifted personal growth coach Angela Deutschmann is the concept of “empowered vulnerability” which I like very much: “Empowered vulnerability is simply a state where the full truth is told and faced every day, no matter what the ego may feel about that, or how the ego may resist it. Empowered vulnerability means not walking around defended against touch or contact or play or intimacy, but staying soft in every moment, even if that means your heart will break, or the idea of yourself must change, or you must receive help, or you must for a while be dependant.” Being vulnerable is by its nature “unsafe” in that one is letting go of trying to control outcomes especially when it comes to opening yourself to heartbreak; which is immediately in conflict with my own need to choose only those I think will be receptive to my being vulnerable. (which kind of defeats the whole state of being vulnerable!) That’s the fine line I walk – being transparent and undefended regardless of meeting “understanding” – while sometimes choosing not to share when I sense it’s too dangerous for me, or doesn’t serve the relationship. Most days, I just try to live in the tension of that paradox!

    Reply
    • Lissa_Rankin

      I love this concept Nina. Just posted the quote on Facebook. Thanks so much for sharing. That’s helpful…

      Reply
  16. Guest

    really like what you say here maybe because it speaks to my introvert nature

    Reply
  17. Jen Lean

    Urgh. I just had one of ‘those’ moments. It hurt. I am tempted to retreat. Yet still, I remain open..it still hurts..letting it move through me. Releasing the story. Breath.

    Reply
  18. Fateh Born

    This is a fantastic article. Thank you so much for daring to go down this road – and ask some great questions.

    Reply
  19. ssunray

    I recently ended up feeling very vulnerable. I had not felt like that for years. For me I became this little, shy, sweet, soft girl.

    In the past I used to think she was a nuisance, holding me back. I thought she surfaced because I feared being rejected over a need/want/desire.

    But she emerged this time, while I have become so self-reliant, self-validating and have healthy boundaries. Her emergence with all that personal growth seemed not to fit if my old assumption about her was true. I could not detect any fear being its source, though my first response was to be scared of her showing up at all. Puzzled, I just asked this little miss Vulnerable inside of me what she wanted. And she answered: “Allow me to just be, to exist.” My self-reliant, self-validating self is not a mask or a lie. It is me, but miss vulnerable is at the heart of it. And sometimes apparently I just feel the need to feel bashful, and ultra soft… to feel vulnerable.

    And it is the natural result when you confide and are intimate with someone else. The more you share yourself with someone else, and the more they share with you, the closer you will end up feeling vulnerable. I now regard this part of me as a gift. And when I feel it, it implies I am relating with someone who has been trustworthy enough to help me get to that place.

    Reply
  20. Michelle

    What a fantastic article. I am so glad I found it today. Everything you say is so very very true. I recently “exposed” my feelings to someone I care about and have yet to hear any response on the matter. I did not tell him these thoughts with any real expectation other than to put it out there and let it be known. Would I love a response? Absolutely. Is there some disappointment in the lack of response? Yes. But I also know his cup is full right now and he is meeting his immediate needs. I recognize it and have acknowledged as much. It is hard but I am glad I put myself out there. And now I will live my life.

    Reply
  21. lavett2012

    I was never allowed to be vulnerable growing up & as an adult, I was always told. your stronger that even when I know I wasn’t. So being vulnerable scared me. I didn’t know how to react to it. I felt weak, fearing the unknown. After reading your article shed some light on being vulnerable. Though I have stated my wants and needs they were never met so I pretty much took on the I’m strong nothing bothers me approach to life because it’s what people saw & I hide it very well.
    I was always the person people could be vulnerable with & I would cradle them with love, understand and kindness, I was there for them though no one gave that to me so I understood the pain of it without reviling my own.
    Now I have a better understanding I’m a little more at ease about being vulnerable,

    Reply
  22. ladyshawnese .

    Thanks so much Lisa! This actually helped me understand a few things. I am with my high school sweetheart. We got back together 6 months ago from 17 years ago. He does things for me and I do things for him. I noticed when he shows affection its only when he feels like giving it. When im not feeling good and I need affection or when im in the mood for intimacy he doesnt open up to me. But im always ready when hes ready because I dont know the next time he will give to me. So from time to time I let hom know I need a little more affection. He gets angry and defensive and wants to end the relationship because I keep bringing this one thing up. Hes says im trying to tell him how to love me and that he feels like hes not enough for me. Whats so wrong with asking my partner what I need? I thought thats how we grow. I feel very detached, and now Im asking myself is this relationship worth keeping. You helped me realize some of the things he may be feeling on his end. Im backing off. Im not going to keep repeating myself. I dont know how much longer I should continue this relationship. He makes feel like im compulsive with getting more affection from him. We dont have any other problems or issues. He blew this whole thing out of proportion and threatend to leave and he missed a day of work.

    Reply
  23. Eliza

    I love the quote about “losing marbles from the trust jar” – vulnerability is such a dicey place. Thanks for the insight.

    Reply
  24. Drea Duque

    I found this article through google while I was trying to find a way to ask someone for something I need without sounding “too needy”, and now my question it seems kind of ironic and redundant (yeah, your article has been a great help!).

    Even though I understand vulnerability, and would love to embrace it, it’s just too hard to know where the limit is when you’re used to be the one on charge and the one providing help to others. Then being the one asking for help (even if it involves your doctor), it’s very hard, at least for me.

    I believe the biggest problem goes far beyond the way we were programmed while kids, (I believe it’s a trigger but not really the reason), the real problem is that we set expectations of the outcomes very high (sometimes on purpose), so we can actually feel disappointed with the end result. We tend to think other people do not value us (low self-esteem) and that we are not worth the help (lack of self love).

    Although the article did not answer my question, it gave me some sort of “certainty” that I have to learn to ask for help and, well, if someone doesn’t like it or see it as wrong constantly, then there is something that is not right with the relationship with that person and it needs to be re-evaluated.

    Thanks for writing this, your perspective was extremely helpful.

    Reply
  25. Andrew

    Hi Lissa, this was helpful, thank you! The only thing that I would add in terms of this fine line between vulnerability and neediness is that there is no need to worry about the exact line because if we ever discover we have crossed it, we can just adjust – with vulnerability! Like in your example with your friend – you were needy, okay, but then you recognized that and adjusted, and the great thing is that the adjustment itself requires vulnerability, requires the courage to say to your friend or family member – hey, my bad, I was being too needy, but I recognize that now, can I have another chance when you are ready and able? It is never to too late to correct a mistake in being needy by being vulnerable.

    I guess one other thing is that when you feel depleted such that you can’t respond to loved ones, that in itself is an opportunity to be vulnerable – I’m sorry, brother/sister/whoever, but I just need space [for …] – and that moment of being vulnerable even as you say no helps me at least not feel like I am being selfish if I say no to somebody.

    Reply
  26. Kusuma Tiffany

    Beautifully written. Felt that the words you used to describe this were some that I’ve had a hard time finding myself. You touched on some very real fears that I have around expressing my needs/feelings in relationship. Thank you
    Where might I find Part 2??

    Reply
  27. Subhradip Surchoudhury

    Is it difficult to be vulnerable? Yes, a person needs safe hands which will not judge him. A person who will equally be vulnerable with him. Empathetic to him. Finding those hands is not easy either. After all the whole life has gone in putting labels and judging people. And getting judged by them. How to recognize the safe hands even if they are in front of him? And then comes the fear. Would he be judged? Would he be considered as a freak? As a weak person? Would he be heard? And would he be connected with the listener? Would he be left alone? It may take some time to understand and to build the trust. Mostly if a person who fears to be vulnerable and if he wears a tough skin of fake strength to hide his pain. He can be successful in the material sense but feels shallow, disconnected and alone inside. Not being vulnerable leaves a person only in pain.

    I give an example. I lost my mother when I was fifteen. I was devastated. So was my father. My only support was gone. I was sick of sympathies of people and neglected by my close people. “Who cook for you?” “Does your father take care?” “Is he going to marry again? What will you do then?” “How will you manage alone?” And overhearing those disgusting assumptions about my future. Then I wore the tough skin. I was careful if nobody can see me crying. It started reflecting on my behavior. My communication became formal. Avoiding personal talks. Even with friends. Their parents. I started putting emotional boundaries. I used to answer personal questions with manipulation not revealing my mother’s demise. Things worked. I became successful in hiding myself. No one was able yo see my devastated situation. But I became closed.

    This trend continued later. I became a happy person, at least in the outer surface. A person without emotion, frustration, sadness, nervousness. The skin became so tough that entering into it became impossible.

    Have I lost anything by this? I lost intimacy. I lost precious moments of love and empathy those could be generated. I lost those people who could be my real friend. I became alone with my pains. I became rough. Right people were there. Right people are always there. One person just needs to be in the present. Disturbing memories restrict a person to be open. Yes, It is not a choice but happens by force. But a person has to get rid of those past sad memories and have to keep his eyes open. People are there to give support. Who are empathetic. Accept his vulnerabilities. But finding those people, finding those safe hands is only possible if a person keeps himself open to share and to listen. Yes, fear will be there. To be rejected. But is it possible to be truly heard without being truly revealed ? It needs to start from small. And open to rejection. It is alright to be rejected. Everyone will not be with him neither they are always in the supportive state of mind. Everyone has the right to meet his needs first. But it can’t be a reason to be closed. Being in the present, by developing awareness, a person will be able to accept their acceptation or rejection. The original part comes next. Communication . A person needs to communicate his vulnerability in the right way. To express sadness, frustrations and agony. Slowly he will find the other person is vulnerable too. Both will be open to each other. Empathetic to each other. Will get connected to each other. There is no one on the earth who denies empathy. Being vulnerable will not be difficult anymore. The moments of supports,empathy and love can be generated with authentic vulnerability and a person becomes more powerful. He feels loved.

    It is alright to be sad. Let us be vulnerable. Stay connected. Be intimate. Be in love.

    Reply
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  29. Viola Mendez

    That is an fantastic article thank you for sharing it ! What I have found to be true is that usually in the beginning of a
    relationship we are open and ready to love – we have no judgments about
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  30. Laura Bethany Taylor

    I know this is an old post – but still so incredibly relevant! I wish I had come across it in 2013. The connections of vulnerability, shame, intimacy, neediness, and (I toss this in the ring as a modern buzzword) authenticity are both deep and frightening. Your words captured things I have been trying to say for months. Thanks!

    Reply

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