Being Naked: Connection, Authenticity, and the Vulnerability Hangover

Confidence, Self Awareness, Women Empowerment
10/02/16 - Katie Bennett

It wasn’t so much a slow and seductive unraveling of my robe. It was more a stark and sudden ripping off of my clothes. There I was. Freezing cold, bare naked. Everything hanging out­­­ for the world to see.

It was an uncomfortable feeling. Kind of like the excruciating wait after you send your crush a deep and emotional text, and wonder whether you should have ever done it. Only multiplied by 7 billion, because it is not just one person you are sharing yourself with, it is the world. One part of you wants them to respond but the other part of you dreads it; what if they don’t say what we want them to? What if I look stupid?

Brene Brown calls this the “vunerability hangover.” The morning after you show yourself bare naked and wonder whether perhaps you should have just left your clothes on?

Yes. I have a vulnerability hangover.

“What am I doing?” I think to myself sometimes. Ok. Sometimes is an understatement. All. The. Time.

Just like most human beings on the planet, I, too, am scared about showing too much of myself. In fact, when I was at high school, I used to carry around a large thick coat, which wrapped up the fragility and sensitivity of the real me and hid it from the judgment and the harshness of the outside world. My best friend and worst enemy, my eating disorder, gave me an illusion of control in a world that felt way too uncertain and unpredictable.

It worked for a while. But eventually, the things that I tried to control began to control me, and again, I became lost in a sea of tumultuous waves that I couldn’t control. I was trying So. Very. Hard. But yet, I was still drowning.

I think that is the thing about uncertainty, just like the waves, when we vigorously try to resist, we become tired and exhausted. Eventually, we might even begin to drown. Yet when we are aware and accepting, we can reserve our energy for when it is most needed. We might still get knocked around a little, but for the most part, we float.

Almost every day on social media, I post words and pictures about things that I hope will empower people to feel thankful, worthy, joyful, amused or any other positive emotion. Our company is grounded on the very idea of purposeful living, and leading a life that you love.

I fundamentally believe everything that I say and post, and I am very careful in my selection. I don’t choose things based on how many likes I believe they might get, but rather how many hearts I hope they might touch.

However, I mention all of this because I also realize that at times, my posts may unknowingly perpetuate a societal distortion that I feel very passionately about. One of my favorite quotes is by Steve Furtick, who said: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”.

In a world inundated with highlight reels – facebook, instagram, twitter, you name it – this couldn’t be more true.

Starting a business has been one of the most exciting rides of my life. However it has also been daunting, terrifying, lonely, scary, frustrating, painful and so many other things. For the most part, the world sees the tea-cup ride, when in fact I feel like I’m on the world’s scariest rollercoaster; going down the biggest dip and unsure whether it’s ever going to pivot back up.

My ‘behind the scenes’ is absolutely terrifying. And I want everyone to know it. Because when we see the highlight reels of individuals and companies, we inevitably begin to feel inadequate. Not because we are inadequate, but because we are human. And as humans, we care about our likeability and social ranking. It is in our DNA. But the problem that is arising is that we are ranking everything we know about ourselves against a smidgeon of what we know about others. And usually it’s a very selective and polished smidgeon. It is a dangerous and distorted comparison.

Sometimes life doesn’t look like cocktails and sunshine in the maldives. It can sometimes look like a big dark cloud of fear about to abrupt into a storm.

Sometimes life is daunting and scary and overwhelming and disappointing. Exposing yourself, your true self, to the world, exasperates all those feelings. Scary becomes terrifying. Disappointing becomes heart-wrenching. And more often than not, you will finish up with a massive vulnerability hangover!

Is it really worth it? Absolutely!

Sharing yourself with the world, whether it be your ideas, your art, your passionate opinions or your true personality is never easy. The point of it is not to be easy. The point of it is to make a difference.

If what you are doing feels easy, it is probably because it is also what most other people are doing. The feeling of ‘easy’ relates to the feeling of ‘comfortable’, which also relates to being ‘accepted’. Usually the things that are ‘acceptable’ are the things that everyone is doing. But if everyone is doing it, then it’s probably not making much of a difference.

Sharing your art, voicing a controversial opinion, starting a company, sharing your idea… all of these things require courage. And vulnerability. You are taking off the comfortable cloak that keeps you safe and warm, and sharing a part of yourself that perhaps no-one has seen. And that perhaps people might not like.

But we don’t do it because it’s easy. Or because we want people to like it. We do it because it matters. And when the pull of what matters is stronger than the push of the fear, that’s when things happen. That’s when we move forward. That’s when the world changes.

There will be people that don’t like what’s under your cloak. There will be people that wish you would just keep it on.   But there will also be just as many people (probably a lot more) who will connect with it. Who will be positively changed by it. Who will all of a sudden feel a lot safer to take off their cloak too.

That is the thing about authenticity. It is contagious.

The people who don’t like what they see don’t need to look. They don’t need to agree with it, or read it, or buy it, or share it. Their life continues the same. As it always was.

The people who connect? Their lives are changed forever.

And that’s what makes it worth it!

My plead is that you let yourself be naked. And if you’re not quite ready to be naked, at least just take off your coat. Life will begin to feel a whole lot lighter, and in your own small way, you will begin to change the world.

Katie Bennett

Hi I'm Katie, one of the Coaches and CoFounders here at Ama La Vida. My coaching approach is results-orientated and deeply rooted in neuroscience and positive psychology. I'm passionate about empowering individuals to arrive at new insights about their life and career and then take the action they need for meaningful and long-lasting change. When I'm not coaching or working on the business, you will likely find me on a plane or in a restaurant. I also love basking in the sun but since moving to Seattle, that doesn't happen too much.

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