How to be Vulnerable

How to Be vulnerable in friendships

ASK ELIZABETH

Question: Can you share how to be vulnerable?

When I was reading through the list of questions that have come in, this one stuck out to me. In ways because it is kind of vague. Vulnerable in friendships? Vulnerable at work? Vulnerable as an online influencer? Vulnerable in general? Unsure what the real intent was, my mind started thinking about vulnerability in my life. For me that is two main places:

  1. Oak + Oats: Here on my slice of the internet I share a lot. I post pictures, I share advice, I tell stories. I do a lot of things that open myself to the criticism of the world. At times it is hard to push “post” on a new piece but often times it is easy. I have been writing here for seven years – in many ways this feels like home. And for the most part I’ve been welcome and not rejected (that helps a lot!) But just because I share a lot with you on Oak + Oats doesn’t mean I share everything. Here is a post I wrote called “How to be Authentic Online” which is closely related to being vulnerable online. CLICK HERE to read it now (or later πŸ˜‰ )
  2. My Relationships: The second place in my life that I am vulnerable in is my friendships and relationships with people. I have my online community but I also have my real, physical community that I live with, play with, share with, cry with. My husband, my family, and my friends.

Since I already wrote a post on being authentic online (which is to be vulnerable online), I wanted to focus on the second one – being vulnerable in friendships! So here goes:

A couple of months ago I was sitting around in my living room with some friends. We were talking about everything from Breath of the Wild (the newest Zelda game πŸ˜‰ ) to the Enneagram. We talked about relationships, the joys and struggles in our work, funny YouTube videos, dream vacations, and movies to watch (AKA:Β Sing Street). One of my friends chimed in,

“I’ve been thinking a lot about something. Do you ever think, man… I am so lucky to have good friends? Like when I talk to my co-workers none of them really have that.”

Yes. I do think that. And not just that handful of people who were sitting in my living room that night. Those good friends are found in my monthly Bunco club, our weekly Bible Study, our siblings, and even the creative community I’ve met through Oak + Oats. I do have some of the best friends. They encourage me, they let me take pictures of them for blog posts, they ask how Oak + Oats is going, they reach out, they host happy hours, they text in the middle of the day, and they are faithful prayer warriors.

And I’ll confess that sometimes I take those sweet friendships for granted.

But friendships like this are not easy. They take time and they take being vulnerable. I have been thinking about those good friendships in my life since then. Some came easy, some took more time. Some I’ve hurt and some have hurt me but we didn’t let it stay there.

None of us are the same – we have different stories, experiences, personalities, and passions but we all share the desire to be known. As I think back on my friendships, I wanted to share with you some tips for being vulnerable in your relationships to create those deeper, meaningful, friendships:

MAKE THE FIRST MOVE

Reaching out to a new person is always a tad awkward. Whether you are introverted or extroverted fear is still something you have to push past. So summon your courage and be brave, be the person to break the ice. There is a Winnie the Pooh quote that I always think of, β€œYou can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT

When you are so concerned with how you are being perceivedΒ by those around you, you cannot be your full self. Guess what? We are ALL BROKEN. We all have to walk through grief, pain, disappointment, fear. We all have bad days, snap at those we love, doubt our talents, question life. None of us are perfect and we do not have to be. Grace is God whispering in your ear “You don’t have to be perfect because I am. You don’t have to live in sin & shame because I’ve conquered the cross and shouldered the blame for you. My mercies are new every morning” Don’t get grace? Get with a friend and let them know – I bet you that they also wrestle with the idea and fight the temptation to hide behind a facade of perfection.

SHOW UP & Follow Up

Schedule a weekly book club, Bible study, bunco night, happy hour, play date – anything- and continue to show up for it. And don’t just physically show up, emotionally show up to. Allow yourself to share the hard day you had or what is going on in your life. Follow up with those people, remember the stories they share with you, check in with them to see how they are doing. Deep friendships do not happen over one coffee date, they happen over many of them.

START SMALL

Baby steps are more than okay when making friends & being vulnerable. You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) share your deepest darkest secret with a person you just met. It takes time to get that deep with each other. But you do need to start walking down the path of vulnerability. Share what you can share, open up about something. When we open up, it allows the other person to do the same. These small steps build trust and they build relationships.

FORGIVE & APOLOGIZE

Grudges and resentment will get you nowhere. We are all human. We hurt others and others hurt us. We need to be able to admit when we are wrong and ask forgiveness. We also need to be willing to forgive each other for their shortcomings.

DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION

Just like allowing yourself to be imperfect, you need to allow others to be as well. No other one person (or group of people) is going to satisfy you and meet all your needs. Community and friendship is life-giving but can be suffocated if you place too much value and identity in that. Be vulnerable with your people, let them be vulnerable with you, and together help each other look to Christ.

PRAY

Above all, know that you do not have to do it alone. Allow the Holy Spirit to live in you and work through you. Ask Him to open up the locked doors in your heart and soften the hard, rough places. Pray for community and people to connect with. Pray for the people who open up to you. Pray for the stories, the days, and the work loads. Pray for wisdom for how and when to open up and share your story. Let Him help you be vulnerable.

I don’t know where you are at in friendships or how vulnerable you are with others, but I hope that these tips help encourage and inspire you to reach out to those around you. I pray that you would start the baby steps to being more vulnerable and you would witness the fruit of being yourself, being imperfect, and still being loved.


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Author: Oak & Oats

  • Megan Elizabeth

    Great read Elizabeth! I really resonated with the “stop trying to be perfect” part. As a fellow blogger, I can get so wrapped up in social promotion that I can forget to enjoy my own friends, family, and experiences in real life!

    • Thank you so much Megan! And yes, it so easy to stay online and miss face to face!

  • Erica Penner

    I feel as though I am too vulnerable with my friends. Maybe I’m too trusting with my personal life, or maybe I just have such great friends that I can truly trust all of them.

    • Yes!! Good for you! There is nothing wrong with having a lot of good friends that you can share life with and help carry their burdens – what a gift!! Be thankful for those relationships!!

  • Excellent post, Elizabeth! Show Up and Follow Up is so important in today’s friendships where it’s so easy to send a text to cancel. Excited to catch up on your blog!

    • Thanks Allison!! Welcome back to the land of the screens! I’m glad you are back at it!! and yes, it is so tempting to cancel sometimes but gathering is worth it!!

  • This is such a good reminder! Love this new series!

  • This post completely aligns with my new mindset this summer. I recently contacted my old childhood friend to get together for lunch, and it felt just like old times. Even though in the past, she would choose her sometimes mean group of friends over me, I decided to let go of the hurt and continue to be a light and companion in her life. I also got in touch with a nice girl who I only hung out with once in high school, and even though both of us were so awkward, we laughed a lot over it and got to better know each other and discuss our hopeful plans for the future. I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to guide my words so I can form better relationships with others and bring them closer to God, even if it’s just through small acts of kindness. This post really resonated with me, I’m loving this series so far! πŸ™‚

    http://www.madisontaylor.co

    • YESSS! I love these things! Isn’t it so sweet how the Lord works in our lives. Choosing people over grudges is also always worth it!! I love this season in your life! And I am so glad you are loving this series!! It is so fun and all questions are from the community so it is really fun!!

  • Abi Tomberlin

    All of those are legit! I always struggle with ‘making new friends’ because I genuinely LOVE the ones I have, I just have normally moved away from them. So if I want local friends, I have to find them! And sometimes, it’s exhausting! But you’re 100% on that God always shows up with people – it might not be the people you expect, but they’re great people!

    • Yes!! I think we need community around us as well as those dear friends that are long distance!! Make new friends and keep the old πŸ˜‰ But really, friends you can meet up with or ask to come over for an emergency are so sweet. Or even just those people you can invite over for meals or watch netflix with – those everyday relationships are powerful too! Don’t miss out on the people around you!! It is not easy, but it is worth it!

  • Celeste Wright

    Thanks for sharing! This is something I struggle with myself

  • Don’t expect perfection is such a great advice!! I think friendships are such a gift, one that takes work though. If one can enter that friendship knowing that everyone isn’t perfect, than the disappointment of when something doesn’t go as planned won’t be so hurtful or straining on the relationship!! πŸ™‚
    http://abeautifulheart07.blogspot.com/

  • I love this new column and I think this is a great post. I don’t feel like I struggle being vulnerable, but I do have a hard time finding people who are really open. It has been so freeing to find a friend who shares this same value as me! I am currently reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it is seriously so amazing- great for this topic πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much Autumn!! I am loving it too!! Also, that book sounds great!!

    • I do agree some people are much harder to be open than others. I have so many great friendships and some are much more open than others. A common factor I have seen is that those who are not as open have not truly looked within themselves. I believe they desire it but they have not learned what being vulnerable with themselves means and you just learn to love them where they are at.

      • YAAS!

      • Sometimes I see that people want to be open and they struggle against that because maybe self-discovery is often painful. When they are around more open people, I’ve seen these same people resist because it makes them feel uncomfortable about themselves. I totally believe in loving others where they are, but I’ve also experienced where my vulnerability has been rejected because of it.

        • Totally! I can agree with you! It really can be hard. My advice is
          1. Forgive those who have hurt you when you tried to open up. A lot of people have a lot of walls up and they hurt people who get too close. Forgive them and pray for them (pray for soft hearts). Even when your vulnerability is rejected. These people don’t have to be your new best friend but you can still interact, love them, and be you.
          and
          2. Pray for deep relationships. We don’t need to force vulnerable relationships on people who don’t want that. Pray for the Lord to bring someone you can share with and will be willing to share with you. Pray for people who are willing to connect. and He will provide!

          • Oh yes, forgiveness is essential and so are boundaries. I’ve had many friends who aren’t ready for that in a particular season. However, they often come back around in other seasons when their experiences have been different, for the same thing they initially rejected.

  • These are such great tips! I definitely struggle with being vulnerable with others but I’m working on it because I long to make deep friendships. It’s slow coming but totally worth it!

    • Yes! It is slow but worth it! Baby steps are okay – you don’t have to be mega vulnerable right away!

  • There is truly nothing I like better than face to face with my friends. It beats the internet to me everyday, although I do loveee meeting new friends online (hopefully some of those in person one day). But that is so true about not expecting perfection and that goes with everyone! I often hear people say how hard it is to make friends as an adult but I feel like I have more friends now than I did when I was younger. It is sad when seasons end and friendship may only last for a short time but I’ve learned to let those go. If their friends for like you can pick up with them exactly where you left off. I’ve been friends with my BFF for almost 17 years and were still going strong. It’s exactly what you said, being vulnerable, open, and just true to who you are. You will find the right friends and just like anything, really good friendships take a lot of time to grow. I’ve learned to let go of trying to be someones friend when you just don’t click. I wish I knew that when I was younger!

    • Katie!! Yes! All these things. Soo good! And yes on the internet friends – I have some very dear ones!! And we should meet up next time I find myself in Florida!!

  • Deepening friendships really takes time, but so worth it!! I’ve found new friends at our church, but you’re right–it takes showing some initiative and hosting/planning meet-ups is what makes those friendships deeper!

    Also. Weekly Bunco night?! Do you have a weekly puzzle night? πŸ˜‰

    • hahaha! Well it is actually a monthly club! πŸ˜‰ and yes we are all practicing for old age. We kinda decided we wanted to be the group of girls playing Bunco for like 25 years or more so we needed to start now !! hhaha. We love it! I should do a post on it!

  • this is such good advice – it really does take so much intention and vulnerability in friendships! but it is totally worth it to be known.

  • Amy

    Show Up & Follow Up! AMEN AMEN AMEN!

  • Thank you for this post! Community is something I have been craving now that I am finally starting to settle in one city I am excited to start opening up – meeting new people – and sharing my life with friends!

    • Amanda! I love when posts are timed perfect like this! I am so excited for you to grow in those friendships!

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