Have you ever limited your behaviors to protect yourself from disappointment?
Don’t worry if your answer is yes. You are not the only one who does or have done that.
I moved to Germany about 6 years ago to study in a town called Heidelberg, welcoming thousands of international students in his unit. Being friends with international people, I had seen people coming and going because they found jobs, or left the city following their partners. One day, during the dinner with close friends, someone commented, “We should be all like you, you know how to handle this situation. Look, you are not making any attachments to anyone.”
My friend took me as a good example but it bothered me a little. I never considered myself as someone who doesn’t make real connections with people. A connection is key for me. I don’t like superficial relationships. But somehow I was acting like I am not that person. Why did I behave like someone else whereas I always valued real human connection?
It occurred to me that I was protecting myself from hurting. It becomes a pattern when you leave abroad and your social life depends on the people around you. Sometimes it brings you more tiredness than sadness to leave people once you establish a deep relationship and you know that the promises that you will keep in touch will most likely fade away.
We humans self-sabotage our relationships for the sake of protecting ourselves. But our fear about losing people causes less connection in the end.
Being mindful of a behavior pattern is a step forward. But it’s not the end of the story. Here are the two things I did to tap into my better self.
Don’t Be Afraid of Being Vulnerable
“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.” ¹ (Brown 2012, 33)
I chose to be vulnerable. It is easier said than done, I know. It requires braveness as we feel emotionally naked in front of our loved ones. But it’s also worthwhile. When we share a deep level of understanding with others, we become connected. It shows that we are not programmed robots to feel only in one way. We have strengths as well as weaknesses. Having so many strengths is a great thing but what makes us learn in life is usually the discomfort that comes from challenges in our lives.
I compare the life challenges with dangerous animals in the woods. If we see a tiger, we would be afraid of him as there is a high chance that he will hurt us. But we still admire a tiger as he represents strength in our minds. This is how we should consider our challenges. I don’t mean challenges are fun. But they make us grow and learn while we become stronger.
See Every Person in Your Life as an Opportunity to Grow
See the silver lining in everything. I shifted my perspective towards my constantly changing environment by accepting each story with everyone as a new experience. Even if they wouldn’t stay in my life forever, they would leave me with happy memories and lessons that I can grow with.
If you are like my old self, start by becoming a little more vulnerable and be open to experiences. You will not be disappointed by the growth you will have.
¹Brown, Brené, 2012. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. USA: Penguin Group.