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Why is it so difficult to be truly vulnerable in front of our families?

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You are not alone if you struggle to be 100% open with your loved ones. (Photo: Caia Image via Getty Images)

How much easier is it for you to tell your family a joke than to tell them how you really feel? The unbridled laughter, humor, and reassurance that only our nearest and dearest provide is often the main currency in a family home.

It may seem natural to express a variety of feelings and opinions in front of our parents, siblings, and other close relatives. But it can be harder to show the raw, unadulterated emotion that underpins much of our human existence.

You may find it difficult to reveal your insecurities and vulnerabilities to your family members, let alone your fears. These first relationships in our lives are complex, sometimes our trauma stems from them, and we may fear letting family members down, worrying them, or even making them cringe. After all, you probably wouldn’t regret your sex life problems with your family.

Of course, there are those who refer to the family in matters of the heart. But for many more of us, the expectations are clear: family is about celebrating the good times (birthdays, weddings, graduations, cultural events) and, of course, showing up for supportive moments. But a certain reality could be wrong.

Our families mean so much to us that it can feel like a burden to reveal our deepest scars and emotional complexes, especially when we know they have their own struggles, whether it be identity, trauma, or more generational issues.

Henna*, 27, who works for a charity in London, says she has to consider the mental capacity of her loved ones before unloading on them.

“I struggle to be vulnerable in front of my family,” she tells HuffPost UK. “But I’m really trying to change that with my brothers and my husband. I feel like my Bangladeshi family just hasn’t had the emotional literacy to be able to do that. And I think that’s understandable.”

Henna doesn’t resent her family for this, appreciating that they have their own challenges.

“His first thought was not to create safe spaces for his children to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings, but to survive, find a home in the East End, a well-paying job and fight against the racism they suffer. faced then. My parents just continued to know this, it’s all of them.”

For these reasons, as well as generational and cultural differences, Henna says it’s easier to open up with her partner and siblings than with her parents. “I was reluctant to share my experiences of being sexually assaulted, because nothing gets done when you share. It’s something you don’t talk about,” she says.

“Even about fertility issues, I find it difficult to talk to my parents, my grandmother and my in-laws. If it comes up, it’s very much that, God willing, everything will work out, but it’s not really about how I’m dealing with things. But I can talk about it, cry with all my heart, and feel sad about it with my siblings, partner, and friends.”

In most cases, no one loves you as much as your family, but this may mean that they don’t hold back when it comes to expressing their opinion, and you may live in fear of that judgment.

“When we’re vulnerable, we open ourselves wide to all our insecurities and the things we keep hidden deep down,” explains Natasha Page, an integrative counselor and accredited psychotherapist with the British Association of Counseling and Psychotherapists (BACP).

“Stepping out of our comfort zone can be difficult. We want to be loved, accepted, and seen as successful, so when we open up about our failures or vulnerabilities, it can make us feel insecure, emotionally exposed, and lose our sense of control. This is what vulnerability feels like: a loss of control. It can leave us feeling wide open.”

(Photo: triloks via Getty Images)

(Photo: triloks via Getty Images)

There are also other barriers to honesty. When we expose our problem areas to our loved ones, we know that we may need to face our fears and do something about them. “We can also worry about them worrying about us,” adds Page. “Shame also plays a part in this. When we feel ashamed, we feel vulnerable.”

Ultimately, it may be in your best interest to be honest and direct, she says.

“This can be a positive thing for our relationships, as people can better understand us and what we need help with,” says Page. “It can also bring you closer to those you love. We often cover up our vulnerabilities by keeping secrets, masking our emotions, or pretending everything is okay, but this can only last so long.”

So what can you do if you feel uncomfortable taking off your front and revealing things you’re not used to showing your family? Page explains that everything takes practice.

“Show us compassion,” she says. “Practice vulnerability in spaces where you feel comfortable, such as first with a therapist, with someone who is not connected to you, as this can act as a step to share deeper emotions with those closest to you. Accept that you will not always be understood by others. Talk to those you trust first before sharing with others.”

Despite any uncomfortable feelings that may come up, when it comes to being open and honest, it usually feels a hundred times better when you let it out.

For Henna, as difficult as it was, she was finally able to open up a bit with her parents and loved ones, approaching those issues with patience and understanding. “I show vulnerability now, but I am aware that my family will not always know how to handle it and that is fine.”

* Name has been changed to provide anonymity.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.


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