Be Very Tender – My Journey To Open Up

"It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender" - Jenny Holzer

Image Credit: Jenny Holzer

I’ve always admired people who are tender and vulnerable with others. It’s been something I’ve been intrigued with and wanted to learn myself. I’ve always been a little standoffish, preferring my imagination and books to opening up to friends. This never struck me as a particularly bad thing until a recent conversation with a friend where I casually mentioned my dad passing and they hadn’t realized it had happened… three years ago. This was someone I’ve been in consistent contact with! Who even knew my dad! Yet I kept this important part of my life so tightly locked away that they didn’t find out until I made a joke about it.

That’s when I realized maybe I should try harder to be tender and vulnerable with others, not just myself.

It’s hard to learn how to be something that’s completely opposite from what you’ve been for as long as you can remember. There’s learning how to open up, reading, listening and watching lessons from experts (shoutout to Brené Brown!) and trying to apply those lessons in my own life. There’s faking it till I make it. But, most importantly, it’s reminding myself that the discomfort of revealing personal information, like my thoughts, feelings and fears, can lead to some spectacular things.

And not to make everything about my motto for the year, but I find repeating it to myself when I start to lose that tenderness has helped. Because what better way to respect and be kind to myself than to allow myself to open up? Sure, it can be painful, but it’s far better than sitting on the sidelines watching everything happen.

One stark reminder of that? I was recently talking to a friend about their heartbreaking end to a relationship, and I thought to myself “But the fact that you even opened yourself up to that pain means you’re so strong.” Because there’s strength in vulnerability. For too long I thought I was doing the best thing for myself by holding almost everyone at arms length, when in reality it is so much braver and satisfying to let people in. To give myself a chance to actually know them and let them know me.

Do you have any tips on being more tender and vulnerable? Any books or podcasts you want to recommend? Let me know in the comments!