I first learned about the “vulnerability hangover” from Brené Brown. She gave her first TEDx Talk: The Power of Vulnerability and woke up the next morning with the worst vulnerability hangover of her life as she tells in her 2nd TED Talk: Listening to Shame. She describes a vulnerability hangover as the feelings of regret and shame that often follow displays of our most vulnerable, authentic selves.
In my experience, it looks like going back over all the details of how I presented myself and analyzing which version of myself I showed others. I feel physically sick to my stomach for having revealed my inner self, which normally I would keep hidden. It’s right out there, where other people can see it – and the regret that comes afterward is what I’ve learned to recognize as a vulnerability hangover.
These hangovers have happened before and they’ll happen again, but that’s okay. Just recently, I found myself in a vulnerability hangover after listening back to the first episode of my podcast. I was super excited to start my podcast, and the enthusiasm definitely comes through in the episode. Yet in the midst of a vulnerability hangover, that enthusiasm seemed childish, immature, like I was too excited. I began to pick apart and criticize everything I’d said, regretting being so open with my inner self.
This time I immediately realized that this does not feel good. Using what I’ve learned about negative emotions, I knew it was an indicator that I was walking away from what I wanted, not towards it. So what did I do? The only thing I could think of – reach out to a friend and tell her exactly how I was feeling. I was honest and up-front, and she got back to me with what I needed to hear, reminding me that the episode was great and that if I was talking to myself in a way that was coming from fear or regret, I might not be able to see that. She was right. This self-talk was not only putting me down, but it wasn’t allowing me to be proud of myself.
The version of me in my first podcast episode felt so true that it finally felt possible to jump off the podcast cliff, like I had wanted to for so long. I let passion lead the way, and this vulnerability hangover helped me to realize that I don’t ever want to feel ashamed for that. That doesn’t mean this vulnerability hangover will be my last though, and that’s actually a good sign. All that means is that I’m making a conscious choice to step outside the safety of my comfort zone, and am choosing to allow myself to be seen, without fully knowing what the reaction is going to be. It means that I’m leaning into my authentic self and into new territory, allowing a part of myself to be seen that’s probably never been seen before.
Recording these podcast episodes and putting them out there has been a trial in vulnerability, and I’ve learned that often it’s a conscious choice. The perfect opportunity to be vulnerable is not going to just pop up in front of you one day. It may be scary and nerve wracking, and you might worry about all the “what ifs” in the world – but you can still press record. You can still go for it and just be vulnerable anyway. Giving into your natural flow is giving into who you truly are, and if that causes you a vulnerability hangover, then embrace it. By understanding the experience, you can step outside of it and see it for what it really is – a pat on the back for being so boldly, bravely, and truly yourself. Keep up the great work.
Thank you for reading, dear friends! Find more articles like this one on the Owning Authenticity blog and hear more stories on my i Learned podcast. Explore the rest of my offerings on my website www.owningauthenticity.com