When I was younger, I naively regarded vulnerability as weakness. I thought the whole notion of unabashedly expressing your thoughts and feelings is, for some reason, unattractive. As a result, I developed a nasty case of shame around being vulnerable myself. And this shame proliferated the most when I was trying to get my ex back.

Instead of revealing my authentic self to her, I hid behind a fake persona — someone indifferent, mysterious and suave. In other words, I altered my identity and character to please my ex and raise her attraction for me. I cared more about how she perceived me than how I perceived myself.

I figured that if I did this, she would fall in love with the new-fake-me, and we would eventually get back together, at which point I could drop the whole act.

Turned out it’s not that simple.

I never got my ex back. From the moment I sent my first string of texts, she knew that I was faking my calm and collected disposition. Yet, I still persisted with my performance and fake persona.

And the more I performed — the harder I tried to hide my authentic self — the deeper I reinforced the belief that I’m not good enough for my ex the way I am, thus kept widening my inferiority gap.

Eventually, not only did I not get back with my ex, but I also left my self-esteem in shambles and kept struggling in my love life years following my breakup for the same reason I struggled to get my ex back — performance.

Look, I know you probably perceive vulnerability as some hippie, feel-good, woo-woo shit. I don’t blame you. A lot of people hold that same opinion. I held it, too. But vulnerability is far from some hippie, feel-good, woo-woo shit.

It has nothing to do with hand holding, singing, and dancing around a campfire. It has nothing to do with reciting lines like, “I love myself and am a happy person” in front of a mirror. It has nothing to do with hugging your best friends and telling them how much you love them at a self-help seminar you paid way too much for.

Fuck that. That’s not vulnerability.

Real vulnerability is actually far simpler, more mundane, and yet way more powerful than all of the preconceived, wishy-washy notions people have about it. It’s also heavily backed by empirical data. And titans like Brene Brown, Cheryl Straid, and Mark Manson have all pointed out how wildly beneficial it is to our relationships. All of our relationships.

Vulnerability builds intimacy and trust, removes games and ambiguity, creates sexual tension, accelerates sexual and romantic relationships, builds self-esteem, and (usually) demonstrates confidence and courage.

Vulnerability is the best and only proper means of re-attraction. It’s the one thing that should permeate across all the interactions you have with your ex. It’s the key to rekindled romance.

What Is Vulnerability

Vulnerability means being consciously unguarded and undefended when expressing your thoughts, desires, and emotions.

It can be as simple as telling your ex you want them back, complimenting them on their looks when you meet up, asserting a boundary when they cross it, expressing genuine love for them, or disagreeing with them, and potentially offending them.

When you’re vulnerable, you’re communicating, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” In a way, you’re sticking your neck out emotionally and putting yourself in a position where you can be hurt — which is to be expected.

True vulnerability is risky, uncomfortable, and often has tangible consequences. But the key to true vulnerability is that you’re willing to accept those consequences no matter what. You may piss off your ex. You may turn them off. You may destroy your chances.

But if you do get them back through vulnerability, you’ll have the best chance of rebuilding your relationship and making it healthy, rich, and lasting.

What Vulnerability Is Not

There are two big mistakes people make when they attempt practicing vulnerability. The first is treating it as another re-attraction tactic. And the second is confusing it with an unrestrained deluge of emotions.

Vulnerability Is Not A Tactic

Many uniformed breakup survivors tend to treat vulnerability as just another tactic for raising their ex’s attraction. They think, “If I tell my ex this awkward or unusual thing about me, they’re going to love me again.”

This is the wrong way to go about it. What you’re actually doing here is committing emotional manipulation. It’s inauthentic. It’s fake. It’s needy. It’s unattractive.

When you’re truly vulnerable, you relinquish control; you express yourself unconditionally, that is, without expectations. So whenever you’re using vulnerability as a tactic, you’re doing the opposite — you’re trying to promote control; you’re expressing yourself conditionally.

For example, if I tell my ex about how I got bullied in high school for being the fat-rich kid — a true story, by the way — with the intention to get them to like me more, I’m being inauthentic and manipulative, thus unattractive.

But if I tell the exact same story with the intention of sharing myself for the pleasure of sharing myself or as a way of relating to my ex’s emotions and experiences, then I’m being authentic and vulnerable, thus attractive.

Ultimately, think of vulnerability as a mindset rather than a tactic or a conversational tool. It’s a reflection of how comfortable you are in your own skin. And until you drop the mindset of tactics and conversational tools, you’re going to continue to be lost.

Vulnerability Is Not Emotional Waste

Another mistake people make with vulnerability, especially those with backgrounds of repression, is to misperceive it as drowning their ex in their emotions.

They think, “If I tell my ex everything that’s bugging me and all my insecurities, they’ll like me again.” Or they think, “If I profess my undying love for them, they’ll want to get back together with me.”

This is a tricky topic. This unrestrained expression technically is vulnerability, but it’s a toxic and unattractive kind of vulnerability.

Think of it this way.

If I was at a bar right now, enjoying myself, maybe in the company of friends or whatnot, and my ex sent me a three-page email professing her eternal love for me, I’d probably freak out.

Or if I meet up with them and consider giving them another chance, but they immediately go on a one-hour rant on how the men she’s was dating prior to meeting up with me were all low-lives and assholes and toxic fruitloops, I wouldn’t want to continue my date. I would be turned off.

Sure, what my ex is showing in both examples is vulnerability, but her emotions are completely disproportional to the depth of our relationship and are therefore needy and unattractive.

Whenever you catch yourself pouring your heart out to your ex, don’t start blaming them for not appreciating it. Of course, they won’t appreciate it. It’s creepy and repulsive. Instead, investigate your behavior. Find out what emotions inspired it and whether those emotions are reasonable or not.

Are you already back together with your ex in your mind? Do you get teary-eyed when they post pictures on Instagram showing how much fun they’re having? Do you think they’re the person you’ll marry one day?

If so, chances are, you don’t really love your ex. You love the idea of being with them, the idea of not being single and alone anymore, the idea generated by your neediness and desperation. Your ex themselves is replaceable and meaningless. And they can sense this from a mile away in how you interact with them.

You overcome this sick obsession by investing in yourself, so you raise your self-worth and lower your neediness and desperation. This is not a short-term solution by any means; it’s a long and grueling one. But it’s life-changing and worth the effort. So start implementing it now.

What Holds People Back From Being Vulnerable

The reason why some of us have a hard time expressing vulnerability is multifaceted. We might suffer from childhood traumas or lousy family and peer relationships where being vulnerable was looked down upon.

And then there’s the whole societal issue…

Even though it’s improving in this aspect, society still doesn’t sufficiently encourage people to be vulnerable.

Men are still held up against the conventional standard of masculinity: stop feeling, start earning, act indifferent, focus on career and purpose. And women are still held against the conventional standard of femininity: invest in appearance, act modestly, submit to your man, focus on relationships, bonding, children.

While there’s nothing wrong with men and women embodying these trains, it is wrong for society to try and force the traits upon them. Because as soon as they start to force them, it makes people act inauthentically. And so, they never learn how to be vulnerable.

The man who busts his ass working 14 hour days, while all he wants is a family, never gets to feel that that’s right, and therefore never acts on his desire. And the woman who just got pregnant, even though all she wants to do is excel in their career and do what she’s passionate about, never gets to feel that that’s right, and therefore also never acts on her desire.

And then just look at the conventional “get your ex” back advice and how’s that contributing to the toxic cesspool. Most of it boils down to saying the right lines, sending the right text messages, acting mysterious, indifferent, and aloof, sometimes even outright manipulative.

None one these behaviors promote vulnerability. In fact, they’re the complete opposite of vulnerability.

The intersection of all these causes of invulnerability — childhood trauma, familial issues, societal issues, conventional “get your ex back” advice — is shame. Shame is fundamentally what holds people back from being vulnerable. And we all have it inside of us to some degree.

Now, sometimes feeling shame is good. After all, it protects us from doing stupid shit like starring in the 2 Girls 1 Cup video because it pays well. However, when we have so much of it that it diminishes our self-worth and begins to sabotage our day-to-day life, that’s when it becomes a problem.

At that point, what you have to do is act against it. And the way you do it is through vulnerability and self-acceptance. If you fail to come to terms with your shame, you’ll start believing there’s something inherently wrong with you and living your life based on those fallacies.

How To Be More Vulnerable

I get that vulnerability is an abstract topic and that many people have difficulty understanding it even after reading about what it is. So, let me put forward a couple of examples of what vulnerability actually looks like in the context of breakups so you can get a better idea of how to practice and apply it in the real world.

Vulnerability looks like:

  • Showing you’re affected by your breakup to others, including your ex.
  • Telling your ex you still love them and that you want to try again.
  • Complimenting your ex when you meet up with them.
  • Connecting with your ex over the fact that their father keeps irritating them and sharing one of your own familial issues.
  • Standing up for yourself when your ex disrespects you.
  • Being willing to move on for good if your ex can’t give you anything more than friendship.
  • Not looking for lines and pre-prepared texts to mask your true intentions when reaching out to your ex.
  • Still going alone on that hike that you’ve wanted to take your ex to rekindle things, even if they reject you.
  • Telling your ex to take it slow in the bedroom because you’re nervous and haven’t had sex in a while.
  • Revealing your fears and worries to your ex when you’re trying to rebuild your relationship together.
  • Asking your ex whether or not they would like to start a new relationship with you after dating for a while.

Even though all of these examples feel and look like behavioral prescriptions, they’re not. I’m not telling you to do something, I’m telling you to be something. Vulnerability is not about doing but about being.

As I wrote earlier, vulnerability is a mindset.

The last thing I’ll mention is that with vulnerability comes a pain period. If you’ve faked who you are for years and just recently started being vulnerable, you will experience a period of a lot of rejection and disapproval from your ex and others. But nevertheless, plowing through this period is worth it.

For when you reach the end of it, you’ll become a more attractive, confident, and self-accepting person. A person who is more comfortable with their own flaws, faults, and imperfections. A better person.

Previously Published on maxjancar.com.