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Confidence

What to Do If You Regret Showing Your Vulnerability

8 steps you can take to undo "vulnerability regret."

Key points

  • Being willing to show your vulnerabilities to others can actually be a show of inner strength and confidence.
  • Being willing to reveal vulnerabilities doesn't mean that you won't experience "vulnerability regret."
  • Being vulnerable in front of someone can be a good litmus test and highly revealing about that person.
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"Vulnerability regret" is when you've revealed some type of vulnerability to someone and then subsequently wondered, "Uh oh, maybe I shouldn't have done that. Maybe I was too open about myself."
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A cardiologist once told a medical resident, "Never show your vulnerability. Never admit that you're wrong or don't know what to do. People will then lose confidence in you." I disagreed with all of that. The cardiologist then insisted that he was right and I was wrong, which I guess shouldn't have been that surprising. My philosophy, though, is the opposite of what the cardiologist said: that being willing to show your vulnerabilities to others can actually be a show of inner strength. After all, it can reveal that you are confident enough to handle any repercussions should others try to take advantage of those vulnerabilities.

Nevertheless, being willing to reveal your vulnerabilities doesn't mean that you won't experience "vulnerability regret" at some point. "Vulnerability regret" is the feeling you get after you've revealed some type of perceived weakness to someone and then subsequently wonder, "Uh oh, maybe I shouldn't have done that. Maybe I was too open about myself."

When you reveal your vulnerabilities, a big concern, of course, is that the other person will end up judging you unfavorably. Maybe the other person thought that you were the bee's knees before your big reveal and will now think of you as a wheeze sneeze instead. You may also be worried that the other person might somehow use the info against you in the future, either spreading it to others or doing the, "You are incapable of doing this because you showed such-and-such weakness," as a way of gaslighting you. Having vulnerability regret can leave you feeling very, well, vulnerable. So what to do when you have vulnerability regret? Here are eight steps to take:

1. Don't be so hard on yourself. Show self-compassion.

Don't beat yourself up. Anyone who tells you that they are 100% sure of every decision that they have made is 100% full of it. And anyone who says that they do not fear judgment at all is not really judging themselves accurately.

2. Give it some time. Do not react too quickly.

Your first inclination may be to commit some grand gesture that proves the opposite of the vulnerability that you displayed. However, rash attempts to "correct" what you did may only reinforce whatever impression you were worried about leaving.

3. Assess what you said or did only after enough time has passed to be more objective.

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Vulnerability regret can feel like you have woken up finding someone next to you in bed who shouldn't be there.
Source: monkeybusinessimages/Getty

Time may help you realize that what you revealed was not nearly as "bad" as you had originally thought. So what if you showed some weakness? So what if you revealed that you are really afraid of turnips?

4. Have a follow-up conversation with the person.

Don't make your reveal become a that-which-will-never-be-spoken-of-again thing. See what the person thought about what you had said. You may be pleasantly surprised.

5. Realize that this is a great litmus test.

Being vulnerable in front of someone can really teach you a lot about that person. It can be like giving that person the keys to your car: You can see how grateful he or she is for what you've offered and how that person may use it in a positive way. Alternatively, that person could go on a joy ride and cause havoc. It's always better to know what the person is really like sooner than later. If the other person is going to judge you negatively for what you reveal, then maybe the big reveal is that this person doesn't deserve to be close to you.

6. Understand that this may actually strengthen the relationship.

If this person is indeed the right match for you, whether as a friend or significant other, then your reveal may actually strengthen your relationship. Your reveal can make that person, in turn, feel even more comfortable about being vulnerable in front of you. In fact, your reveal could help that person know how best to help you in the future.

7. Learn from the experience.

You never know and learn unless you try. Being vulnerable to one person can help you fine-tune how you approach that person and others in the future. Maybe you were too quick to open up to that person or, on the other hand, too slow to do so. With experience, you will learn what to look for in the future.

8. Keep on keeping on with showing your vulnerability. Realize that doing so shows strength and can have big payoffs.

To have a truly deep meaningful connection with someone, you've got to be vulnerable with each other at some point. The only way to really help each other is to know their vulnerabilities.

Again, the right people for you won't lose confidence in you after you show your vulnerabilities. They may instead realize your true inner strength. That cardiologist may have been an expert on the heart in a physical sense but not necessarily in matters of the heart from an emotional sense.

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