Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?

Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? January 18, 2018


“I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have”

When University of Houston research professor Brené Brown decided to take a closer look at human vulnerability, she had no idea that it would take six years of research and data analysis to finally arrive at some compelling truths on the matter.

Stepping out of her own comfort zone of resistance to vulnerablity; reevaluating it through deep personal self-examination, and the guidance of a professional counselor, all contributed to the insights she liberally and humorously shared in a 2010 Ted Talk that went viral.

Somehow I missed this gem until now.

Hardwired for connection

In Brené’s words, “Connection is why we’re here”. As a species we are neurologically hardwired for connection. But when this fundamental human dispostion gets thwarted or suppressed,  it tends to mask itself in shame—the fear of disconnection: I’m not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, young enough, the “right” gender with the “correct” sexual orientation enough . . You know the list.

Underpinning shame she says is “excruciating vulnerability.” A deep sense of inadequacy and unworthiness. And an acute absence of feeling loved and knowing that you belong.

Unfaced or unrecogized vulnerability usually masks itself in addiction, over-medication, playing mind games or hiding behind perfectionism or misguided certainity—the kind of religious or ideological fundamentalism we are all so familiar with today.

However we choose to mask our vulnerability, all we’re doing is numbing it.

Embracing our Vulnerability

For those who have managed to own and express their vulnerability, it means:

  • Willingness to say “I love you” first.
  • To breathe through waiting for the oncologist to call with the result of your biopsy.
  • To invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.
  • To tell your child that you don’t have all the answers.
  • To attend the AA meeting you’ve avoided for years.
  • To let others care for you when you can no longer care for yourself.

In a word, a relationship of any kind cannot survive when vulnerability is unacknowledged and unexpressed. As I note in my book, Do It Anyway: Deep Spirituality Meets Real Life

Honesty in communication, especially between intimate companions and partners is imperative, if the relationship is to endure and flourish, instead of festering under the guise of phoniness and subterfuge. Dishonesty or any embellishment (or spin) on the truth could, and in most cases does, come back to bite us. And boy can it hurt! 

Chapter 14 ‘Tools of Communication’

Why are we afraid?

Many years ago I read a short book titled, ‘Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?‘ by Jesuit priest psychologist John Powell. It was a runaway best seller. The premise of the book alone hits the nub:

“I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have”


So here’s the thing: Wholeheartedly embracing our vulnerability means that we believe that we are worthy of love and belonging; and it means that we are saying a resounding “Yes” to the joy, creativity, love and liberation that human vulnerability gives birth to.

That’s it from me. Any thoughts?

Cover Photo: Pixabay.com


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