Ways to Express Vulnerability as an Introvert

An introvert hugs her friend

As much as introverts hate asking for help, it’s important to be vulnerable sometimes and open yourself up to others.

If you have trouble speaking up about your feelings, I can relate. It can be a little intimidating, and even painful, especially when it’s a close relationship. 

And even though we introverts love spending time alone, no matter how much we like our own company, sharing a bond with someone is important, too. It’s taken me several failed (and almost-failed) relationships to navigate this part of me. (Still navigating, by the way…) So I’d like to share what I’ve learned with the hopes that someone (like you) learns from it. But first, let’s talk about vulnerability.

What It Means to Be Vulnerable

Being vulnerable means putting yourself in the position to be accepted, rejected, or judged. The scariest thing about it is knowing that you’re likely to sense the other person’s reaction even before they speak. And there’s every possibility that you’ll crawl back into that beautiful shell if you don’t like what you see.

I know. I’ve been there. It sucks, but it’s usually worth it.

If your personal mantra remains, “I’m good,” to everyone around you, it might not be long before you realize that you’re really not that good… and you’re all alone at the end of the day. And I don’t mean the “I’m an introvert, and I love my own company” kind of alone. I mean the kind where, in those few moments that you feel like sharing, the person (or people) you really want to talk to are not available to listen. It’s not a good feeling. 

So here are some ways you can express your vulnerability as an introvert, even if it’s sometimes a challenge.

6 Ways to Express Vulnerability as an Introvert

1. Be brutally open and honest (and, yes, you can rehearse what you want to say in advance). 

I know — it’s not unusual to not want to talk since you’re an introvert. It’s also expected that when you do finally speak, you’ve done so much filtering that everything you say is calculated and almost rehearsed. This method works like magic in many situations, especially at work, but it could be a problem when it comes to interpersonal or romantic relationships.

Brutal honesty here means making the first move by initiating the conversation. In this case, you already know exactly who you want to talk to. Then, start with something as direct as, “I want to talk, but I don’t know how to start. I’m still processing, and this might take a while, but I really need to talk to you.”

It sounds, and even looks like, gibberish, but that alone is enough of a display of emotion. The person probably knows that you value them enough to want to speak to them, and that you’re trying. Now I’m not saying it’ll be smooth sailing from that point on, especially if your friend or partner is inquisitive (which you may consider annoying). All I’m saying is that it’s a big step forward to ask for help as an introvert vs. trying to handle all your problems on your own.

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2. Process your thoughts and feelings on paper first, then (maybe) send it out.

As an introvert, you probably know how easy it is to turn to your trusted journal when you’re confused, in pain, happy, or even bored. You can still hold onto that energy and take it a step further. First, journal about how you’re feeling. Then, you can translate these thoughts into an email, text, or even written card or letter to your friend or significant other. Writing is often easier for us introverts than speaking, so this is a way to be vulnerable without having to utter a word out loud!

I did this with my ex a couple of times, and I still have access to some of the written things I sent him. The few times I’ve gone back to them, I’m always glad I’d made that move. Mostly because I know for sure that the chances of me using spoken words to communicate certain feelings had been close to zero. 

Now, I’m not saying to use writing as a substitute for communicating your thoughts and feelings aloud, but it’s a good alternative, as well as good practice for when you do speak your feelings openly.         

3. If you’re an artist, start with your art.

I have this biased opinion that most introverts are artistic and creative. Nobody has been able to convince me otherwise, so I still believe it. What’s that one thing that brings you calmness despite the storm raging in your head? Writing a story? Painting abstract or live pictures? Writing or scoring music?  

Whatever it is, you can ease into vulnerability by sharing it, like your art. I was sort of a closeted writer for years — only my mom had the privilege and permission to read my work. If I found that someone else had read it, I’d go crazy worrying about what they thought of me after reading, and nope, I’d never ask. I just avoided them for as long as humanly possible.

When I finally got the courage to share my work with a larger group of people, willingly, it opened doors for conversations. And, right now, I can’t count the number of connections I’ve built and nurtured because my work laid the foundation for that relationship. So start small, and share away!   

4. Live and be in the moment long enough to feel something, then share it with someone.

Many introverts have this thing where we build this perfect world in our heads and make it our safe space. In times of pain, frustration, or confusion, we default to that space instead of taking the time to process what is really happening around us.

Being vulnerable isn’t just about talking to people. It’s also about being true to yourself and acknowledging that you’re not fine in certain moments. Nobody likes pain (or anything remotely close to it), but since none of us are invincible, we need to confront, and talk through, pain sometimes. I know it’s cliché, but there’s strength in vulnerability.

So you can first try opening up to yourself through writing it all down — like I mentioned above — and then share those thoughts (at least some of them) with others. You’ll feel better, I promise. And I bet someone will be able to relate.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

5. Use emotional vocabulary to express exactly how you’re feeling.

I used to have difficulty expressing my feelings because I focused more on logic than on feelings. When you do this, you tend to speak facts and words that do convey some information, but not a lot about how you’re actually feeling

To be vulnerable is to focus on those feelings of insecurity, sadness, shame, or what have you, and describe exactly what it’s doing to you. Don’t just talk about your boss being angry that you delivered a project late — mention that it made you feel undervalued as a member of the team or insecure about your competency. There’s a huge difference.

6. Encourage vulnerability from people close to you, too.

Supporting others’ vulnerability is just as important as expressing it yourself. The good news is, as introverts, we are almost too perfect at doing this. Listening comes easy to us, as does caring about others and making them feel understood. 

It may not seem like a lot to you, but the simple gesture of acknowledging others’ pain sends a message that we can relate to what they’re going through. Admitting to understanding is similar to saying, “I have felt like this, too. It really sucked, and I’m sorry you have to experience it. I’m happy to help however I can, even just to listen.” If that’s not being vulnerable, I don’t know what is.

Why It’s Important to Be Vulnerable

Introvert or not, it’s important for us to be vulnerable sometimes. Here are some reasons.

  • It reminds people that you’re human. I’m not referring to some random person on the street; I mean the people that matter, those in your introvert inner circle who “get” you. And you may think they know how you’re doing, but they probably don’t. Not really. So by opening up to them, it’ll strengthen your relationship. Speaking of which…
  • It deepens your relationships. Relationships need vulnerability to thrive — they provide you both with someone to lean on when you’re down, find help when you’re stuck, or simply listen when things are all murky in your head. Again, being alone is nice, but you can’t ignore the way hugs — and a compassionate ear — make you feel. (And I love hugs.)
  • It makes you feel lighter, and more confident and understood. Handling everything on your own can sometimes feel like this heavy block you can’t shrug off — it’s almost like suffering in silence. When you get better at speaking up when it matters, you’ll feel so much better about many things, and in many areas, in your life.

Independence is excellent in its own right. I mean, what’s better than that feeling of self-reliance as you navigate through various life situations? However, to have a genuine relationship — platonic, romantic, familial, or what have you — I’ve come to realize that vulnerability is one of the pillars of creating a solid bond.

When was the last time you dropped your need to be independent and let yourself crumble? Okay, maybe not crumble, but at least opened yourself up to someone for some help? Try it.

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