Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Feeling Exposed: A Guide To Your Emotions
Published Mar 23rd, 2021 & updated on May 20th, 2021
Feeling exposed is uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s like all of your feelings, thoughts and personal history are spread out for the world to see! Not only do you feel unsafe, but you feel afraid. The thought of someone seeing you and understanding you is anxiety-inducing and totally overwhelming. What if they see you differently? Or don’t like what they find? What if they reject or abandon you? All of these negative thoughts start to flood your mind and you just want to close yourself off immediately, or run away. Uggghhh, why are feelings so hard?!
Look, you’re not alone. So many of us struggle with opening up for all kinds of reasons. Maybe we’ve been hurt in the past or have trauma that still affects us. Or we’re scared of being judged or rejected by the people we care about the most. So we build up walls to protect ourselves to avoid ever feeling exposed again. But we’re here to tell you that even though it is really hard at times, opening up emotionally can be a great thing! Let’s dive thru feeling exposed and how to navigate this feeling.
A Deeper Look At Feeling Exposed
What does it mean to feel exposed, exactly? Dictionary.com has a few definitions of exposed: “adj. left or being without shelter or protection; laid open to view; unconcealed; susceptible to attack; vulnerable.” As far as feeling emotionally exposed, we think the key definition here would be the last of the list: vulnerable.
Okayyy, so what does THAT mean? Maybe you think of your elderly grandparent, a newborn baby or a cute lil’ puppy. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says “vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.”
It’s actually very common to feel uncomfortable sharing openly about ourselves with other people. We spend a lot of time worrying what others think and maybe even only showing one “side” of us. Maybe you feel that you can truly only be yourself when you’re completely alone. And obviously, that can be a really lonely feeling. Even if you so badly want to be more vulnerable with other people, the voice inside your head is telling you it’s a bad idea. Other people might not like you for who you really are, so you just avoid that potential hurt altogether!
But even if we think putting up walls will protect us, in the end, it has the opposite effect. When we fear exposing our true selves, we miss out on the connections that we all want as human beings. Something we need to understand is that nobody is perfect. But people appreciate when they can share openly with others, and not just the good things. It makes us feel 1000x more connected with people when we can openly communicate and share the dark and twisty, vulnerable side of ourselves! It shows us we’re not alone and that we’re all just figuring out life as we go.
How Feeling Exposed Shows Up Mentally
It’s not easy to open up, especially when you have a ton of mental roadblocks in the way. We get it: feeling exposed or having a fear of intimacy can be challenging to work through. If you’re really struggling with feeling exposed, here are a few of the symptoms you might experience mentally:
– Low self-esteem
– Trust issues
– Angry outbursts
– Higher risk for depression
– Difficulty forming or committing to close relationships
– Inability to share feelings or express emotions
– Tendency to withdraw socially or isolate yourself from others
On the outside, people who have a hard time opening up and being vulnerable can come off as cold or detached. They might have a hard time keeping relationships because other people find it impossible to connect with them emotionally. This can make someone closed off feel even more isolated or alone, and even confirm their belief that “everyone leaves” them. If you find these feelings have started to affect all of your personal relationships and you’re struggling to cope on your own, speaking with a therapist can be super helpful!
How Feeling Exposed Shows Up Physically
Just like it negatively impacts your mental health, feeling exposed can harm your physical health, too. It heightens stress and anxiety, causing your body to go through some not-so-fun symptoms. Here are some physical signs you might experience:
– Increased heart rate
– High blood pressure
– Heightened cortisol levels
– Chest pain
– Muscle tension
Sometimes, people who have a hard time coping with feeling exposed or opening up are at risk of substance abuse problems. They might turn to alcohol or drugs and become addicted to this unhealthy coping mechanism. Since feeling exposed can also bring up a lot of anger, this emotion is only heightened by the use of alcohol or drugs. If you experience any of these signs, it’s important to seek professional help before it affects your quality of life and ruins your close relationships.
5 Ways To Cope With Feeling Exposed
Yeppp, feeling exposed is scary. And it makes you feel pretty anxious. Not to mention, stressed TF out! We’ve got your back. Let’s work through those negative emotions with some positive coping strategies! Here are a few you might find helpful:
1. Practice Deep Breathing
You might feel super anxious, overwhelmed or stressed when you feel exposed. Try it with us now: deep breaths in, followed by deep breaths out. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing has actually been proven to lower anxiety and reduce stress. Plus, deep breathing slows your heart rate and provides your brain with enough oxygen to chill for a moment. See, doesn’t that feel better already?!
2. Reach Out For Support
We know you probs just wanna run and hide right now, but you don’t have to go through this feeling alone. Try reaching out to a friend, family member or loved one when you need to have a good ol’ vent session. They can be there to listen and support you, and maybe even offer up some advice if that’s what you need. Either way, just having them be there for you can make all the difference in the world!
3. Engage In Something Soothing Or Comforting
You wanna know what’s calming? Enjoying a nice bubble bath. Curling up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and drinking a mug of hot tea. Going for a walk. Listening to a podcast or watching your favourite show. Doing a peaceful activity, like puzzles, crosswords or colouring. Try doing something positive that will improve your mood and take your mind off those hateful thoughts!
4. Comfort Yourself Like A Friend
If you don’t have anyone who can be there for you right now, that’s okay. You can be there for yourself! Think about how you would want a loved one to comfort you in this moment. Give yourself a pat on the back, or write a list of the things you like about yourself. When we feel exposed, we tend to reflect more on the times when we felt hurt more than the good times. Remind yourself of all the times you opened up and things DID work out, ‘cause there’s probably more than you originally thought!
5. Engage In Compassionate Self Talk
It’s safe to say that when you’re feeling exposed and vulnerable, you aren’t showing yourself the most compassion. Let’s flip the conversation and speak some positivity! Try telling yourself out loud: Being vulnerable does not make me weak. My thoughts and feelings matter. The people who deserve to be in my life accept me for who I am.
Feeling exposed and being open and honest about how you feel is HARD. But we’re so proud of you for trying to navigate this feeling, ‘cause that takes strength. We hope these tips help you along the way! P.S. We’re rooting for you, friend.