I recently took some pictures looking over the edge 4000 feet down at the top of half dome in Yosemite. That was a physical risk but not an emotional one. Emotional risks (vulnerability) are often much more terrifying than physical ones. Here are a couple of emotional risks I’ve taken.
When I was 21 I had a major crush. She was a part of a sorority a few houses down from my fraternity. On Valentines Day 1995, I took a risk and had some Phi Delta Theta pledges to deliver her a rose from me, in front of her entire sorority, at their Monday night dinner. According to the pledges, she loved it, expressed excitement & blushed. She called and thanked me, said she had an out-of-town boyfriend and would love to grab a coffee. I felt somewhat rejected AND I felt great because I took a risk, faced a fear, and grew.
I did something similar last year, going by a lady’s business to apologize for pushing her away and not responding to a text. Sharing I was scared to get hurt and expressed my interest. This time, I had the courage to face her directly, not using other safer modes of communication (e.g. people delivering the message, text, email, etc.). It felt great! I took a risk, faced a fear, and grew
There are certain powerful emotions we want to avoid. Rejection, failure & embarrassment are at the top of the list for most. Because we were hurt in the past, our minds (i.e. psyche) bully us into avoiding situations where we could get hurt. Both the situations above were totally terrifying, yet absolutely positive & energizing. I didn’t listen to the lies my mind told me.
Our minds tell us that avoiding emotional risks helps us (e.g. safety) when avoidance actually hurts us. We believe in psychologically damaged advice. The worst advice we can ever take is from an anxious mind.
If we don’t risk getting hurt emotionally (e.g. failure, rejection, embarrassment), we damage our ability to feel good emotionally (e.g. joy, excitement, peace). Emotional vulnerability is a lifelong struggle and crucial to being emotionally healthy. We grow from experiencing failure, rejection & embarrassment and see that we can handle it.
Emotional Risk (Vulnerability) Ideas
Taking an emotional risk means doing something where you could be uncomfortable and/or rejected. Basically, something where you have no control over the outcome. Here are some examples of emotional risks. Use them to start thinking about risks you can take.
- Go to a gas station or restaurant, use the restroom, and don’t buy anything.
- Go to the library, and instead of searching for the book yourself, ask a librarian to help you find the book.
- Ask for help or advice from someone you are close to (e.g. sibling, parent, close friend, spouse, etc.)
- Express how something has bothered you to someone you are close to or work with every day.
- Go out to dinner at a nice restaurant by yourself and read or do some work.
- Ask for help or advice from a neighbor or co-workers you’ve never reached out to before. Example, “Can you help me move my couch” or “How do you manage your money so well”.
- Express disagreement with another person’s opinion calmly. Someone, you don’t know well. For example, “I see things differently, and here’s why”.
- Approach a stranger to learn about something you’re curious about. For example, “Is that the new Apple Watch Elite?”
- Genuinely compliment a stranger. For example, “I like your shirt/purse/hat/dog”.
- Tell a jerk to “@#$%&! off”(Just kidding, or maybe not)
- Reach out to someone who seems alone at an event and get to know them.
- Buy a gift for a neighbor or co-worker for a birthday or holiday you don’t know very well.
- Withdraw from a social group where the people aren’t positive and goal-oriented telling them “I have other priorities right now.”
- Reach out to a high school or college friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
- Set the goal of meeting 5 strangers over the next week.
- Participate in one of the open mic events at a local comedy club
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Negative Core Beliefs Keep Keep Us from Being Vulnerable.
- “If I ask for help, I’m infringing on someone.”
- “If they reject me, my day/weekend will be ruined.”
- “They don’t want to be inconvenienced by me.”
- “It’s been so long since I’ve talked to them & they have other friends now.”
- “They will reject me and I’ll spiral into depression.”
I ask clients to list actions they can take that are emotionally scary. Actions that move them towards goals AND where they cannot control the outcome. Sometimes I have them take an emotional risk while they’re in the middle of a session and I’ve seen a real transformation in these moments. Growth happens when you take action.
Click the link below for a worksheet to create your list of vulnerable actions you are willing to risk-taking. This might be the best thing you can do for your emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
If you like my style and found this helpful, go through my online coaching course Tune Up For Life to learn more about healthy thinking skills, emotional health, self-concept, life balance, core values, life purpose, goal setting, transformational habits, and more.
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