Yesterday I had a vulnerability hangover after posting a selfie.
Have you ever heard that term: Vulnerability Hangover? It’s a term coined by Brene Brown that she describes as: “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”
I had never pondered the overlap between that term and the feeling I sometimes had after posting a selfie but in that moment, it was clear…I was having a vulnerability hangover.
Sharing our selfies is vulnerable to many of us, especially when we’re going outside of our comfort zones, isn’t it.
So here’s what happened:
I had just gone on a long run from my home to Granville Island along this beautiful seawall we have here in Vancouver. When I got there, I saw a wide open dock and decided to go stretch there as I cooled down from my run.
I’ve been working hard to shrink my body shame (rather than my body size) and have found myself able to comfortably rock running tights, which I was indeed wearing on this day.
After stretching I propped my phone up and used the Gorillcam Timer App to take a bunch of photos on the dock. This one caught my eye. We may have different reasons to choose our photos, sometimes because it feels like the one that is most in our comfort zone and other times because it is outside of our comfort zone…and we are ready to go there.
This was the case with the one you see above. I was able to step outside my old stories and look at her, the woman in the photo, as though she were a dear friend. I’m starting to be able to see this same way in the mirror when looking at my body too. I saw this photo and loved her curvature, the shape of her body against the wide open sky. So I went for it and shared it (and am including a few more here just to, you know, make it even more vulnerable to post this)!
I felt 100% good about it in that moment.
But about 5 minutes later that wave of nausea hit. Fiercely.
It came in the form of that voice, that inner critic that I’m grateful had taken a hike when I posted it.
“Did you just post a photo of your butt on Instagram?”
“Why in the world did you do that. Aren’t you embarrassed?”
“What if people think that is your belly not your butt?”
“Seriously? Why that one?”
And on and on.
Sigh. I thought I had posted this with love and that I wasn’t going to have to deal with my critic this time, but once again there it was.
Even though I had posted it feeling good about it, that sharing felt deeply vulnerable and the voice of my inner critic took the form of wondering what other people might be thinking. Deep down I knew that if they saw the photo with critique despite the fact I posted it with love, that was their story coming up and not mine.
What mattered was that I posted it with self-compassion.
And if I felt it in that moment I posted it, I could find my way back to it.
It so happened that just then, I looked back at the photo and a wonderful woman had written “Love those beautiful curves”. Thank goodness for her…and thank you @wildspiritearth on Instagram. Having you mirror back that same reason why I posted it, the same kindness that in that initial moment of pressing the button to share it, that I had myself. It meant so much.
Yet sometimes there isn’t someone mirroring back kindness towards us. Or we may judge ourselves by how many comments we get or how many people like it and let that speak of the value of the photo rather than our own feeling about it. That nausea or panic might feel so overwhelming that we decide to delete it. I confess I’ve done that before. We get so caught up in all the stories of what other people are thinking after we take and share a photo.
People tell me they think they are doing this selfie-love thing wrong because they are having this reaction but really…this is the work of learning to see ourselves with kindness in our camera.
It is building that resilience in all the stages of the photo: taking it, looking at it, sharing it and even the ‘vulnerability hangovers’ that happen after we’ve shared it. Our resilience is needed in all of it.
It’s building that new story that we get to decide how we see ourselves and returning to that each and every time we have those doubts.
It’s not always easy. While over the years I’ve been building that resilience and I have these moments far less often (which OMG is such a relief). But they still happen. Especially as we keep pushing further and further outside our comfort zones.
So Brene Brown’s term ‘vulnerability hangover’ came into my head in that moment of anxiety yesterday when that negative voice came up I was able to say in my head:
“Hey wait…I don’t usually post photos of myself from behind and this is new territory for me. But I saw my curvature with love in that photo and that is the new story I want to live in, not the old ones that not only don’t serve me but are also deeply unkind”
I repeated it to myself especially the words as though it was a mantra until it started to feel like it was soaking in and calming me.
It helped. And knowing it was in fact a ‘vulnerability hangover’ in reaction to that moment of sharing something outside my comfort zone. I think the more we find those terms or ways to wake ourselves up in these moments the easier it is to be resilient in them!
Sometimes it’s hard to pull ourselves out of all things we’re imagining other people thinking about our photo, but there’s only one truth we have control of…our own.
I had chosen to see myself through a lens of love when I posted it, and that is the truth I want to believe in.
How about you? Have you had a selfie vulnerability hangover (I bet most of us have). How did you get past it?