How to survive a vulnerability hangover


Imagery Mathew Coyte // @mathew_coyte

Words Emma Vidgen // @emma_vee


Have you ever suffered from a vulnerability hangover? You know that feeling that starts in the pit of your stomach, makes your heart flip-flop and might crescendo in a flush of the cheeks after you’ve put yourself out there? While your body feels like you’ve been KO-ed, your mind goes into overdrive: “What will people think/say/believe now I’ve shown something painfully real?”

Vulnerability hangovers have been one of the most common and unexpected side-effects since we launched The Wayward. Creating a platform to share deeply personal stories (this one and this one spring to mind in particular) has been a rollercoaster that frequently leads to late-night WhatsApp exchanges between us, “Oh my god I don’t know if I can post this… I think I am going to vomit!” In fact, when we launched last year, I struggled to even write an ‘about me’ caption on our Instagram (this one’s a classic example – so awks!).

But just like The Wayward, we’re a work in progress. And we keep practising vulnerability because vulnerability is something we value deeply. But why is it so damn important? We asked Rebecca Ray, a psychologist and author of The Art Of Self Kindness (Pan Books, $19.99) to break it down for us and share her tips on how to bounced back when you’re suffering from a vulnerability hangover.



why vulnerability is important

Vulnerability has been the hottest word in the wellness world for awhile now - and for good reason. “Vulnerability allows us to show up as our true selves without the masks that we so often hide behind to hide the parts of ourselves that we fear will be judged, rejected, or shameful to expose,” says Rebecca. In an age of over-stylised Instagram flatlays, Facetuning and digital perfection, being vulnerable is a an act of rebellion and honesty that’s more important to our sanity than ever.

But more importantly, being vulnerable is also a an act of radical self-kindness. “Rather than criticising ourselves for the perceived flaws, true compassion is being vulnerable enough to acknowledge our fragility as humans and accept ourselves unconditionally anyway,” says Rebecca. “Embracing joy requires us to step into vulnerability because it’s an uncertain space. Instead of focusing on when the joy will disappear to be replaced with discomfort, vulnerability asks us to be in the moment and allow it to be there as it is, even when it’s temporary (as all emotions are).”

Have you ever called in sick to work with a vulnerability hangover?  Image  Kinga Cichewicz  //  Unsplash

Have you ever called in sick to work with a vulnerability hangover?
Image Kinga Cichewicz // Unsplash



OK so how do you know if you’re in the grips of a vulnerability hangover? Well they aren’t gentle, that’s for sure. If you have one, you’ll know. “Embarrassment, shame, and thoughts like, ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ ‘What will they think?’, and ‘I can’t show my face now!’ are all common symptoms,” says Rebecca. The feeling isn’t dissimilar to the pounding terror of alcohonoia (paranoia experienced after a big night of drinking, often after work drinks with colleagues you don’t know that well), except with a vulnerability hangover, no booze is required (although in some cases, it may have been a factor in giving you the courage to share).



OK so you’ve put yourself out there and now you’re panicking. How do you deal with the shame? “The best way to recover is to seek out someone close to you and in whose opinion you trust,” says Rebecca. “Sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed by a shame storm, it’s difficult to find perspective inside our own heads but it can be accessed by turning to a loved one for support.”


is it possible to get better at being vulnerable?

Like most things in life, practice makes, well, it makes things a bit easier. It turns out vulnerability is no different. “Practice speaking to yourself with compassion especially when it comes to observing your flaws, mistakes, or areas you of being you struggle with,” says Rebecca. “Cultivating a kind inner voice makes it easier to unconditionally accept ourselves, and therefore, to show up authentically and bravely even when there’s a risk of being imperfect.”


For more advice on how to be a better friend to yourself, don’t miss Rebecca’s new book The Art Of Self Kindness (Pan Books, $19.99) and follow Rebecca on instagram

The Art of Self-Kindness.jpg

The Art of Self-Kindness by Rebecca Ray is published by Pan Australia ($19.99) and is available from all good bookstores.