Vulnerability - This word is definitely a trigger for anyone operating from perfectionism patterns. It’s the thing we avoid because by simply leaning into it, we are unsafe, available for criticism and others will see that we have flaws, challenges, emotions and tender spots in our human experience.

Vulnerable: open to moral attack, criticism 

So many perfectionists struggle to express gratitude in many of their relationships. So many of us have relationship structures that are based on codependency, narcissism or extreme independence. None of these models are going to invite someone to feel grateful and express gratitude easily, effortlessly and frequently. It can feel like knowingly walking into a fiery building every time. Do you remember the last time you received a compliment from a stranger? Someone told you that you had a nice smile, they liked your jacket, your work was well done? What did it trigger in you? Did you feel shy or nervous or uncomfortable? The majority of people, women especially, feel really unsure and uncomfortable when receiving recognition of any kind, especially verbally in person. We get sheepish and squirmy; and, if you are like I used to be, something awkward comes out of your mouth like “thank you, it was on sale” as if that has anything to do with the compliment. 

On the flip side of this scenario, have you ever been nervous about saying thank you to someone or to offer a compliment? Worried about what they may think of you, of your noticing this attribute? I’ll bet you can easily think of a recent occasion where you noticed something about someone that you liked or appreciated and did not extend that compliment or acknowledgement so as to not come across as weird or to make the recipient feel uncomfortable. 

Gratitude touches on our vulnerabilities

As humans, we all have parts and pieces of our lives that we choose to keep private, that are sacred or off limits. For many of us, it includes our body and/or our appearance, our aptitude in a specific field of interest, an area in which we wish we were stronger and most definitely  the parts of our life we are most passionate about. So when someone enters the no-fly- zone without prior written permission, we feel exposed, liable and our hearts are slapped onto our sleeve without realizing it is happening. As perfectionists, being seen is a double edged sword.

We crave the recognition and affirmation that we are “doing it right” and also are terrified of being seen in general because the imminent mistake or “less than perfect” moment is always on the horizon. Intellectually, we know that mistakes are human and everyone makes mistakes or there are opportunities to learn from taking action but we don’t want anyone else to witness ours.  Sharing feelings of gratitude in a way that may not meet the social norm of posturing or downplaying someone else’s influence are smack dab in the middle of the perfectionists fears. Vulnerability is the scariest part of living in active perfectionism.

Expressing feelings is the most terrifying thing a person can do

A basic human need, around the globe, is to be acknowledged. EVERY person on this planet craves and fears being seen. We yearn for acknowledgment to better understand our unique gifts and purpose, and we simultaneously push it away by deflecting and hiding, reacting with fear and angst. The only way to move through this limiting wall is to intentionally adjust our reaction. We have to lean into the desensitization process so gratitude, offering it and receiving it, doesn’t feel dangerous. We have to commit to rewiring our habit—instead of shying away from acknowledgments, we learn to accept them graciously. 

The more often we confidently accept these acknowledgments, the more often we will receive them.  And in our new relaxed receptivity, we help others give and receive acknowledgment. Compliment deliverers will feel affirmed in their instinct to express gratitude. Compliment receivers will take their cues from our behavior and assume permission to accept acknowledgement as well. Even better, by repeatedly and confidently accepting acknowledgment, we naturally deliver gratitude and recognition more frequently. All of this perpetuates the momentum of people showing up in their power and purpose, and the world will grow in the direction of love and cohesion. 


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