Avoidant attachment style, authenticity and sharing the real you….

I’m fascinated my Attachment Theory and work with it often with clients.  It’s a psychological theory based on the premise that our early-life experiences create blueprints for all our relationship patterns.  If our primary childhood caregivers were unable to meet our needs of safety, trust, love etc. (for whatever reason – this isn’t a blame game), then secure attachment is inhibited.  I could go on endlessly here but this week my main focus has been the impact of what’s called an Avoidant attachment style.

And those with this can struggle with some or all of the following:

  • Feeling isolated and like you don’t “belong”
  • Difficulty in asking for or accepting help
  • Showing vulnerability and being anything less than perfect
  • Being seen or visible
  • Maintaining close relationships and trusting others
  • Dealing with conflict without disengaging completely or running away
  • Not feeling our own feelings
  • Easily feeling crowded, suffocated or overwhelmed by people
  • Believing anything other than being fiercely independent is the only option

The idea of trust and vulnerability has been a recurrent theme this week.  I work with so many capable people who set themselves impossibly high standards, and daren’t show any sort of weakness.  They don’t know who they can trust, holding even loved ones at arm’s length, and they struggle to ask for any sort of help. 

I get this so much.  I class myself as someone with a greatly recovered Avoidant attachment style – still hints but so much better than I was.  And I know it can be punishing, it can be lonely, and it can feel like a battle every step of the way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  The human body and mind innately desires secure attachment – think trusting, balanced relationships, easy social support, the ability to share feelings, greater confidence, and the ability to give and receive love safely.  Mmm sounds good doesn’t it?  Our non-secure attachment styles are there to try and help us, rather than harm, but they’re perhaps not so fit for purpose at this stage of our life.

And so, with some gentle, consistent work, we can begin to move towards secure attachment, taking agency in healing past imprints.  And a good starting point for us Avoidants (once we’ve got a good handle on our nervous system regulation) is tuning into our vulnerabilities (and needs, but that’s one for another day).  And then, oh so steadily, sharing them with the world.

And my clients with an Avoidant attachment style cringe at the thought and then desperately wrack their brains to find the one person/situation that they might be able to “trust”.  But guess what?  It’s been proven that trust is created by sharing vulnerability.

And rather than showing weakness, vulnerability highlights incredible courage.  And it can be transformational.  As Brené Brown says:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”

And that’s sound pretty good eh?

So what’s one vulnerability you can show the world this week? How can you give people a glimpse of the real you – the quirks and flaws that make you, you?  Remember, what’s a big deal to you probably won’t even register with others – we are all pretty self absorbed!  And all the evidence points to others thinking more of those that do this, rather than less.  Start with something relatively “safe” (but that still feels like a stretch – remember, a tolerable step isn’t a comfortable step but it is doable) and use self soothing tools before and after.

It’s all part of building the capacity to share the real you – the foundation of authenticitystrengthcontentment, and imposter-no-more success.