When a cat rolls on her side to show you her belly it indicates a level of trust. She knows that you are safe and she’s letting you rub her stomach. I started thinking about this. Cats are highly selective about who they show their bellies to. As a human I have had a tendency to show vulnerability to people who perhaps don’t know what to do with it. Maybe it overwhelms them. Who knows? What I do know is that I can’t go inside their heads and figure out what they are thinking or why.

What I’ve learned is that you don’t have to let everyone see your proverbial soft underbelly. It’s yours and you get to choose who you roll over for. You don’t need to be candid with everyone that you meet. You don’t know all of them well, and it’s your right to keep parts of yourself to yourself.

Even in romantic relationships, you have the right to take it slow and open up gradually. And if you need the help of a couples counselor or individual therapist to guide you in that direction, that’s perfectly fine too.

Sometimes there is trauma associated with being open and vulnerable. That might be a reason that you (or others) are hesitant to open that Pandora’s box of emotions. But as my therapist told me: you can open the box and look at one thing at a time. You don’t have ┬áto tackle the whole box at one time. And if you try to take that on, you will probably feel overwhelmed.

My vulnerability is mine. I have no obligation to show it unless I feel safe and the same goes for you too. What you don’t want is to reveal parts of yourself that are tender and have those pieces manipulated or taken advantage of. Sure, you can’t predict what someone will do if you open up to them, but you can gradually tell them things as you learn more about them.

Maybe they’re doing the same thing? And if they are opening up more than you are, if there is an imbalance in who reveals more, once again, you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you are being protective of yourself. You have every reason to protect your heart and you will know when you’re ready to open it up. Another thing to remember (for myself also) is that inevitably in life we will get our hearts broken. It’s unpleasant, it fucking hurts but it happens and you will get through it. I keep telling myself that now as I stand here waiting for the train feeling the shards of broken glass in my chest.

I’ll leave you with this: be you. When you feel safe, express yourself. And if someone is trying to push your boundaries and ask you to open up when you aren’t ready, that’s their shit, not yours. Speak when you’re ready. I am going to try to follow my own advice too.