Can you think of a time when someone hurt you without realizing it? Perhaps they said something they intended to be completely innocent, but because they didn’t know about something in your past or something you were feeling, it left you in pain. Or maybe other people have a hard time getting to know you because you’re afraid they’ll say something that reopens past scars.

While many people fear vulnerability, most admire when people share stories about overcoming challenges in life. Why do we not allow ourselves to be vulnerable? Sometimes, it’s because we believe if other people knew the real thoughts we hid deep inside or were aware of the emotions we were feeling, those people might judge them in negative ways or decide they weren’t worthy of forging a deeper connection.

No matter how much we want to make those connections, the deeper fear stays in control and our thoughts and emotions remain hidden behind a mask. We keep our relationships with others safe by keeping them superficial, so the others never really get to know us.

Here’s the problem with that: an essential part of the healing process involves developing authentic connections with others who are important to us. Trying to protect ourselves by working at a superficial level means we aren’t presenting our authentic selves. It also demonstrates that we struggle with accepting and loving ourselves, forgiving ourselves for being flawed.

Before you can deepen your relationships with other people, it is important to be comfortable with who you really are. It is important be honest with ourselves and develop the courage to forgive ourselves for any shortcomings we perceive. If you’re still punishing yourself over something you did in a relationship 10 or 20 years ago, it’s beyond time to stop. Instead focus on who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow. If the past still plagues you, it’s time to seek help.

Are you unsure about the person you really are? There’s a tool that’s helped millions of people better understand themselves and the nature of their relationships with other people. It’s called the Enneagram, and it’s a powerful tool that helps us develop an understanding of who we really are and why we behave the way we do with other people in our lives. The information generated by the Enneagram is helpful in many settings, but we’ve found it especially effective at helping people discover the person behind the mask.

The Enneagram explores how we think, the passions that drive us, and the instincts causing us to make many of the decisions we do. Our counselors are trained to interpret the results and help you see how they’re reflected in your daily life. When you have a better understanding of who you are, how you think, and why you react to situations, you can take steps to become your authentic self and you’ll feel less vulnerable to the thoughts of others.

The first step in accessing this insight is to set a time to talk with one of our professional counselors. They’ll discuss the challenges you feel and determine whether the Enneagram would be a helpful tool. Finally, they’ll explain the results and show you how to use that knowledge. Why not call us today to set a convenient time?

Sarah Barksdale is a trained therapist who help women, marriages, and teens and is also trained in using the Enneagram.