Vulnerability – what does it mean to you?
To most of us, vulnerability means uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
Think about how vulnerable you are when you love someone – whether it is your parents, siblings, partner or close friends.
Love is filled with uncertainties and risks. The person you love may or may not love you back. They could be in your life for a long time or they may leave you. They might be extremely faithful or they might disappoint with their betrayal.
Each day at work, too, can trigger vulnerability – when we share ideas with others, not knowing how they will be received. You may be praised, laughed at or out-and-out ridiculed.
Vulnerability can be difficult to deal with. What makes it more difficult is what we believe about it.
Beliefs have the power to create or to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.
Anthony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within (1992)
I believe vulnerability is an integral part of you and me. It is at the core of who we are!
So let us reframe (and rightly so) our beliefs about vulnerability.
Vulnerability is Strength
The strange thing about vulnerability is that we love when others are open, trusting, and honest with us. But when it is time for us to open up to them, we tend to close up. Suddenly, what we desire is a weakness.
When you think about what vulnerability is, some of these things may come to mind – trying something new, starting your own business, calling a dear friend who gave birth to a stillborn, visiting a new fertility doctor after a string of miscarriages, admitting you made a mistake or that you are simply afraid.
All of the above is the opposite of weakness. It takes great strength to face something difficult, whether it is new, uncomfortable, scary or painful. It takes strength to move through grief, uncertainty, and all those times we question the meaning of life – our life…and not give up.
Vulnerability is Courage
Vulnerability is being truthful. It takes courage. It is an act of emotional intelligence, if you ask me.
Facing and embracing your emotions requires you to firstly take ownership of your feelings and thereafter address them. And this takes bravery. When most people run away from what they feel, people who look at their anger, grief, fear, and whatever discomfort are certainly no cowards.
Vulnerability is about sharing feelings and experiences with people who you rely on and have faith in.
Some of us build walls around ourselves because we assume being vulnerable means allowing others to take advantage of us. As a result we create an unreal self-image and interact with others from behind this veil.
Instead of feeling safe and secure, you will more likely feel cowardly and definitely not heroic. Because it’s not. It’s a brave thing, living honestly and authentically.
Vulnerability is Healthy Living
Many people just don’t believe they feel vulnerable. That comes from being disengaged from their feelings.
The truth is, each and every one of us feels vulnerable at some point in life. Life is vulnerable.
The choice is not about being vulnerable or not but rather, how we choose to react to uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
The most common response is to bottle it up.
For example, after a string of bad relationships you finally meet someone new who seems just right. You are excited, happy…and feeling vulnerable. Instead of addressing this, your thoughts are “I am not good enough” or “I hope I am not being too needy”. You shut down, when you want to open up. Before you know it, what could have been a healthy relationship, your doubts and negative thoughts drown out prematurely all opportunity.
If, on the other hand, you look at feeling vulnerable and let the other person know, chances are they will prove to be just right for you. Like you thought. And if not? You will have at least learned from it and moved on much faster, without feeling so anxious and with a healthier mindset.
In the broader perspective then, being vulnerable enables you to feel alive, engaged, and connected.
Without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.
Dr Brené Brown, Daring Greatly (2012)
Taking inspiration from the above – let’s reframe the word itself.
Vulnerability = Daring Greatly