Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Have you ever felt vulnerable?
Vulnerability is one of those touchy feely words that women fear, and men rarely admit to. However, being vulnerable is a crucial ingredient of forming true connections with others, communicating effectively, and building healthy relationships. Being vulnerable involves being honest and open about our emotions, feelings, fears, insecurities. And sometimes, being vulnerable is about asking people for help.
Like it or not, we have all been vulnerable to something or someone. But what exactly does vulnerability look like? In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Being vulnerable can make us feel raw, exposed, and uncomfortable, because it puts us in position for us to be seen by others at moments where we might not feel confident or be at our best. At the same time, being vulnerable can help us to practice self-acceptance, gain confidence in our own abilities to overcome hardships, and show empathy and compassion to others. However, there is no mistaking the fact that that being vulnerable is tough. Vulnerability requires us to trust that the person we are being vulnerable with, will not take advantage of us or use our vulnerability against us.
Six Myths of Vulnerability
Due to the real and perceived risks that come with being vulnerable, many of us struggle with it and avoid it at all costs. Being vulnerable is necessary part of connecting with ourselves and others. Being vulnerable helps us to get in touch with our own feelings and emotions and to seek and receive support. But, if being vulnerable is so important and beneficial, why do so many of us struggle with it? Answers to this question can probably be found in the hurt that people carry from past experiences and the common misperceptions that some people have about vulnerability. To better understand what being vulnerable means, let us look at what it does not, using the six common myths about vulnerability identified by Brene Brown.
- Vulnerability is weakness: Have you ever choked up in a conversation or felt tears streaming down your face in while talking about something personal? I have. In fact, I used to feel embarrassed and annoyed that the more I wanted the stop the tears, the more freely they seemed to flow. In those moments, I have felt vulnerable, self-conscious, weak, and frustrated and that somehow it meant I didn’t have it all together. I was wrong. Feeling our emotions and expressing ourselves are healthy responses to dealing with difficult experiences. Being vulnerable takes courage and strength to share our thoughts and feelings with another person despite the fear of what they might say or that we will be judged. You can be vulnerable and strong.
- I don’t do vulnerability: Does the idea of being vulnerable scare you or make you uncomfortable? You’re not alone. When you’ve always had to be tough or to operate in “keep it together and push through mode”, it can be hard to embrace your vulnerable side. When we repress our emotions, we turn inwards and in some instances, we build walls that keep us isolated from others and hurting. From time to time, we all need to set our egos aside, take off the strong and tough person mask and open ourselves up to others for help and support- no matter how difficult it might feel. Afterall, we have all failed, made mistakes or done things that we aren’t proud of. In those moments, we need to surround ourselves with people who will listen, give us feedback, and offer comfort and support.
- I can go it alone: I know that we sometimes face situations that might lead us to the conclusion that it is better to go it alone. And there are times when this might feel like the best course of action. However, like the says goes “No man is an island, and no man stands alone.” Though this might seem cliche, we all need each other to get through the challenges and curve balls that life throws at us. So, from time to time, we need to reach out to our village for help and support and to lend a listening ear or helping hands as well. We build stronger and more intimate relationships with others when we can freely admit that we are not ok, when we are not o.k. For as the quote says – “What do we live for if not to make things a bit less difficult for each other?”
- You can be vulnerable without being uncomfortable: There is no avoiding the discomfort that being vulnerable will make you feel. In our most vulnerable moments, we are likely to experience the fear of rejection, shame, guilt, abandonment, or judgment. While the risks are real, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also open ourselves to the possibilities of love, compassion, acceptance, and support. So, think of being vulnerable as that weak muscle that you rarely ever exercise. Whenever you exercise it, it might feel sore for the first couple of days, but if you keep working it, the muscle becomes stronger and so do you. Embrace the discomfort of being vulnerable, it is a necessary part of the process.
- Trust comes before vulnerability: Most of us grew up hearing the stern warning to be careful of who we trust because the more we let people in or share, the greater the chance that they might hurt you. It’s no wonder then that some of us struggle with trust and intimacy in our relationships or find it hard to let our guards down. So, which comes first- is it trust or vulnerability? According to the research, the answer is not either or. It’s both. We need trust others to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable to build trust with others. Simply put, it you want people to trust you, you must be vulnerable and to be vulnerable you need to trust others. Tag you are it!
- Vulnerability means sharing all the private details of your life with everyone: While vulnerability requires honest and openness in communication, it isn’t about spilling your guts to everyone or oversharing information that might be inappropriate. It always important to respect and maintain personal and professional boundaries. You should only share what you feel safe to share and never put out information that might compromise you or put others at risk. So be smart and use common sense as you engage and connect with others.
When all is said and done, deciding when we to be vulnerable and who we can be vulnerable are dilemmas that we will all face from time to time. However, don’t let the risks and perceived myths about what vulnerability means discourage you from doing so. The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation or have an opportunity to build a healthy and positive relationship (personal or professional) take a chance and exercise your vulnerability muscle. Because when you do, you and your relationships will thrive and become richer, stronger and more meaningful that ever before.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!