• Reflective Resources

V is for Vulnerability

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

It’s better to appear strange to others than to be a stranger to yourself.”

xo NotSalmon.com

What does it mean to allow yourself to be vulnerable?


If we’re wrapping ourselves up to conceal any vulnerability, whatever happens to us has to go through all those extra layers. Sometimes love doesn’t even reach where we truly live.” Alexandra Katehakis

Vulnerability is very much tied up with the topics of mask wearing and fear but also of courage and confidence. We learn to build protective layers around ourselves throughout our lives. We learn what to say or not to say in order to avoid getting hurt or being ridiculed or to avoid experiencing indifference or anger, but in so doing we lose part of our selves and opportunities for creativity and meaningful connections with others. When we do allow ourselves to be vulnerable, admit our fears, weaknesses etc we allow others the opportunity to do the same and this leads to more meaningful reciprocal interactions and strengthened connections.


Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Brené Brown


Being vulnerable starts with being honest with yourself then having the strength and courage to be authentic. It is not possible to improve your relationships with others if you can’t admit to yourself that there is room for improvement in your interactions with other people and you can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t acknowledge that you make them!

Vulnerability really means to be strong and secure enough within yourself that you are able to walk outside without your armour on. You are able to show up in life as just you. That is genuine strength and courage. Armour may look tough, but all it does is mask insecurity and fear.” Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace: Essential Teachings for Enriching Life


Why would you want to make yourself vulnerable?


Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. the new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.” Stephen Russell

Vulnerability is neutral, but what we do with that vulnerability can either open doors and create deeper connections with others or build up walls and keep others at a distance.

She recognized that that is how friendships begin: one person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it.” Meg Wolitzer

Why would anyone ever choose to make themselves vulnerable given the potential for negative consequences? I think that we are prepared to make ourselves vulnerable when we think that by doing so we will achieve something of value; thereby helping ourselves or others. In other words we put hope in the potential positive changed state of being above fear of failure or damage to ego.

The vicissitudes of life are many and the easiest option and the one that will give less initial discomfort is to simply hide among our self-imposed protective layers. But, and it is a big but, there is a saying A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there” and another one that saysLife begins at the end of your comfort zone” so by choosing vulnerability we are choosing to take the risk and work towards a fuller life and not some half-life with shallow connections.

Accepting our vulnerability means we have nothing to hide. When we embrace our vulnerability, fears, and insecurities, we liberate ourselves from the opinion of others. This acceptance makes us genuinely powerful.” Avijeet Das

Why being vulnerable is important


“...and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.” Audre Lorde

Vulnerability is the key to our connection with others because it can takes courage to be authentically open to another human being. By trusting others with our deepest vulnerabilities, it benefits us by increasing our ability for learning allows us to benefit from a different perspective and increases our resilience in the face of change.

But, of course, putting yourself out there takes vulnerability. Vulnerability is hard, and we, as a rule, tend to go for what’s easy; by that logic, closing ourselves off is the easiest thing in the world. We quote the words of others to do our talking for us, send each other links to articles and stories in lieu of actual conversation, post pretty pictures to adequately convey our current state of mind, all to avoid having to proffer a single identifiable human emotion. We keep in touch with relatives by emailing them mawkishly inspirational chain letters once in a while. We regurgitate memes to approximate the feeling of being in the loop.” Phil Roland

Showing vulnerability takes more effort than keeping quiet and doing or saying nothing or playing at keeping connected but in reality maintaining your distance. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is healthier for you and it is a sign of strength when you can acknowledge a problem or a difficult emotion and rather than seek to ignore it, or numb it through comfort eating, drinking, medication, losing yourself in other peoples’ problems, social media or any other distraction you can think of, pretending that you are fine. You move forward when you acknowledge things, face them and ask for help when needed. If you don’t take risks then you miss opportunities for connection and growth.

Feeling personally vulnerable and seeing the vulnerability of everyone else, people’s normal sense of difference and privilege is melted away, and an uncommon generalized empathy emerges. This could be a natural state of mind, if we could only envision the vulnerability and mortality of others as not separate from our own. The more we can create this visceral connection to people through our common mortality, the better we are able to handle human nature in all its varieties with tolerance and grace.”

Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

Lastly, by taking risks and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we allow ourselves the opportunity to experiment, be creative and achieve great things unhindered by our fears.

It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.”

Amy Poehler

How can you develop vulnerability?

Vulnerability is the portal to feeling. Feeling is the portal to strength.” Adrienne Posey

Vulnerability is simply the state of being our authentic selves with another person. In order to be develop vulnerability we need to take action by slowing down and being present; learn to express what we think; say what we need and share our feelings.

Vulnerability, however, is only truly meaningful when it is our choice to reveal our weaknesses. When we feel pressured into sharing then vulnerability can become forced or faked to conform with what is expected and rather than building up feelings of intimacy and connection etc we tend to experience the converse: discomfort, resentment, self-doubt, insecurity etc. Authentic vulnerability means choosing to being open to others as the truest version of yourself because that is what you want to do; strategic vulnerability is the opposite. This distinction leads to some very pertinent questions:

· “How do we encourage other people to be vulnerable without forcing them to be vulnerable?"

· "How can we create organic vulnerability with our friends, our colleagues and our partners without falling into the trap of strategic vulnerability?"

· "How can we get people to authentically open up to us, if getting them to open up is automatically inauthentic?” Jordan Harbinger

·

According to Jordan Harbinger the answer is simply to stop working on vulnerability directly and work on the conditions for vulnerability to take place so that vulnerability will happen on spontaneously, authentically and organically. The ‘right conditions’ include showing your own vulnerability and understanding your motivations

The right motivations for opening up are about being: being ourselves, being connected, being authentic. The wrong motivations for opening up are about getting; getting sympathy, getting friendship, getting approval.”

Jordan Harbinger

Postscript:

There is a big difference between feeling vulnerable and putting ourselves in vulnerable (or even dangerous) positions. This is where intuition comes in and why it is important to develop the ability to trust our ‘gut feeling’ about the people around us and accept that it is not always wise to share everything with everyone all of the time.

In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and they make amends. It’s safe to be honest. In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms that they’ve poked you in the right spot.” Christina Enevoldsen


Some questions to think about/or discuss below:


What stops you from allowing yourself to be vulnerable?


Reflect on the friends you surround yourself with - do they allow themselves to vulnerable in your presence or do they hide behind a mask or perceived 'expected' behaviour? (and if so why?)

If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started:


https://lonerwolf.com/vulnerability/

https://www.jordanharbinger.com/stop-trying-to-be-vulnerable-do-this-instead/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201801/how-vulnerable-should-you-let-yourself-be

https://www.heysigmund.com/vulnerability-the-key-to-close-relationships/


I have so much respect for the emotionally brave. The ones who put in the emotional work and take the real risks of being vulnerable and removing masks. It's easy to make chitchat, but it's hard to speak about what's really under the surface. It's easy to joke, but difficult to cry. It's easy to numb, but hard to feel. Ironically the real victims of emotional laziness are the people themselves. They end up choosing their emotional comfort zones over happiness. So in the end, they may not be 'uncomfortable' anymore; but they are also miserable.” Yasmin Mogahed



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