Vulnerability. We equate it with being naive, gullible and worst of all, weak. All throughout our lives, we are taught that the opposite state of being is not only preferable but virtuous.
Being guarded, protected and insusceptible to the whims of life is praised not only as a virtue but as the emotional and mental ‘ideal’ in our society. After all, who wants to get hurt? Who wants to be exposed and liable to any capricious thing that happens to us in life? The answer … very few of us!
The reality is that not only are we all vulnerable no matter how hard we try not to be, but we are actually approaching vulnerability with a completely twisted and muddled mindset.
The Paradox of Vulnerability
The vulnerability paradox: It’s the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want you to see in me. ~ Brene Brown
Vulnerability is a very puzzling part of our human experience. We look for it in others, but hide from it in ourselves. We don’t want it, but we need it.
The truth is, vulnerability does make us more susceptible to hurt, heartbreak and disappointment – there’s no denying that! But without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we can’t experience the joy and rapture of life, we can’t be our authentic selves and we can’t be human, because to be human is to be imperfect.
Embracing vulnerability, as I have discovered myself, opens many doors of opportunity. Without cracking the illusion of my perfect facade for example, I never would have been able to write for LonerWolf exposing my innumerable frailties and flaws. I wouldn’t have been able to learn from that which shook, challenged and exposed me. And I wouldn’t have been able to connect with, and create a sanctuary of acceptance and understanding for so many wonderfully flawed people.
To be vulnerable is to be courageous, for vulnerability stands defiantly in the face of fear, accepting the uncertainty of possible attack or compromise. To refuse or deny your own vulnerability is to close yourself off to life and all of its opportunities out of fear, not strength.
As stated by author Stephen Russel:
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.
Opening Yourself Up to Vulnerability
“Why the hell would I want to make myself more vulnerable?” For many, this is the kind of knee-jerk reaction given to such a prospect. The truth is, there are many reasons why:
- Embracing vulnerability allows you to feel more connected with other people, and thus build more satisfying bonds.
- Embracing vulnerability improves you romantic and intimate relationships by making you more emotionally available.
- Embracing vulnerability allows you to be more authentic and honest with yourself, and others.
- Embracing vulnerability opens many doors to you that would have otherwise remained shut if you had closed yourself off.
- Embracing vulnerability allows you to be challenged and thus grow, learn and be strengthened.
- Embracing vulnerability promotes general well-being by allowing you to wholeheartedly experience everything life has to offer.
To me, being vulnerable is still a terrifying experience, something I equate to walking around naked in public with the words “hit me” painted on my forehead. The truth is, this fear is the same for almost all of us. You are not alone. Like me, you’re probably still learning how to embrace vulnerability, and how to master this great act of bravery in your life. If you are, you may benefit from what I have learnt so far:
1. Cultivate personal confidence through love.
One of the biggest reasons why people become shut-offs is due to their crippling lack of confidence and self-love. When we have little respect for ourselves, the criticism and judgment of others come as huge shattering blows that severely cripple us. No wonder many of us despise vulnerability! The more self-love you cultivate, the more confidence you have in yourself and thus the easier it is to embrace vulnerability.
2. How people treat you is a reflection of how they treat themselves.
Often times our displays of vulnerability are met with snide remarks, and hurtful evaluations. The truth is, the way we are treated by other people is a direct reflection of how they treat themselves. Good-natured people rarely treat others badly, and likewise, depressed and cranky people rarely treat others kindly. We can show forgiveness and move on once we realize this.
3. Let go of the need to control.
I’m a control freak. There. I said it. How about you? To acknowledge and accept your imperfections, and let go of the need to control how others see you is an essential step in embracing vulnerability. Practicing non-resistance is difficult, but an essential life skill.
Vulnerability is an immense asset, and yet our current values and ideals in society portray it as undesirable and dangerous to our well-being. In reality, the opposite is true: our vulnerability empowers us to love deeper and grow stronger.
Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share with me your opinions and experiences on this topic!