What does it mean to be vulnerable? True vulnerability is defined by Brené Brown as “the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.” This includes moments when we decide to show our feelings despite not being sure how people will react. I say you can decide to be vulnerable or not. Because, being vulnerable is exactly that, a choice.
Brown says: “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.”
In other words, it’s all about allowing connection.
Why should I be vulnerable?
There are several reasons vulnerability is a good choice to make. It doesn’t always feel like the right choice though. So, why should you be vulnerable with others? Here are four great reasons:
- To make a relationship stronger: Allowing others in and sharing your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings is a little scary, but it can really help you build a deeper connection with the other person. Being vulnerable can allow you to show others a side of you they’ve never seen before. As a result, this can help build more understanding, forgiveness, and compassion. Do you find it hard to get close to others? Try being vulnerable.
2. To help you grow as a person: Pushing yourself to be more vulnerable can, well… uncomfortable to say the least. So why do it at all? Because it will allow you to grow and develop as a person. You can discover so many things about yourself when you show vulnerability. These may be things that you have been suppressing or avoiding for many years. Showing vulnerability can also teach you to listen to yourself more. If you want to build your intuitive muscle, and face your fears, try being more vulnerable with others.
3. To make life much more interesting: People who are afraid of being vulnerable can fall into repetitive behaviors and habits. Conversations will always need to be safe. Jobs and hobbies will always be the same because taking too many risks feels scary and uncomfortable. If this sounds like you, you may be the kind of person who always feels like the wallflower in a room. You might be someone who doesn’t want to stand out for fear of making a mistake and being judged. It takes vulnerability to try something new.
4. You might miss out on opportunities: When you fear being different, acting silly, or doing something brave, you will undoubtedly end up avoiding trying any thing new. Thus, you will also probably avoid saying yes to new opportunities that present themselves. If you’re not listening to the synchronicities around you, you’re missing the signs and coincidences that are screaming at you to take a chance on things. FOMO is real. In this case though, it’s about getting in your own way and blocking the blessings life wants to offer you.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” – Crissi Jami
How to be more vulnerable
Okay, so we know being more vulnerable can be a good thing. But, how do you do it? How can you be more vulnerable? Here are eight ways you can be more vulnerable today.
Connect with others through reciprocity: Instead of trying too hard or overcompensating because you think you’re not enough, try being vulnerable and allowing the other person to meet you half way. Allow things to unfold without needing to control the process. Yes, it’s scary. But, the results will be so much sweeter if you let things happen the way they’re meant to. The right people will come forward and you will know that they truly want to share that moment with you. Your interactions will have reciprocity.
Be willing to ask for help: If you’re feeling like you need help with something but don’t want to bother anyone, consider this. Everyone struggles at some point in their life. Most people enjoy helping others, and the way to build a connection is to be open, and allow others to help or support how they can. Admitting to others you need their support can be really hard. After all, they might tell you they’re too busy. Or, they might not offer any help at all. The question is, are you asking the right people? Still, accepting that you don’t need to go it alone it an important step to surrounding yourself with a strong support network. Choose wisely.
Take full responsibility for yourself: It’s very easy to place blame others when you’ve been the victim of negative or even abusive actions. Even one traumatic experience can change the way you see life and yourself. But, healing is about moving through the pain, accepting what is, and understanding that you did nothing wrong. This process is a choice that many of us have made in the past. It’s also an empowering action you will make for yourself. Don’t hand over control and power to the person who hurt you. Accepting the past and focusing on the present will shift the power dynamic and give you the opportunity to start fresh. It takes vulnerability to do that. It also takes time so don’t force it. Just be open to change.
Be willing to expand your boundaries: Feeling vulnerable can make you feel like you want to set clear boundaries in order to protect yourself. It can also be a way to keep others at a distance. Sometimes we have good reason, they’ve hurt us. Other times, we imagine they “may” hurt us and want to avoid it altogether. This is not to say that saying no to someone is wrong. But, it can be easier to shut someone out and avoid the hard conversations, then to reach other and allow the discussion to take place. When it’s safe to do so, try to expand your comfort zone and allow people like therapists, a family member, a partner, or a friend in. The right people will understand. It is up to you to let them know what you need.
Admit your weaknesses and flaws: The moment you admit to yourself what your weaknesses and flaws truly are, you become empowered. You can then accept yourself for who you truly are. You can also stop feeling like these characteristics will somehow be used against you or lead to people not accepting you. No one is perfect. To openly admit that you’re not good at something will probably get you more respect than judgement in the long run. Start small. Great leaders are able to take responsibility when something goes wrong.
Stand up for yourself: If you feel hurt by something someone is doing, telling them can make you feel vulnerable. There’s no way of knowing how they’ll react but many people find it difficult to admit when they’ve made a mistake so you can expect some form of resistance. The point is not to demand an apology, it’s to stand up for yourself when no one else will. Be your own protector. Call out the bullshit when someone crosses the line with you. Do it in a respectful way, but DO it. If you recognize your feelings about something, the next step is to share it with others. Sometimes, there may not be a perfect solution, but sharing the burden of a problem with someone can help you assess the situation. It will also allow you to consider your options and choose a solution. Sometimes others can offer solutions you hadn’t thought of. Sometimes people might surprise you and own up to the way they treated you. Either way, speak up for yourself.
Be willing to accept the consequences: The key to true vulnerability is to be willing to accept the outcome of your interactions with others, no matter what happens. Yes, there are consequences to being vulnerable. Sometimes they’re amazing, and sometimes they don’t feel so good. The answer is to be okay with what happens, to accept the outcome, whatever it might be. I think this takes a lot of bravery. Our ego can really fool us into thinking we deserve only positive results. And, this is not to say that we don’t. In fact, when you drop the ego you start to recognize that life is about balance. Sometimes things work out in our favor. Sometimes, they don’t … because they’re not meant for us. To be okay with both is to have real power.
Take charge of your life: Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly offers practical advice for facing vulnerability. She suggests doing it in small steps and recognize your own bravery when you do. Realize that everyone else is focused on their own life, so focus on yours and stop worrying what others think. Don’t forget that perfection doesn’t exist. It’s impossible to meet that standard, so stop trying. Instead, accept you for you. Get on with the business of being you and living your life your way. For me, this means being authentic and accepting that not everyone will agree with the things I do and say. I’m fine with that.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean changing other people or taking the moral high ground. It means being authentic about your own feelings, and being willing to show your true self to others. Becoming comfortable with the uncertainty of other people’s reaction to who you are isn’t easy. Still, the alternative is no not live your true and authentic life the way it was meant to be lived.
There is power in vulnerability. By exposing your weaknesses or mistakes, you are saying: This is who I am! Can you really afford NOT to be vulnerable?
Copyright Michelle Thompson 2021. Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.
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