Being Vulnerable

Being Vulnerable

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
~ Audre Lorde

Growing up, vulnerability was not a good thing. I never heard, “I am lonely,” or, “I ache,” or, “I am confused.” …though I’m pretty sure they were all felt along the way through the years at some point. Mine was that image family from American Beauty – the one that looked great on the outside. We had it all – good house, my dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse and dietician, three beautiful (ok I was pretty awkward until 30 or so) girls who were all smart and athletic, two small, white, fluffy dogs. We went to church every week, …the all-American image. We weren’t even that messed up on the inside, but then again, how would we know because we never talked about anything other than schedules, vacations, funny stories of the day – anything that didn’t have to do with matters of the heart. In fact, if someone got mad when I was young, there wasn’t even ever any yelling. The mad person would just walk away. Confrontation was completely foreign to me. I’m pretty sure this upbringing was not intentional – it was simply the pattern of my parents’ generation, and they were doing the best they could with the arsenal of emotional tools they had. No blame, seriously no blame.

But what resulted was a stunted ability – even a disability on my part – to let my soft underbelly show to anyone…ever. The answer to any question to my well-being was, “I’m fine.” …and then quickly change the subject. I learned quickly how to put the attention back onto the other person in order to keep them engrossed in conversation and forget to ask questions about me. Have I mentioned I’m a great conversationalist? You’ll walk away from a conversation with me feeling great and liking me more. Why? Because we talked all about you.

So what exactly does wearing full armor all the time get you? You get to know a heck of a lot about other people, and very little about yourself. You forget to ask yourself how you’re doing, what you’re feeling, and even what you want and don’t want. Because you don’t know where you are or what you want, you don’t establish boundaries for yourself – boundaries that are so very important to have. In essence, you forget to be vulnerable with yourself, and stop knowing who you are…you are not even comfortable in your own skin.

Vulnerability is opening up, being exposed, and letting in. It’s counter-intuitive to people like me where being closed feels safer. But look at what being closed prevents. It prevents connectedness with those around you and with the bigger world at large. You can’t participate fully in life if you’ve turned inward. You may see beauty, but you’re not letting it in. You may have friendships, but you’re always keeping them at an arm’s distance on the polite and small-talk level. You’re not letting yourself be known to the greatest person in your life – YOU.

Vulnerability is risky. Opening up means risking heartbreak, deceit, betrayal, and pain. I’m pretty sure that risk is the reason people who have been hurt in the past can make themselves go callous and put themselves on ice. But in this case, the case of life, even the people who get hurt time and again will say the benefits of vulnerability far outweigh the risks. You can meet new and wonderful people, deepen rich friendships, be open to new opportunities and experiences, and live more fully in a world of interconnectivity. But most importantly, you can love and be loved.

I found a list of things we can do to start on the path of vulnerability:

  • Trying new behaviors
  • Taking a risk
  • Initiating contact with strangers
  • Tuning into feelings of others and yourself
  • Willingness to get help for yourself
  • Being open to receiving help and support from others
  • Being honest with others and yourself when it would be easier to lie in order to avoid conflict
  • Accepting change when it comes your way
  • Looking for deeper reasons or motives for your own behavior
  • Self-disclosure of your weaknesses to others
  • Being direct and precise about your feelings, beliefs, and attitudes when discussing them
  • Willingness to listen to honest feedback
  • Dealing with anger in a productive, non-offensive manner
  • Letting go of fears that impede your movement toward others
  • Letting go of guilt or remorse over the past
  • Letting go of hostility, bitterness, and resentment toward others for past hurts
  • Development of trust in others’ good will
  • Willingness to be seen as weak or emotional
  • Accepting your humanness, failures, and mistakes as OK
  • Understanding the reasons you are risking vulnerability
  • Feeling secure enough to admit your failings, mistakes, and losses

    A study was conducted and found that most people fall into two categories – those who have a sense of worthiness, and those who struggle for it. The people who had self-worth had one thing in common:

    “Courage. The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart – was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.” ~Brené Brown

    I found my quotes in this good blog about vulnerability.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>