Vulnerability – a term most of us, humans, are sceptical about and like to avoid because we dread being taken advantage of, judged, hurt, rejected or termed a failure.
When you ask people what makes them feel vulnerable – they list all the negative feelings of vulnerability; being rejected, laid off, or feeling hurt.
Sometimes we fear vulnerability because at a point in our lives we’ve been hurt before, rejected or looked down on. As a result of this, we build up walls, close up and put up a strong front to avoid the chance of being vulnerable. By so doing we close ourselves from situations that could cause pain, embarrassment and rejection, but we also close ourselves from love, joy, opportunities and intimacy. We can’t have one without the other. When we close up to one, we close up to all.
Pain is an important aspect of being alive. It is a feeling that can’t be avoided be it physically or emotionally. It demands to be felt. Emotional pain when it happens can rob you of yourself, make you lose sight of who you are, but you should never let it rule you. See it as an experience, acknowledge it, live it out, accept your faults and then heal, or else you go through life with a ticking time bomb inside of you. In other words, blocking yourself from being vulnerable.
What Vulnerability Really Is
Vulnerability doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It is the bridge that assists in fostering the type of connection we crave. It is brave, courageous and delicate. Vulnerability is necessary for you to not just receive love, but to also give it. When you are vulnerable you open yourself up to possibilities of love, happiness and fulfilment.
Vulnerability is opening up yourself for consumption to someone you know who deserves it. It is giving yourself, saying “Here I am – mask off, in all my flaws and glory entrusting my heart to you with the hope that you would be careful with it.” And in return receiving, saying ” I see you. I accept your heart and I promise to be careful with it.”
Exploiting your Vulnerability
Exploit. Verb. To use for one’s own advantage.
When you open yourself to be vulnerable, you also open yourself to opportunities and growth.
Researcher, Dr. Brene Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly, “To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”
Fear is a natural and powerful emotion. And any power can be harnessed positively. It needs a combination of acceptance and positive reassurance to be managed. To be able to exploit your vulnerability, you need to acknowledge the fear so you can be proactive about it. Invite them in, instead of shoving them away.
Everything begins in the mind and ends in the mind. The energy we direct towards our thoughts and feelings is what we feed our state of mind. We have complete power over our mind.
If we have complete ownership of our fears, we have the ability to determine our reaction against the thing that scares us. The trick is to accept the negative thought and transform it into a positive one.
How to Be Vulnerable
1. Accept you are worthy
Believe you are enough to receive love. Believe you have what it takes to achieve your goals. No one can go far if they doubt themselves.
Brenè Brown, vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED Talk, “There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.”
2. Be courageous
Let yourself be seen. Truly seen. Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. You can’t be sure there won’t be rejection, but you can be sure you’ll be able to pull yourself back up and move past it if it happens and you will.
3. Embrace vulnerability
Give yourself wholly to your feelings, good or bad. Don’t push any of it back.
Brene Brown, also explained in her TED talk, people with strong sense of love and belonging believed that what made them beautiful made them vulnerable. They believed vulnerability to be necessary. They had the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first. The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees. The willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not workout.
What Vulnerability Isn’t
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness as it’s conceived to be. It isn’t a tactic to manipulate people to seeing you in a certain way and liking you. You tell someone how you felt when an aunt died, or how a friend betrayed you, or how your family struggled financially, but you do this just for them to like you more; that’s not vulnerability.
Vulnerability doesn’t mean telling your life’s story to anyone you meet. Some people you meet and know they are worth taking a risk for. You open up, let them see you at your lowest and hope they accept you. And some you know, who haven’t earned your vulnerability.
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It might seem like you are protecting yourself from being hurt by not being vulnerable, but you are really closing off yourself to joy, happiness and connection. There are no promises. No guarantees. There never was. But you deserve to open up yourself and chance being vulnerable.
Brené Brown, Ph.D, wrote in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” So, open yourself up, let yourself be seen. The outcome can’t be guaranteed, but you can believe in yourself to cope with it.