“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” – Brene Brown
What is it?
What comes to mind when you think of someone being vulnerable?
If you’re anything like me, your first instinct was to picture a scenario where someone is completely exposed and has the potential of getting hurt. Their guard is down, and there is no guarantee of a good outcome.
Maybe that scenario is pouring your heart out to your partner and not knowing if they’ll reciprocate. Maybe it’s talking to your boss about a new, creative idea against his traditional business methods and budget plan. Or maybe it’s getting up on a stage and performing at an open mic night when you’re terrified of the spotlight.
Whatever it was you thought of when you pondered vulnerability; I’ll bet you thought of a situation that involves some risk—an uncomfortable situation, to say the least, and perhaps, even quite scary.
“Vulnerability: the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome” – Brene Brown
You’re correct in this thought because being vulnerable is risky. Being vulnerable is scary. Being vulnerable does open you up to the possibility of getting hurt. And when we’re living on auto-pilot mode and deep in our comfort zone, or a state of stress and fear, what is appealing about that??
Taking risks and potentially getting hurt sounds like the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling stressed, angry, sad, apathetic, or lost. Can you agree?
But what if I told you that being vulnerable will actually elicit your integrity, openness, genuineness, self-love, and connections — both with yourself and with others.
On the other hand, you might want to read our article “The Wheel of Emotions“.
What if I said that vulnerability would strengthen all of your relationships — at work, with friends, and with your romantic partner, because you’ll have developed and cultivated your relationship with yourself and feel comfortable with who you are. You’ll have the capacity to show up as you are. And when you show up as who you are, you’re able to form real and genuine connections.
Connections are what we need for health and happiness, and the prerequisite for connections is vulnerability.
Yes, vulnerability involves risk, and it involves the potential of getting hurt. But it also allows for the potential of great joy, love, positivity, and self-growth.
When we’re feeling down, we want to numb our pain. This is a natural response. It’s much easier to drown our sorrows with a few beers or to eat a few cookies than it is to have a difficult conversation with our partner. It’s a lot easier to laugh something off or come up with excuses when we’re called into question at work than it is to take a moment, to be honest with ourselves first, and then with those around us; to admit when we’re wrong, and then to do better next time.
But if you want the good stuff — the laughter, the love, the friendships, and the inner strength to get you through all the inevitable difficulties that will happen in your life, then you need to be vulnerable. It would help if you were willing to sit with the negative emotions.
Brene Brown, social researcher, public speaker, a doctorate in Social Work, and expert in human behavior, learned from her six years of research on vulnerability and shame that you can’t selectively numb emotion.
“You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability. Here’s grief, shame, fear, disappointment… I don’t want to feel these. I’m gonna have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other effects, our emotions. So when we numb those, we numb joy, gratitude, happiness.
When we live life avoiding the pain, live life on the sidelines, cruise control, or constantly in the slow lane, we’re not really living.
When we put up a front to mask our true selves because we’re unsure of how we’ll be perceived if we’ll fit in, and whether or not we’ll be accepted for who we are, then how can we possibly expect others to know, understand and truly embrace who we are?
Maybe we don’t even know who we really are because we’ve never taken the time to be honest, and vulnerable with ourselves. But the road to self-discovery and understanding is through vulnerability. The vulnerability allows us to learn and to grow. Vulnerability fosters courage, compassion, and connection.
Before we think about how we can be vulnerable in our day-to-day life, let’s get clear on what vulnerability ISN’T.
“Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability” – Brene Brown
- Oversharing every detail of your life to anyone who will listen
- Forcing yourself to love every aspect of yourself all the time so that you can’t even be real with yourself about how you’re feeling at any given moment
- Never being able to sit with negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, jealousy, or despair
- Forgetting about exercising healthy boundaries because you want to be seen as ‘open,’ ‘cool,’ or ‘easygoing’ and well-like by everyone
Now that we know what vulnerability isn’t, let’s take a look at what vulnerability IS:
- Asking the person, you’re dating if they want to be exclusive and facing the possibility of rejection
- Going to a doctor to get your health checked out and not knowing what the results will be
- Stepping away from a well-paying and secure career because it’s just not satisfying you anymore and pursuing further education — which means having to downgrade the luxurious lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to
- Reaching out to an old friend you haven’t seen or spoken to in years because you miss them without knowing if they’ll want to reconnect
- Disciplining your kids to set healthy boundaries and having them view you as ‘the bad guy’ for a little while
- Investing your time and energy in a romantic relationship and being all in, without knowing for certain if they’ll be the one
When practicing vulnerability, think about the 3 C’s: Courage, Compassion, and Connection.
Courage. When we have courage, we tell the story of who we are with our whole hearts. We have the courage to be imperfect. We embrace our ‘flaws’ and understand that this is a wonderful part of what makes us who we are.
Compassion. When we have compassion, we’re able to be kind to ourselves first and then to others. We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.
Connection. When we’re authentic, we’ll form connections. The authenticity of self is all about letting go of who you think you should be to be who you are. When you do this, you’ll be able to form genuine connections.
This is not to say that it’ll be easy being vulnerable. We’re human. We experience hurt, pain, anger, and disappointment regularly. It’s healthy to experience a broad range of emotions.
It’s what we do in these moments, in the moments of sitting with the hard stuff, of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, of feeling like we’re standing on the edge of a cliff with no safety net to catch us, of being nervous because we don’t think we’ll like the answer. Still, we ask the hard questions anyway… these are the moments where vulnerability is created.
When we’re vulnerable, we’ll develop a greater sense of love and appreciation for ourselves. We’ll cultivate a sense of worthiness. When we truly feel worthy of who we are, we will allow ourselves to be vulnerable again and again.
Need someone to talk to about all this vulnerability stuff? That’s why we’re here! Join a Men’s Group today, where you can meet like-minded guys who are going through the same hard stuff as you. Men’s Group is a space where you can decompress, listen, share, and connect with other guys. Remember, the prerequisite to vulnerability is through connection. Let’s connect, and let’s get vulnerable!