Updated: Jan 4, 2020
I want to ask you a question..
If you had to choose only one word to describe vulnerability what would it be?
Does this word have a good or bad feeling to it? Take a second to think. I just want you to recognize what your idea of vulnerability is at the start of this article.
Was the word something like "weak" or "courageous"? Most of us automatically associate vulnerability with weakness.
Interestingly enough, it's actually the exact opposite.
What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability means facing the unknown
Vulnerability is fully defined as choosing to face uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.
(Source: Brene Brown)
We usually think of vulnerability and courage as opposite things. But, can you name one instance of courage that didn't involve uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure?
It's simply not possible.
We're taught that courage is strong and vulnerability is weak. But here we see, they are actually one in the same. To be courageous you need to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable you need to be courageous.
Vulnerability looks like standing up for yourself, having a hard conversation, asking for help, making a career change to pursue your passion, saying I love you first, or going to that new dance class when you're afraid of what people will think of you.
Vulnerability can be one of our greatest strengths
Why exactly should we practice vulnerability?
1. Vulnerability helps you face your fears and makes you courageous.
What is one major factor that holds us back from pursuing the life we really want?
You guessed it - Fear.
When we lean into vulnerability we feel the fear but we still choose to move through it. Fear losses it's power, and we take ours back.
No longer do you have to miss out on your greater potential or what could have been. You can move through fear knowing there is a greater cause you're striving for. This of course is always a continual practice
Your vulnerability is a direct measurement of your courage.
2. Vulnerability expands your capacity for joy and love
Practicing vulnerability allows us to more fully enjoy life, and expands our capacity for joy and love.
When we push away the uncomfortable feelings and choose not to be vulnerable, we numb sadness, anger, and pain. Unfortunately, we can't selectively numb our feelings. When we numb the discomfort we also numb ourselves to all the enjoyable feelings like joy, excitement, and even love.
So when we practice vulnerability we are embracing and encouraging all the enjoyable feelings we could ever have.
Surprisingly, joy and love are the most vulnerable feelings we could ever experience. Have you ever been at the peak of either of these feelings and thought "oh boy. This is too good to be true"? Feeling our full capacity for joy scares us because we believe we will soon get punched in the face by pain, loss, and disappointment. As a protection mechanism, we anticipate tragedies and disappointment. We don't take risks that we know we'd end up loving.
When you aren't vulnerable you miss out on all the joy life has to offer.
Practicing vulnerability is the key to embracing more happiness.
3. Vulnerability deepens your authenticity
Vulnerability also deepens your authenticity.
Being authentic means showing up fully as you are and owning what it is that makes you uniquely you.
Often times this is a struggle in relationships because we have a tendency to "fit in" and seek approval from others if we're not satisfied with ourselves.
Not showing up authentically as ourselves, acting naturally as we are, saying what is on our mind, and sharing our deepest struggles and dreams creates huge disconnects in relationships.
Each human being seeks deeply to be understood, seen and accepted as they are, and loved as they are. But, you can never be completely loved for who you are if you do not let others see who you truly are.
The more vulnerable you can be, the more you allow yourself to be seen by others the way you truly are. This will create self confidence and a true acceptance and love in your relationships.
4. Vulnerability deepens your relationships
Vulnerability allows us to connect to another human being. Without it genuine connection isn't possible. It allows you to show up fully as yourself, be honest about your boundaries and concerns, share things that are deeply personal, ask for help, and to love with your whole heart.
There's a good Brene Brown quote that illustrates the importance of vulnerability in relationships:
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.”
To love someone, you have to give up control. You have to surrender to the uncertainty and to the risk of getting hurt. Every relationship - friend, family, or romantic, will require you to be vulnerable. To love deeply is to be truly vulnerable.
Vulnerability is also a key ingredient in empathy, which is critical in building great relationships. Empathy allows you to "try on" another person's perspective and for a moment feel what they feel. This may include feelings like pain, anger, and sadness. If you are able to be vulnerable and sit with the discomfort of these difficult feelings, you will be able to empathize with others and make them feel comfortable and understood.
Vulnerability also improves your relationships by helping you work out your own pain. When you can give attention to your feelings and acknowledge your discomfort, you will learn to heal your pain instead of taking it out on others. This is HUGE!
What happens if we don't practice vulnerability
We went over the benefits of practicing vulnerability, and they are rich and rewarding.
But, sometimes joy, happiness, and love can seem a little abstract to us, so let's consider the flip side. What will happen if you don't practice vulnerability?
If you don't practice vulnerability you are scared of ever feeling joy because you fear things are going to be taken away from you. You can't fully enjoy or love deeply in your relationships because you're always worried about the possibility of it not working out or of something terrible happening to the person you're with. You numb the feelings of discomfort but you also numb all the feelings that make life wonderful.
You don't take risks in life and you play it safe because you know that way you can't get hurt. You'll look back on your life and wished you had not let fear get in the way of you really living. You'll wish you took more chances and will be disappointed you were never able to reach for your fuller potential and dreams.
Vulnerability is at the core of a deep and meaningful life, and deep and meaningful relationships.
When you practice vulnerability you take meaningful risks, show up authentically as yourself, and have the courage to love deeply.
Deep down you don't really want to control everything, make everything perfect, and never get hurt. You know that's not possible and that life is an unpredictable ride.
You want the resilience. You want to be the hero that can rise up from the ashes and valiantly try again. You want the ability to weather any storm, no matter what happens. You want to know you will still rise back to your best. You want to know that even after the hardest battles and heartbreaks you will still find the courage to dream, feel joy, love, and appreciate all the beauty in life.
Owning your vulnerability means you show up courageously and authentically even when it's scary. Because of this you know you are strong enough to handle anything life throws your way. And really what could be stronger than that?
To be vulnerable is to fully open yourself up to the joys and challenges of life. It is to show up fully and courageously and to love whole heartedly. It is to leave your heart on the stage. So that at the end of your life you can look back on it all and smile and think
"I wouldn't have done it any other way."
I'll have a post on how to practice vulnerability up soon!