Vulnerability is a funny thing.
I have come to a realization recently. Maybe it would be better explained in a story, so I will tell you a story…
Once upon a time, back when the internet was new and not everyone had a smartphone, I was in college exploring what lit me up. I had gone to college on the preface of “you’re a smart girl, go to college and do whatever you want, I’m sure you will find a career in it.” said every advisor I spoke with. ::decision fatigue sets in::
So I let myself explore my passions and interesting classes and see what excites me. I took classes in film, art, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, Caribbean piracy (yes a real class about pirates), and Buddhist studies. I really enjoyed Buddhist studies and my philosophy classes. I didn’t understand some of the concepts but I really enjoyed our final project.
The final project consisted of creating something, whether a work of art, poem, music, or film that represented you. So sure of myself, I knew I wanted to do a medium of writing. My idea was to create a short book with each page representing a different emotion or feeling and telling a short story that related to my life (much like a blog but before there were blogs), some pressing thought, or poem. I wrote out each passage, printed it, glued it to the pages, and even cut out magazine pictures to illustrate each passage.
I was so excited to show it off and explain it to the class. Like a blog of my innermost thoughts and feelings, it displayed me in my most vulnerable way.
The reception of my work from the teacher of that class was to say the least, unamused. She didn’t understand it, and gave me a bad mark on the project. For a consistent overachiever, this was crushing. It created a sense of unsureness in myself and wanting to never again display my vulnerable self.
A few short years later, blogs became really big. People who wrote consistently in their blog, displaying their vulnerable selves got praised. The ones who explored their feelings and journaled their thoughts became people with many readers. People couldn’t get enough of the vulnerable.
But not from me. I stopped being vulnerable that day. I didn’t want anyone to know how I felt ever so I kept it all inside.
Since then, I’ve had mixed feelings about vulnerability.
I’ve recently started back reflecting on my life and my feelings and journaling in a private journal. It helps so much to relieve the anxiety that I sometimes feel in bursts. You know, when you suddenly get so overwhelmed a feel hopeless or stressed. Like when you all of a sudden want to throw something. Reflecting on my feelings really helps with reeling in those feelings.
Someone close to me once told me, “Don’t be vulnerable, people take advantage of the vulnerable.” I am not opposed to this idea as well as it could be true in many ways. Although, I feel there is a strength in vulnerability.
Have you ever read a passage, blog, or post and thought, YES! That is what I am going through right now? I know I have.
This way of being vulnerable opens up the conversation. It allows others to relate.
When it comes down to it, we are all human. We all have human hopes and fears and desires. So express them! Give them a voice and allow someone who is afraid to use their voice feel a need to chime in.
Why is being vulnerable important?
I still have that book that I made for my project. It is in a box in my garage.
It reminds me that being vulnerable is about revealing yourself fully and honestly to others and to yourself. It means allowing yourself to be seen for who you truly are. And that’s okay.
- Connection – Vulnerability creates a deeper connection between people. When we are vulnerable with someone, we allow them to see our true selves and create a space for trust and intimacy to develop.
- Authenticity – Being vulnerable means being true to yourself and your feelings. When you are authentic with yourself and others, you can build more meaningful and genuine relationships.
- Growth – Vulnerability is essential for personal growth. When we are vulnerable, we are willing to take risks and confront our fears, leading to personal development and a greater sense of self-awareness.
- Communication – Vulnerability helps improve communication because it allows us to express our emotions and needs more effectively. When we are open and honest with others, we can communicate more clearly and resolve conflicts more effectively.
- Empathy – Vulnerability also leads to greater empathy and compassion for others. When we open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are more likely to understand and connect with the experiences and emotions of others.
These are huge benefits of being vulnerable. Overall, being vulnerable helps you increase intimacy and trust with others, improve communication and understanding, and help relate with others.
Overcoming Fear and Shame
Think about some reasons that being vulnerable scares you. What is your biggest fear of being vulnerable?
There are several ways that people feel fear and shame around being vulnerable. Here are a few:
- Fear of rejection – The most popular by far is how we feel about other people judging what we do or say. We fear that we will get rejected and others will judge us or push us away.
- Fear of inadequacy – Some people, like those in the mindset of “Don’t be vulnerable, people take advantage of the vulnerable,” believe that being seen as vulnerable will show others they are weak or incompetent and easily able to be taken advantage of.
- Shame – Revealing past mistakes or struggles make some people feel like they will be judged for them. Like the people around them will look at them in a different way based on what they did in the past.
- Fear of losing control – Some people feel like they will lose their control over their lives if they show their vulnerabilities. They feel they could lose control over their situation or their emotions.
Take a look at all of these reasons people don’t want to be vulnerable. Do you see a common pattern?
The common pattern I see is that they all rely on what other people will think.
The first way to overcome this fear or shame of being vulnerable is to realize that if you feel fear, you care what other people think, and you must ask yourself why? Why do you care what others think about you?
Have you worked hard to build a reputation? Do you have friends that are really just acquaintances that you don’t feel like you can open up to?
Think about these topics and ask yourself if they apply to you.
If you have a journal or piece of paper, write them down. Write until your innermost fears and shame is pouring from you and you reach your most deepest reason you don’t want to be vulnerable.
Imagine Life Without Fear
Next, let’s do an exercise. Close your eyes and imagine that the innermost fear you wrote down was no longer a problem for you.
Imagine, for example, that instead of having friends that are just acquaintances, you have deep meaningful relationships with people who you can open up to about anything. They share their innermost fears and desires with you, and you share yours with them.
Feel how you would feel if you had a few close friends that you can be that way with. What would you share with them?
Realize your vulnerable self
It’s time to take action.
If you are now raising your hand and saying “Yes! I want to be more vulnerable in my life” then it is time to take action. It won’t happen all at once, it will take small steps to make progress.
- Give yourself self-compassion – Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that being vulnerable is a brave self-less act. Remind yourself that it is okay to make mistakes, and for others to see those mistakes.
- Start small – Start off by sharing something small with someone that you trust. See how they react to it. Let that small act build confidence about showing vulnerability.
- Surround yourself with supportive people – This means do NOT start being vulnerable by sharing all your past mistakes with your mother-in-law who judges your every move! And sharing things that could be a detriment to your job are not good to share with your boss! Start your journey off by finding the most supportive people or a counselor that will not judge you.
Words of Warning
Just because you now accept being vulnerable in your life, it doesn’t mean open up about everything to everyone. Being vulnerable should be resorted to a time and place where you are safe, in a safe zone, and surrounded by people or with a person you trust.
You must realize that there is also a dark side to vulnerability.
Sometimes opening up and being vulnerable can lead to negative outcomes such as rejection and emotional pain. While you shouldn’t let the fear of these outcomes prevent you from ever being vulnerable, you should know that they exist and are possible.
Also realize that they may come when you least expect it. Be prepared by knowing that being vulnerable is a positive thing, and provided the benefits, is worth exploring in some areas of your life.
I know it is not easy opening up to others. It is uncomfortable leaving yourself open to other people judging you, feeling bad feelings towards you, or not supporting you in the way you should be. It takes a lot of trust of others and sometimes that is hard to do without knowing how they will react.
You must remember that their are good things that come out of being vulnerable such as connection with others, authenticity of self, and personal growth. It is hard tackling challenging situations alone and opening up to someone could be exactly what you need.
Being vulnerable in person is one thing, being vulnerable online is a whole different ballpark. For some tips on how to be vulnerable online, check out my newsletter The Inspire Flyer, where I give inspiration, advice, stories, and actionable tips that will inspire you to take action in your life.