How many times have you heard that the willingness to be vulnerable is a rare and valuable quality, a real strength? Personally, I’ve been told my vulnerability is one of my greatest strengths, but a lot of the time it sure doesn’t feel like an asset or strength! A lot of the time, it hurts like hell.
Who LIKES to admit they’ve made a mistake or don’t have the answers or don’t have life all together? Let’s face it, vulnerability is usually perceived as weakness – “susceptible to being hurt or wounded.” Who needs that? How is that a strength?
So, what IS the plus side in vulnerability?
Psychologist Robert Firestone speaks about vulnerability from a different perspective, rather than as weakness, “…looking at it existentially, we only have one life to live.” So, it makes sense that in this one go-around, you’d want to make the most of it, to live it fully – experiencing all that this life has to offer.
But that means letting go of the often carefully crafted images or masks we wear to protect ourselves from the pain of being hurt, judged, ridiculed. Being vulnerable takes big courage. You pull back the curtain to allow yourself to be seen more fully, instead of hiding behind that imaginary version of yourself.
It means taking a chance and, perhaps, risking our precious pride. Firestone goes so far as to suggest that to really live life fully, “…what I recommend is that you be the fool; that you take a chance on life…”
The fact is that everyone has vulnerabilities. When we stubbornly insist that we don’t have them or that we don’t need help, we keep people at a distance. We build a wall between us. We miss out on some of the potential sweetness of life.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
Of course, we DO need to be mindful of who to be vulnerable with! Especially these days, there are plenty of people who seem to delight in taking advantage of other’s vulnerabilities, attacking or belittling them.
As Brene Brown points out, not everyone has earned the right to hear your story. Although she’s talking about shame stories, the same holds true for any of your tender places, where you feel susceptible to hurt or attack.
From painful experience, I know that I have a couple of family members who are absolutely not safe for me to share any vulnerability with. Virtually every time I’ve shared something vulnerable, it’s been used against me, a way to shame me, or gossiped about with others. Anyone in your life like that?
So, ask yourself, how much do I really want to share and with whom?
As someone opening up to the joys (and sorrows) of living this vulnerable, beautiful human life, allow yourself to take small steps. Know that you will sometimes feel naked and raw; and at other times, gloriously happy for having been seen for who you really are. It’ll be a dance. Sometimes it will flow and sometimes your toes will be stepped on – hard.
Living life with an open heart gives you a much better chance of living a full, rich life on this amazing human journey.
“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi
Where in your life do you want to be more open and honest about who you really are? Where would you like to be singing without concerns about others’ opinions?
photo: © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz