One of my favorite definitions of vulnerability is “emotional exposure” as coined by Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor and expert in vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame.
Mirriam Webster’s definition of vulnerable is:
: easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
: open to attack, harm, or damage
I prefer Dr. Brown’s definition, as it doesn’t include the inherent quality of weakness that the dictionary definition does. Actually, Dr. Brown’s definition hints at the incredible courage that is involved in being vulnerable with other people.
Being truly vulnerable in front of another person involves showing them who you really are including your faults, imperfections and any other quality that you would generally prefer to keep hidden for fear or rejection or abandonment. Exposing yourself in this way takes tremendous courage and the rewards of doing so are well worth the perceived risks involved.
I grew up seeing vulnerability as a weakness. At an early age, I learned to put up all sorts of guards against being wounded by others. I erected walls around myself and made sure to hide in this prison that I had built, never really letting others see the true me for fear of being rejected or hurt. The risk I took by surrounding myself with this level of protection and hiding who I truly was from others was that I couldn’t really connect with anyone on a level that went deeper than any kind of superficialities.
I used perfectionism as a defense to keep myself from being vulnerable and allowing others to truly see me. I figured if I could achieve perfection in all of the ways that I present myself to others, they couldn’t possibly reject or abandon me. What I didn’t realize then is that perfection doesn’t exist and continually failing to meet my elusive standards just caused me to beat up on myself more, accept myself less and completely destroy any chances of even considering that someone else might accept me for the less than perfect being that I am.
Through my journey towards true vulnerability, I learned that loving and accepting myself completely is one incredibly important aspect of being vulnerable with others and reaping the benefits of doing so. If you can be honest with yourself about your shortcomings and accept and love yourself not only in spite of them, but I dare say for them, others will follow suit. Learning to truly love yourself is THE most valuable thing you can ever do for yourself. When you truly love and accept all parts of yourself, even the ones that you consider unflattering, difficult or shameful, then you can truly be vulnerable with others and gain all of the benefits of this powerful way of living.
Being vulnerable involves letting your guard down to let people in. It allows you to connect with the people in your life on a much deeper level. When you can permit yourself to be vulnerable, you are setting an example to others and giving them permission to do the same. You allow yourself to be truly seen and being vulnerable makes you more relatable to others.
When I first started being open and honest about my shortcoming to people, it was refreshing to notice that I was immediately able to connect more deeply with them. I was able to forge friendships at levels that were far more profound than what I had thought possible and much faster than before. Having deeply personal interactions like this with people and being rewarded with genuine connection, gave me the courage to continue this practice and slowly go deeper and deeper with it. It has taken me many years, lots of practice, therapy and amazing friends/family to truly become comfortably uncomfortable with feeling vulnerable and I can’t ever imagine going back to the way I lived before.
I am now continuing to deepen my vulnerability practice by writing publicly and exposing who I am to strangers through this medium. I feel vulnerable every time I post a blog, however the more I do it, the easier it gets and the less fear there is around it. It also helps me love and accept myself completely and be ok with the fact that my writing won’t always be stellar and not everyone will like it. For me it’s more about writing and getting something out there every week than having it be the absolute best thing I’ve ever written. I made that commitment to myself and I’d rather post something less than perfect and be vulnerable in doing so, than do nothing at all because if I did nothing, I’m not being true to myself and I’m not showing you who I really am.
© Copyright 2015 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving