Vulnerability, I used to associate it with being weak. Throughout my life, I’ve been taught that being invulnerable is a virtue preferred by many as a sign of strength. After all, who wants to get hurt or be exposed to any unpredictable things that happen in life? I can assure you, very few of us.
In all honesty, not only was I vulnerable regardless of how hard I tried not to be, but I approached vulnerability with a twisted mindset. That was until I attended a seminar, together with a large group of other attendants, about how to build a connection with people. And the speaker asked this one question: “How do you think people really connect?”.
I raised my hand and wanted to answer, “by listening.” However, many answers were given before me and I lowered my hand. I lost my confidence to give an answer. This went on for a few minutes and there was not one who could give the right answer.
“Be vulnerable,” the speaker said. I was puzzled, and I could only think about why someone would do that. I looked around to see other’s reaction and they were all baffled. “Why?” one person yelled from a distance.
What the speaker said afterward really got me to rethink about vulnerability. He explained that it is in human nature to help each other, and by being vulnerable, you open up to one another. You’re willing to look someone in the eyes, spill your soul and be comfortable with it. You want others to know the authentic you instead of forcing a fake smile every time you enter the public eye. This is how people really connect.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” — Brene Brown
The Vulnerability Paradox
Vulnerability became a very puzzling part of my human experience. As another quote from Brene Brown goes: “The vulnerability paradox: It’s the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want you to see in me.” I looked for it in others but hid from it in myself.
Here is the thing, vulnerability did make me more exposed to pain, disappointment, and heartbreak. However, if I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable, I couldn’t experience the joy of life at the same time. I couldn’t be my authentic self and therefore I couldn’t be human, because to be human is to be flawed.
“Vulnerability is at the core, the center, of meaningful human experience.” — Brene Brown
By embracing vulnerability, many doors of opportunity have opened for me. For example, I never would’ve thought to be a writer for The Startup and be able to expose my countless weaknesses and flaws; I wouldn’t have been able to learn from that which challenged me; and I wouldn’t have been able to connect with and create a place of acceptance for so many wonderfully flawed people.
Yet, to me, being vulnerable is still a terrifying experience. Sometimes it feels like walking around naked in public with the words “kick me” drawn on my forehead. The truth is, being vulnerable is a fear that applies to almost everyone. Like me, you’re probably also still learning how to achieve this great act of bravery in your life. If you are, you may benefit from these two important lessons I learned so far as well.
1. Gain More Confidence
The biggest reasons why I became a shut-off is due to my lack of confidence and self-love. When I had little respect for myself, the disapproval and judgment of others came as a huge ocean wave that flushed me away. No wonder I loathed vulnerability.
The problem I couldn’t see back then was that I couldn’t accept who I truly was. I didn’t love the person I was, and therefore I tried on many masks. As time passed me by, I started to gain more self-love and the masks were breaking off one by one, and that increased the confidence I had in myself. Now, it’s easier to embrace vulnerability — to be and stay my authentic self.
2. How People Treat You Is How People Treat Themselves
Sometimes, my vulnerability was met with unpleasant remarks and hurtful evaluations. When I finally came to accept and love myself, I started to notice why they were being unpleasant and hurtful. It came down to the way they treat themselves. How I was treated by other people is a direct reflection of how they treat themselves. I know how it is, since I had the same struggle before. What I do is to show forgiveness and move on.
A Choice To Make
I believe that the willingness to be vulnerable is perhaps one of the most powerful choices anyone can make. In making that choice, one can finally break free from those ancient masks forged to seal away one’s true authenticity. And in so doing, one can cross the dawn of a life being lived to its fullest.