Vulnerability vs. Sincerity

I had a dear friend ask me, “why are we so attached to vulnerability?” and “Is there another way?” Questions like these trigger my curiosity like a storm blowing through the prairies. So I did some reflection.

In my coaching work I see people who struggle to share their true selves with a real fear of being judged or ridiculed. Their message comes with a deeply felt sense of authenticity and integrity and “something else”. And then I have seen some who seek opportunities to be vulnerable with purpose. And you walk away with a sense that was interesting but you know intuitively “something” was missing in the story. But you wont say anything as an acknowledgement of the person’s courage to be vulnerable.

Why so?

I hear many people share some awful stories about their personal histories and how they’ve impacted their lives in the most troublesome ways. And I’m truly grateful for these moments when someone can put on display their tiny cracks into their own humanity. It inspires a humility and gratitude for my own life where a deluge of empathy flows from within me to the being on the other side. There’s “something” in their message other than vulnerability.

I also know many people who carry their stories as their badge of honour, their validation, or social proof that they matter. It is almost a brag of how traumatized they are. They need to prove how impossible their life has become or what courage it took to overcome. Then what does being vulnerable serve? It is truly being vulnerable?

Vulnerability is a word to describe the circumstance where one is open for an attack or assault. It conjures the notion of making yourself exposed to a moral attack, criticism and then requiring the need to defend yourself in return. And we use this to describe the experience of telling the truth of our human experience. That to tell our truth in these times requires or assumes a sense of willingness or courage to be hurt, judged, criticized.

I believe there are many instances where true vulnerability appears not as the intention but as a necessity to be a stand for something important. But where I struggle is when people are “seeking” empathy as a means to validate their hurt, struggle, trauma and the like. And where they being is with vulnerability as part of the program. Then I question, “are they being sincere?”

And that is the “something” I’m looking for. Sincerity.

I understand sincerity doesn’t have the same notoriety, penanche or bravado as vulnerability. However, sincerity allows you to say your truth candidly or with frankness. There’s no idea of risk of harm involved in the description of the experience. No need to defend anything. It’s your truth. It’s the prerequisite to vulnerability. I think, also, that coming from a sincere place, eloquence has a chance to take shape because there’s no concern of hurt but a desire to be authentic, truthful and deeply connected.

The intention of vulnerability is to be aware of the threat of an attack — regardless if it’s real or not. It’s defensive, oppressive. Where as sincerity is in the quality of the truth. It’s open or expressive. And when it’s not there, the receiver knows it — intuitively.

I’m going to end as I began, with a question. Has vulnerability become another ego-driven self-validating thing? And shouldn’t we learn sincerity as a skill instead. (yes that was two questions) :)