The Power of Vulnerability.
What does it mean to be vulnerable with others?
How does this influence our relationships and in what ways?
And why is vulnerability so hard for many people?
Vulnerability is the willingness to open yourself, to expose your inner self to someone else. To share the depths of your heart, your inner emotional state, and feelings with another.
Being vulnerable also means embracing a certain degree of uncertainty and risk, because vulnerability often comes the fear of rejection or hurt.
When we choose to be vulnerable, there is a risk of someone reacting in such a way that we hadn’t hoped for. At its worst, being vulnerable could entail being turned away from or rejected.
Thus, many people choose, instead of being vulnerable to others, to remain more reserved and guarded. They do this as a means of avoiding the potential hurt, disappointment, and disheartenment that can come with opening up to someone and not receiving the response they’d hoped for, or even of being outright rejected. So for many, it seems easier not to risk it at all.
However, this is where you lose out, big time.
Remaining guarded will, in a sense, provide some protection, that is true, but at what cost?
The cost is: poignant, emotionally close, fulfilling relationships.
Because when one remains guarded, their relationships with others can only go so deep.
This results in sort of watered down, half-hearted connections to others. Those that, sure can be somewhat satisfying and sating at the moment, but that over the long term and in the big picture, leave something not insignificant to be desired.
Being vulnerable requires bravery, risk, resilience, and trust.
But with it can come the most extraordinary, resonating, awesome, connections of your life.
First off, what sorts of situations or behaviors are displays of being vulnerable and open?
To name a few:
-asking for help.
-standing up for yourself, even when it’s tough and you risk unintentionally hurting the feelings of another.
-falling in love.
-apologizing and taking responsibility for where you may have messed up.
-asking for forgiveness.
-admitting you’re afraid.
-telling someone about something caused you to feel embarrassed or insecure.
-confiding in someone about a difficult life experience you have had.
-saying to someone, “I like you,” “I love you,” “you are special to me,” “I miss you,” or whatever the strong emotional sentiment you’re feeling might be.
-going for something you want, even though it scares you.
So, why is it that choosing vulnerability instead is often the far more emotionally rewarding path? Even though it’s the riskier, scarier one.
Many people are surprised to find that much of the time, instead of pushing people away when they reveal inner parts of themselves, it tends toward having the opposite effect.
When people let their guards down, remove their masks, share their inner selves (and this includes what’s real. Not just strengths and good points, but even more so, one’s personal challenges, struggles, fears, etc), this results in those around them feeling courage and inclination towards doing the same.
It very often results in others feeling more comfortable and more real themselves around you, when you dare to be real with them.
Vulnerability, more often than not, instead of pushing people away, actually draws them closer.
Believe it or not, vulnerability is actually the secret to emotionally close, poignant relationships.
Imagine the peace and power of learning and knowing that in being completely authentic and open with another person, that in sharing with them your most intimate dreams, fears, and inner layers, that you wouldn’t be ridiculed or rejected but instead, would be met with acceptance, love, interest, and care. That you will be embraced instead of rejected.
This can be your reality.
There are people, many of whom, you can have just that with.
Yes, there is, of course, a flip side to this dilemma. There will be times in which we might choose to risk the route of vulnerability and find ourselves regretting it. Having chosen the wrong person with whom to open ourselves up to, and not knowing this until it was too late.
This can and will happen in life.
Too often though, people take these singular experiences and with them, shut away their hearts to all future vulnerability. Having fallen off the bike once, twice, or three times and scrapped their knee, resulting in their swiftly deciding on never riding again, tucking it away in the depths of their garage to collect dust in the back.
This is a major mistake.
Each person, relationship, and situation throughout life are different. No two people or situations are the same, even if they seem similar.
Just because something happened once with someone, does not mean the same result will actualize in every other relationship or situation.
This is an all too common approach in relationships. Deciding that because something happened in one friendship, relationship, or situation, that it’s going to happen in a similar way again.
Not only is this insulting and unfair, not allowing a new person to show you whom they are before making sweeping assumptions and taking away their ability to surprise you and prove their own uniqueness, but it’s also a self-sabotaging action in friendships and relationships as well.
Serving at smothering much magic, potential, and possibility with your own narrow perceptions, now layered atop and skewing the potential for truly seeing what this new life situation might have to offer, in its full kaleidoscope of colors and varying shades.
When people operate like this, they miss out.
Vulnerability strengthens relationships when exercised with the right people.
Most humans crave close connections with others, but we avoid risking vulnerability, the very trait that makes close connection possible. In our culture, which praises being thick-skinned, staying strong and self-contained, and an unshakable sense of individualism. This doesn’t exactly encourage or point towards authentic, deep emotional connection or vulnerability with others. In fact, it subtly encourages the opposite.
When people are emotionally open and vulnerable with one another, they come to know each other intimately. Thousands of invisible small threads, reaching between each other and intertwining. Feelings of understanding, empathy, closeness, attachment, and love, grow and flourish between two people (friends, lovers, familial connections, any of the above) who practice and dare to be vulnerable, emotionally available and open with one another.
“To be truly loved, one must be seen.”
Therefore, if one is unwilling to reveal themselves, both their light and dark, this makes truly emotionally deep relationships not fully possible. There will always be a bit of a roadblock lying in the way.
Because it’s easy to love light and surface reflections, the beautiful shimmering glow one sees on top.
However, you must be willing to go deeper, to show both to those whom you wish to be close. The light, as well as the darkness, depth, and challenges, the not so flattering or easy stuff as well.
This is the pathway to real closeness and love. And how to get there? Vulnerability.
In terms of literally how to be vulnerable, this means potentially feeling uncomfortable or afraid, but, being willing to risk sharing parts of yourself anyway. Pushing forward and still going for it, despite feeling scared.
It means trusting someone with your revelation. That they will treat such with love and openness.
This can also mean bouncing back from when someone did not treat your revelation with the care and honor it deserved. Not applying such a disappointment and hurt to all future close connections but remaining courageous and treating each new one as such: different and totally new. With the potential for surprise, a different response, and awe.
On the flip side, when being the recipient of someone else’s emotional vulnerability, this means treating whatever they are giving you with honor and respect. Realizing that such is an immense gift, a declaration of trust, a risk on their end. That they want to know they will be seen and still accepted and thought highly of.
It means if they sense you may be distracted, bothered, indifferent or disengaged, they are likely to retreat, to put up protective walls, to potentially regret having risked such with you and may not do so in the future.
Also know, vulnerability is a two-way street.
It should be a shared mutual experience, in general, over the big picture of a relationship. Involving both people sharing personal emotional experiences, dreams, longings, fears, and feelings.
Lastly, with regards to practicing such, being vulnerable with another does not mean putting pressure on them to do so in return. Attempting to elicit such from their end just because you chose to do so. Trying to persuade or influence someone into moving at a speed that isn’t their own or opening up more so than they might feel ready to, simply by means of helping yourself to feel more comfortable and validated.
This isn’t being vulnerable. It’s being pushy.
Being vulnerable means sharing your own feelings openly, bravely, but also having the guts to allow the other person to go at their own pace, even if you are anxious for them to move quicker.
It means being patient, trusting, allowing the other their own experience. It means enjoying, appreciating and reveling in their vulnerability, as it comes about by their own accord, even if it differs from your own.
This is what makes another person’s vulnerability with you authentic and beautiful. Because it isn’t being pushed or prompted, but instead is coming about via their own emotional experience and decision to share, through their growing comfort level with and feelings towards you, and a result of their own bravery.
Being vulnerable, both revealing one’s inner self as well as being patient and trusting in others, is one of the more emotionally challenging, anxiety-provoking aspects of life. It entails trust, courage, and guts.
Vulnerability can occasionally result in being let down or deeply hurt, as this is par for the course though in any close, emotional relationship. Hurt can, and will, happen.
Vulnerability, though, has the power to transform your relationships from satisfying and good enough, to emotionally close, poignant, deeply fulfilling ones.
The decision lies with you, on what types of relationships you prefer, want in your own life and thus, embrace the bravery towards creating.