“Vulnerability”… It’s a buzz word at the moment, isn’t it? Most people know Brene Brown’s research on it*. Let’s explore the idea. Oxford Languages** tell us it means “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” It’s a question of whether we’re actually at risk of harm or believe ourselves to be so, that is the crux of the matter.
It’s the emotional “vulnerability” which can be confusing, because the moment we courageously allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we no longer are. It’s a paradox.
Let me explain.
Living with the sense we have something to hide is a monumental burden; living with the sense that we have to keep up a façade of ‘something’ – whether it be strength, bubbliness, intelligence, an attribute that we don’t feel or believe within ourselves, is exhausting. It’s pretense. Acting all the time is hard work!
Feeling like this can, quite literally, drive you to suicide. A friend who killed himself rather than admit to his mates that he was gay; a man who couldn’t reach out for help because he thought it would be perceived as weakness, and so isolated himself in his internal desperation to the point of self-destruction; boozing it up and participating in racism or other bigotry just because everyone else does…
We’ve all seen it, haven’t we?
The moment we reveal who we really are, admit our flaws, our sense of weakness, our fears, we open the door to incredible strength.
No longer having something to hide is an extraordinarily liberating state.
Being ‘vulnerable’ frees us to be, as a friend and mentor, Judith Richards*** put it recently, “flawesome”! Utterly flawed and nonetheless AWESOME!
Humility is such a relief!
What is it that prevents us from embracing our flawesomeness to begin with?
Our conditioning. Ideas we heard and unconsciously accepted as truth about ourselves and the world. For example:
If I admit I’m struggling they’ll all think I’m weak. I’ll be ridiculed and humiliated.
It’s my job to be the strong one in the family. It’s my responsibility.
What others think is important.
How about these:
I’m safe if I belong, and if others ‘know’ X about me, they’ll reject me.
Real men don’t show their feelings.
Any of those resonate?
They’re all untruths prompted by fear****. Illusions. Very powerful ones, but illusions nonetheless.
The truth is, if we brush aside our façade and allow the real ‘us’ to show and stop pretending, some people might not get it! You have, after all, been manipulating them with your inauthentic behaviour and putting on an exceptionally convincing act for a long time! We can’t expect people who’ve known and been drawn to the “other us” to immediately adjust. Some will. Some won’t. And it needs to NOT MATTER. How they choose to respond is none of your business.
As Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying:
Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The moment we become humble, admit our flawesomeness and are ‘vulnerable’, we, in fact, become invulnerable – irrelevant of others’ responses. And guess what… it frees others to do the same*****.
What a gift.
Feeling terrified at the prospect of this yet wanting the freedom and courage to ‘go there’? Sometimes we need help. You can book a 20-minute complimentary strategy session here or a 1-hour mentoring session here.
* Watch Brene Brown’s Tedx on vulnerability here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en
***Information on Judith Richards: https://www.therichardstraumaprocess.com/about/about-judith/
****Listen to ex-commando Tim Thomas’s interview on Fear here: https://www.iamsallywilson.com/podcasts/fears-antidote-being-real-lessons-from-a-commando
*****Listen to “I’m Just A Man” founder, Jim Skivalidas, talk about his experience of this: https://www.iamsallywilson.com/podcasts/im-just-a-human-out-the-other-side-of-despair