The gift of vulnerability
Vulnerability is hard. Sharing your emotions is like opening a door to your heart and letting people see you in all your messy feelings. This opening, or emotional reveal, often creates discomfort for ourselves and others because we have been taught that composure is strength and showing emotion is weakness. However, through life experiences and clinical research, we are learning that being emotionally open is the only way to authentic connection. The gift of true connection is only achievable through your ability to be vulnerable.
What does vulnerability mean to me?
For me, vulnerability means freedom. It is the freedom to express your true feelings, regardless of what people may think or say about you. It is the state of being present in your love and your struggle. It is the difference between caring for yourself (living in truth) and protecting yourself (living in fear).
In a spiritual sense, I think of vulnerability as being in service to your soul. Being on the path to authenticity helps you to stay present in the experience of your life and, therefore, keeps you on track with embracing your vulnerability.
I have a list of experiences that make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Each experience is directly linked to my fears. I keep the list as a reminder of the things I need to work on to embrace my vulnerability. I share it with you here as a way to share more of my true self with you. If you can relate to some of the feelings, and you’d like to create a list for yourself, please feel free to use some of my pain points as your practice areas too.
I feel vulnerable when…
- I walk into a room of people I don’t know. (fear of rejection and not fitting in)
- I admit that I don’t know something. (fear of being labelled as not smart enough)
- I admit to making a mistake. (fear of humiliation)
- I must apologize for my behaviour. (fear of disappointment)
- I talk about my childhood. (fear of judgment)
- I try something new. (fear of failure)
Tuning into your vulnerability
I find vulnerability easier to understand when I think of it in the context of listening to your gut. For example, when a specific event – good or bad – triggers a physiological response, what message is it trying to convey? Trigger moments are like little vulnerability check-ins. They often indicate that your values are being tested. The emotion that comes forward is the messenger of your true feeling about it. In moments of joy, anticipation or fear, the messenger may present as a physical sensation like goosebumps on your skin, butterflies in your stomach, or shivers down your spine. These sensations are vibrations coming from the voice of your true self (that part of yourself that is tucked in safely behind the protective walls around your heart). When the sensation happens, take note of it. It is your true self banging on the doors of your inner walls, saying, “Hey, I really like this!” or “Listen up, I really don’t like this”.
For many of us, these vibrations of raw emotional energy can be overwhelming. At times, they may be too much to bear so we distract ourselves from feeling them by indulging in things like food, alcohol and exercise. Even though the messages from your heart may be difficult to experience, I encourage you to listen to them. Coming from my own personal experience, I discovered that they serve an important purpose in personal growth. They reveal the very thing that needs our attention in order for our hearts to heal and expand. If we are not listening, then we are not honouring the health of our true self.
Staying safe while being vulnerable
Your true self is your sacred, loving self. Its energy is worthy of being honoured and protected. To be safe in your vulnerability, my suggestion is to find a safe method of expressing your true emotion. For me, it is writing my feelings in a journal and writing poetry. For you, it may be drawing pictures in a sketchbook or composing music. Whatever it is, be in practice with it. By having a safe method of emotional release, you clear space for more emotional exchanges and more meaningful connection in your life. With this practice, the walls of protection around your heart will become unnecessary. Instead, you will build a boundary, like a bridge or a gateway, that keeps you open and vulnerable with the people who love you while keeping you safe and secure from the people who may hurt you.
As a way to encourage the process of embracing vulnerability, here are some books that I love and return to every year as I continue the work of healing and expanding:
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
- Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown
- Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser
In the words of Brené Brown, professional researcher on fear and shame, “vulnerability is our only way to authentic connection and our most accurate measure of courage”. With that message from Brené, may we all go forward on the path with honesty, humility and love for ourselves and each other. Although it isn’t easy, it is worth every brave step on the journey to authenticity and well-being.
Next time, we’ll explore self-compassion.
Let’s journey together.