How to make friends with vulnerability
Recently a Connection Essentials (online course) participant sent me this request.
“I’d like it if you keep reminding me about the ‘need’ for vulnerability in its different forms and shapes. I sense it’s something I have run from in the past and now, scary tho’ it be, I want to learn when and how to ‘make friends’ with vulnerability.”
I’m going to answer it here because what they have expressed, is what so many of us experience.
The dictionary says vulnerability is “The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”.
Yikes. Right? It sounds risky?
Usually, rather than our physical self being threatened, it’s our self image we are protecting. How we are seen and valued by those around us is wired into us as vital to our survival. After all we want to belong, be loved and safe.
It’s possible your survival instinct may be in overdrive. Heightened by past situations and blocking vulnerability.
Here’s my invitation for how you might bring more vulnerability into your life. It’s a delicate dance.
Vulnerability is a way of meeting many needs
My take: Vulnerability is a super quality. We need it in order to form close relationships. It allows many other needs to be better met.
As an adult who can take care of themselves, we can adapt to a situation, safely sharing our heart. This allows us to express ourselves authentically, be seen, heard and understood. This very real and mature expression of ourselves also enables us to feel we belong. Primarily that we belong to ourselves and with our voice can keep ourself safe, safe to be let someone come very close to our heart.
Let’s check … go gently
Let’s not make vulnerability a should here. i.e. I should be vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t a fad.
Our survival instinct is wild and strong. It is informed through past events, environment and primal instinct to keep us safe. If you aren’t being as vulnerable as you’d like, check what your fear is and bring compassion to yourself. You make sense. Your response makes sense EVEN if you’d like to adapt. Self-acceptance, just as we are, is the first vulnerablity – it is vulnerability with ourselves.
Can you sense this? Feel a softening in yourself?
Imagine having a guard dog that won’t let you have family and friends visit? It keeps you from getting to know and be known. Gets in the way of intimacy, social connection, play, empathy, and support. Adeptly avoiding vulnerability – that feeling of openness.
Every guarded heart is worthy of gentle exploration rather than critical condemnation. Guardedness is serving a perceived purpose. Whether or not this is current, useful and valid.
Choose wisely with whom you are vulnerable
and what degree of vulnerability you extend,
go at your own pace
True story: It’s raining outside as I here writing in my local cafe. Four men (‘Tradies’) are bantering about whether it’s possible to work today. Loud laughter and jeering suddenly erupt (still friendly).
I look their way. “I knew I shouldn’t tell you,” says one. Me? I’m writing about vulnerability 🙂 so I ask and he tells me he just told them he plays golf when there is no surf.
They all surf together. They see golf as a gentlemen’s sport. He’s withheld telling them until now. Of course he wants to belong.
Something in the friendly banter or somehow today was different and he cracked open his protection and was real. Showed up regardless of the fallout. In doing that he belonged first and foremost to himself. Yay!
It’s not a biggie. But you get the idea from this example, of everyday vulnerability.
Do you carry a fear of a past experience repeating itself? Like maybe you’ll be jeered at? This is the most common veil over vulnerability that I see. It’s one I’m familiar with in myself.
It as important to discern this at one’s own pace.
Expand your vulnerability range
- It’s ok to be messy and not have it all together in vulnerability – stay open
- Uncertainty, anxiety, fear, grief are included in vulnerability.
- Joy and playfulness are also times of vulnerability – truly.
- Share feelings and needs, fears, dreams – talk in the first person – ‘I’.
- Vulnerability is not blamey.
- Blaming or criticising is protection and defence.
- Own the impact of your actions (free of defence).
- Listen vulnerably and be willing to be moved or changed
I have a sense of adventuring with vulnerability every time I write and post a blog like this, send emails to hundreds of people, share publicly, let a friend know what doesn’t work for me … etc. It’s part of everyday life.
Go slowly. Be Brave and True 🙂 this is my maxim which generally results in … vulnerability! And comfort in myself and connection.