A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine. Somehow the word vulnerability came up. It was probably me who mentioned that ridiculous word. I proceeded to say, “I hate vulnerability. It makes me want to barf in my mouth.” Her response, “Me too.” As we laughed about our shared disdain with being vulnerable, I confessed…I am working on allowing myself to be more vulnerable.
Being vulnerable reminds me of that time when I was left out, or teased, or rejected because my skin was too brown, or not brown enough, or when my physical appearance didn’t measure up to cultural standards of beauty, or when I was gaslighted for feeling my feelings, or when I was shamed for expressing a need, or when my kindness was misunderstood and exploited and the list goes on and on.
Vulnerability requires connection.
Connection requires being seen.
Being seen creates belonging.
All of these acts are intimate.
They expose the best and worst part of us.
It hurts like hell when we trust others enough to be vulnerable only to be met with ____ (fill in the blank).
On the other side of the wall I have constructed to protect myself from revealing my vulnerability are people who want to connect. In 2014, I spent two months in Vietnam. I was there working with Vietnamese English teachers. One of my Vietnamese colleagues shared with me an observation he made about me. He said, “You are so near and present yet so far and distant. Why do you protect your heart as you do?” I went from speechless to excuse me to damn he might have a point.
I think about my colleague’s observation often. Over the years, I have learned to be more vulnerable in my familial and platonic relationships, and I am working on vulnerability in romantic relationships.
Practicing vulnerability looks like:
💫 Small moments of being vulnerable allow me to grow my vulnerability muscle. I don’t shy away from them or over think myself out of being vulnerable. I take the risk and hope for growth.
💫 When I am vulnerable, and I don’t receive the response I was hoping for, instead of putting on my armor, or digging in my heals, or brushing it off like I don’t care, I lean in to what I am feeling. I explore why I am feeling _____. My discoveries have been liberating.
💫 Other people’s response to my expression of vulnerability are just that, their responses. I no longer internalize people’s stuff. Instead it becomes information that I use to determine if I can trust that person with me. And then I act accordingly.
What’s been your journey with vulnerability? In what ways has your ability or inability to be vulnerable either created opportunity or hindered it? I know my list is lengthy on both sides.