To understand why vulnerability is so important, we must first explore what it means to be vulnerable. According to a search on Google, vulnerability means the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed. Simply, or possibly not so simply put, vulnerability is the act of allowing yourself to expose your thoughts and fears and wishes and dreams, knowing that others might judge and criticize you for doing so. It is the willingness to expose yourself for who you really are, no pretending and no hiding behind a mask for safety or protection.
Vulnerability can seem a bit scary. And to be completely honest, vulnerability is scary. It’s no easy task to let others know that you aren’t always confident and happy and sure about the world or even who you are sometimes. It’s scary opening yourself up to another person, not knowing what their reaction might be. But vulnerability is also one of the most amazing and beneficial things that a person can do for themselves. Here are my thoughts on why.
Vulnerability and Relationships
Vulnerability is crucial to developing relationships. Something stronger than mere acquaintance, that is. How can this be? We all know that deep relationships take love in one form or another, right? So how is it that vulnerability can be the key to developing a relationship with another person and not simply love?
Anyone can develop a relationship with another human being, but it takes the act of being vulnerable to create the connections necessary to develop relationships with strong connections. It is the act of being vulnerable, being willing to share our delicate selves with another person, that sparks connection between two individuals. When we are willing to expose our delicate self, the person that we are deep down within the pit of our soul, we make it safe for others to do the same. When others expose their delicate selves along with us, true connections are born…they develop and multiply like a wildfire spreads in the forest on a hot summer day in the middle of a drought.
When we are able to make strong connections with another person, love is easy to build and cultivate. Love then, the basis of what most of us think of as the glue of relationships, is the by-product of connections. And since connections are built predominately on our ability to be vulnerable in some capacity, it is suddenly understood that relationships are built first on our ability to be vulnerable, which can then led to love.
Vulnerability and Growth
I think that most of us would agree that growth is a necessary part of life. Without growth, something others might quantify as being purpose, it seems that we would merely exist in life. The act of growing takes incredible amounts of vulnerability and courage, with ourselves and with others.
In order to grow personally, we must be willing to be vulnerable with ourselves. We must be willing to look deep within ourselves to see the real person that we are. That in itself is an incredibly difficult thing to do. For some reason, we as humans are conditioned to see and focus in on the negative pieces of ourselves. When we are vulnerable enough to look deep within ourselves, it can become very difficult to see past these imperfect pieces, the pieces we often want to forget exist in the first place. But understanding that these pieces exist is a necessary part of growing.
You see, it is the act of seeing our whole self that allows us to understand the complexity of who we are. When we can begin to accept ourselves for who we are, nothing more and nothing less, we are able to give pieces of ourselves more freely to others.
When we are able to give others precious pieces of our self, we are able to build the necessary connections it takes to build relationships. But we are also able to give the other person an incredible gift – a gift that says it is ok to be vulnerable and show me your whole self too. That is one of the most amazing and generous gifts we could ever give to another person. It is a gift that not only cultivates deeper connections, but that also makes it safe for others to grow and become their whole and true selves also. There is no better gift that could be given or received than this.
Vulnerability and Compassion
When we are able to come face to face with our own imperfections, we are able to more easily accept and appreciate the fact that others are imperfect as well. When we learn to accept and appreciate that others are imperfect, we can move beyond the tendency to judge and criticize another person for the mere act of being imperfect and instead know that being imperfect is ok.
You see, compassion is born out of understanding. It is through understanding ourselves and our own imperfections that we can understand others and accept their imperfections.
I speak from experience when I say that it is nothing less than a miraculous feeling to get to that place where you can notice a person’s imperfections and smile with kindness and compassion. When you can see an imperfect piece of someone and first think to yourself “I am imperfect also” and then follow with actions that let others know that it is ok to be imperfect. That is true compassion for humanity. Not that it’s something that you can suddenly do every moment of every day, Lord knows I have a lot of work to do in this area myeslf, but it sure does become easier.
So What Does All This Mean
In a nutshell, vulnerability is necessary for a purposeful and stimulating life. It is the basis of making connections with others, the most basic human need. It is also the pathway to true and spectacular growth. And it is the essential ingredient to developing compassion and showing true kindness to ourselves and others. It is only through vulnerability that we are able to see, accept and appreciate life and people for exactly what and who they are without any expectation that it should be any different.
“I began my vulnerability journey almost a year ago in an act of pure desperation. I found myself going through some very difficult times in my life, I felt as if I had lost touch with who I was and I felt this huge tug to become more mindful. And so the journey began…on a bit of a rocky path lined with many potholes and a few dodged cliffs. I read Brene Brown’s work and realized quite quickly that vulnerability was key to learning who I was and what I stood for. I began The Vulnerability Challenge a few months into my journey and found myself ever so slowly becoming comfortable with being nothing other than who I was, learning to love myself throughout the process. I’m comfortable with who I am these days and on a journey to help others know the beauty that vulnerability can create. My hope is that everyone learns to love themselves for exactly who they are.”
Great article Colin. I agree with you, vulnerability is the gateway to authenticity.Comment by Norm D on February 5, 2017 at 1:06 am
Awesome first post Colin!Comment by Michelle Bloom on February 5, 2017 at 6:04 am
Truly inspiring Colin! Being vulnerable does create self acceptance. It takes the mask of perfection away, showing us how imperfect we are, just as we should be.Comment by Sherry L on February 5, 2017 at 6:41 am
There is so much beauty and self-compassion in this post!Comment by TJ Isherwood on February 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm
Loved it!!Comment by Stefania Acioli on February 6, 2017 at 3:18 am
Beautifully said Colin! Your word’s are very inspiring and touched my heart❤ Thank you for putting this together to learn more about how vulnerability is truly the gateway to being authentic and the freedom to remove or masks.Comment by Roni Thompson on February 6, 2017 at 5:29 am
Great blog. I also watched Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability and I just gave it a shot! Even though the outcome was not as I hoped, I am still going to stay open and positive.
I think you are very brave. I look forward to more posts.Comment by Jen on February 7, 2017 at 6:20 am
I am so impressed with your open-ness and willingness to be authentic. I have a lot of self-judgment and self-criticism where I measure myself against those who seem to “have it all together”. Thanks so much for sharing and paving the way for others to start shedding those huge weights of shame we carry around. I look forward to unloading some of my self-criticism and replacing it with self-love.Comment by Susana I Michaelis on February 10, 2017 at 4:22 am
This is incredible! What a beautiful thing to open up too and share with the world. I believe you will help change lives for the better with this. Be proud! Thank you for sharing.Comment by Stephanie on February 14, 2017 at 7:06 am