The Strength of being Vulnerable
What comes to mind when you think you are acting with strength?
What comes to mind when you think you are being vulnerable?
Do the two seem opposed to each other? For many of us, we have been taught that strength is when we can face challenges head on, to be courageous, and to seem like we can handle anything. And yes, there is a strength in living life in ways that are meaningful even when it is hard or it hurts.
However, we can see strength (or the absence of it) in ways that narrows our range of behaviours and actually causes more harm than good.
For instance, I often have people share with me that they are fearful of being seen as weak. This may take several forms depending upon the person. This can come from making comparisons to others, to having rules and expectations of oneself that a person would not place on others. It can come from wanting to be accepted by others and the assumption of rejection if the 'real self' was shown.
And what do these beliefs, rules and expectations bring to the quality of our relationships? Our wellbeing? Not much.
That brings me to the concept of vulnerability. It is often seen as synonymous with weakness. But what is it to be vulnerable really?
Well, it means to let down the defenses. It means to let others see the sides of us that we may not always like. It means to show our reality rather than the ideal.
What this does is generate connection. We all want meaningful connection. We can all spot the difference between a meaningful connection and one that feels inauthentic or surface level.
Have a think about it right now.
Think of a relationship you have with someone or a past exchange that felt like a meaningful connection. How did this happen? It doesn't just happen over time because we all have people in our lives that we've known for ages but don't really feel connected to.
It happens when we allow ourselves to be seen - to be really seen - and to invite that other person to show themselves as well. This requires vulnerability.
Vulnerability allows us the space to say, 'This is me'. It gives us permission to be curious and open about others, to feel connected in our shared experience of humanity - warts and all.
And this is a strength!
It is much easier to shut down, keep things superficial and never really show others what's behind those walls that have been built... easier in the short-term. But if we want to have a meaningful and fulfilling life it is about accepting ourselves and giving others the opportunity to accept us, to know us, and to love us. And that is what it's really all about, isn't it?