I used to equate vulnerability with weakness.
In fact, I believed vulnerability was something to be avoided at all costs. Weirdly, it was okay for other people to be vulnerable, but certainly not me. I never allowed myself that grace.
A couple of years ago, I was a busy mother, wife, and career girl running a successful and fast-paced recruitment business. I took pride in being at the helm of a well-organized, smooth-sailing ship, and my day-to-day life revolved around a busy, income-focused schedule.
Self-discipline was the name of the game.
Ego-driven much? You bet! Did I know this at the time? Nope.
My relationship with vulnerability at this time was nonexistent, squashed beyond either acknowledgement or recognition.
Chinks in my armour I viewed as totally inexcusable, unacceptable—basically, way too risky! My proudly adorned suit of armor was required to be polished, protective, and indestructible.
So, what changed?
Well, life stepped in to throw that suit of armor crashing to the ground, and I was finally forced to look vulnerability directly in the eye.
The shift began when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As anyone who has been affected by this dreadful disease will appreciate, this is a long and difficult journey to navigate. Sadly, as her illness progressed, my smooth-running ship went slightly “Titanic” on several occasions.
Watching someone who you love deeply slowly fade away, piece by piece, is a tough journey. Sheesh. Acknowledging my own grief, even distress sometimes, was arduous for someone who didn’t want to show any cracks. Crying was done behind closed doors, and my daily mask was quite simply a veil of positivity—at least to the outside world.
At the same time, I started suffering with some physical symptoms of anxiety. My stomach frequently in knots, an air of nervous expectation. I also experienced the unfamiliar discomfort of tension. I can only describe it as an overriding feeling of ill ease. Either way, it wasn’t pleasant, and I’m thankful that I was mindful enough to seek a solution; I decided to join a local meditation group in search of some sense of peace.
I was new to meditation, but sat there in a room, and with a small group of beautiful, gentle souls, I learned the skill of simply being in my own space, being present. And for the first time in my life, I developed a deeply respectful relationship with silence. It’s no coincidence that I also discovered peace in this way—and, from this peace, blossomed a new sense of honesty. Honesty in a pure, reflective form, with an innate sense of knowing how best to heal, how best to self-care.
And it was here that I learned to cry. To be vulnerable. To accept and admit hurt. To feel loss and finally acknowledge it.
The experience was painful, raw, humbling. It was also necessary and healing.
I was lucky in that I had this group of friends to pass the tissues, as my suit of armor finally lay around my feet in a cluttered, metallic heap.
Connection occurred, in a most authentic way. And a very natural process of acceptance—from both myself and others.
I didn’t fully appreciate this then, but this was to be the start of a journey of letting go—letting go of who I felt I should be and finally starting the journey of unravelling who I actually am. I created a new and empowering relationship with vulnerability and through this, rather unexpectedly, creativity.
I hungrily digested the principles of human psychology and found myself slowly opening to new ways of thought. What was vulnerability? Was I vulnerable in some way? And if so, why had I made such effort to conceal it? Addressing this was an uncomfortable process—in essence, peeling back years of trained behaviour, years of protective layers that were slowly being shed.
With this wave of realization came a new and deeper understanding that vulnerability and honesty are, in fact, intrinsically intertwined. This was a life-changing realization that getting vulnerable and showing my vulnerability to others was in fact the most courageous act I could ever commit to.
So, here’s the deal:
We are all vulnerable in some way. To be vulnerable is to be human.
Vulnerability has the capacity to become the gentlest, most sincere of friends, and yet, in sharp contrast to my earlier perception, vulnerability also has some serious badass qualities. Our acceptance of our vulnerabilities leads us to full acceptance of who we are—acknowledging every aspect of ourselves and moving forward, even when we are feeling scared, weary, or uncertain.
And this takes great courage.
And the benefits?
We essentially experience “honesty overflow” into all areas of life. Recognition of our vulnerabilities creates a substantial, solid platform of good, wholesome, earthy integrity—a huge, much relieved sigh of genuineness! We allow the missing jigsaw pieces to settle to the board, and we complete a full, more authentic picture of who we really are.
False projections cast away, we find our world changes dramatically in terms of our perception of our lives, the choices we make, and our relationships.
Fear diminishes through our full acceptance, allowing love and compassion to grow equally in abundance. We also experience increased level of empathy, and so, a more genuine connection with other humans. And these humans now seem to gravitate more naturally toward us and engage more readily.
So, how do we accept vulnerability in our lives, embrace it, and befriend it?
Here are a few pointers:
1. Get honest.
There is no shame in allowing others to see our vulnerability. Far from it—authenticity in our lives delivers freedom. Denial/suppression isn’t healthy for us, either physically or mentally. Being open with others, even if initially uncomfortable, offers relief, clarity, and opportunity for new perspective. This can start with a trusted friend. So, go on, reach out. We are sociable in nature, and the connection will help to remove feelings of isolation and any obstacles disallowing acceptance, honest thought, or communication.
2. Stop worrying about the opinions of others.
We need to take ownership of our own conduct, well-being, and the choices we make. Our response is where our greatest power lies. Don’t dance to someone else’s tune. Quite simply, in being ourselves and accepting ourselves fully, our fear of judgment diminishes in relation to our increased belief in ourselves.
3. Appreciate your self-worth.
Concealing our vulnerabilities holds us under the influence of external factors—other people or circumstances. This reinforces the belief that we are in some way unworthy of acceptance. Being open and honest about our vulnerability strengthens our self-worth and our belief in ourselves. We can achieve this through offering ourselves love, care, and appreciation.
4. Appreciate that sincerity is our greatest strength.
The more authentic we become, the stronger we become. The more consistent and grounded we become, the more real we can be.
5. Choose your tribe.
True friends will accept all of us. And, furthermore, the right people will naturally gravitate toward us. Our honesty becomes a beacon of light for others. In other words, our courage encourages others to be equally courageous.
6. Avoid comparison.
We are all unique, and this starts with a full, unconditional acceptance of self. People will often only show specific aspects of themselves. It is unusual to witness openness from our acquaintances—or sometimes, even from the people closest to us. We each have our own perspective with regard to our experience, therefore the “take” we have on the world is as unique as we are. Accepting ourselves fully eliminates the need for comparison.
7. Accept where we have no control.
Our true power comes from being at peace with our response to self, others, and circumstance. Being honest, present, and grounded in our response, vulnerable or otherwise, encourages acceptance.
8. Have faith in our ability to handle whatever we are presented with.
Living more authentically and embracing our vulnerability both empowers us and increases our confidence. Celebrate your successes and appreciate that those times that don’t go to plan are always serving us in terms of opportunities for learning and growth.
Brené Brown said, “Be vulnerable. Let yourself be deeply seen, love with your whole heart, practice gratitude and joy…Be able to say ‘I am thankful to feel this vulnerable because it means I am alive,’ and believe ‘I am enough.’ You are worthy of love and belonging.”
So, come journey with me.
Come on, buckle up…